Sports

Whitefish’s Winter Wonder

Professional freeskier Maggie Voisin is enjoying a successful start to the competition season with the 2018 Olympics already on the horizon

WHITEFISH — The day after her 18th birthday, Maggie Voisin was strolling around downtown with her mother and grandmother, shopping for Christmas gifts and enjoying the rest and relaxation of being home.

It was a rare moment of respite for the ski sensation, whose winters are mostly spent traveling the globe competing in top professional events.

For someone who is only now officially an adult, the Whitefish freestyle star’s passport already resembles a world traveler’s. Austria, Switzerland, Australia — the list grows longer with each passing month as she bounces from one peak to another.

After spending Christmas and New Year’s at home with family and friends, she is venturing to France with other members of the U.S. Ski Team. Then she returns to the United States to compete at the X Games in Aspen, the primetime multi-day event that is telecast to millions of viewers and is one of the most illustrious winter sports contests. In March, it’ll be Norway, which is hosting a separate X Games event with more of an international bent.

Yet one destination in particular is calling out to the world’s best skiers, including Voisin. In 13 months — Feb. 9-25 — South Korea is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Most of the Olympic qualifying events are not until next winter, when athletes will vie for the few spots in each discipline for Team USA. But there is one qualifying event this season at Mammoth Mountain in California in February, which will officially kick off the Olympic chase. The U.S. Grand Prix event on Feb. 2-5 will mark the first of five selection events for the 2018 Winter Games.

“It came so quick,” Voisin said.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like only yesterday Voisin was bursting onto the national scene as a 15-year-old prodigy who was wowing audiences with spectacular jumps and tricks and becoming the youngest member of Team USA. In January 2014, she traveled to the Winter Games in Russia to participate in slopestyle, but an unfortunate injury during practice sidelined her from competition. The following year, she suffered another injury that required knee surgery, and last winter was spent easing back into the intensity of professional sports.

Now, almost two years removed from knee surgery and approaching the hectic stretch of Olympic qualifying, she’s ready to remind the world of her abilities and prepare for a shot at South Korea. In the first competition of the ski season, a Dew Tour event at Breckenridge in early December, Voisin earned a silver medal after placing third in the slopestyle competition and winning the jibs contest. She finished only six points out of first place.

“Dew Tour is a big event. It was something different and it was fun,” she said.

Voisin, who is still involved in high school studies and is slated to graduate this year, has fully bought into the pace and demands of being a professional athlete.

In the offseason, she trained five days a week for at least two hours a day, working on pilates and other weight-training exercises.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot and realized I need to take care of my body if I want to do this for as long as possible. This offseason I really took working out way more seriously,” she said.

“I feel like I rose at such a young age and then to have those two injuries, I still want to prove that I’m in this. My love for it just keeps growing and growing.”

Her constant training includes focusing on a key factor — the mental side. She has met with a sports psychologist at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence in Park City, where she lives when she’s not home in Whitefish.

Voisin’s athletic abilities have always shined bright, even when she was a young teenager on the Whitefish Mountain Resort Freestyle Ski Team. But her mental strength and attitude have always been ahead of her years. Those who followed her during her Olympic qualifying run in 2014 likely remember her response to a question about how she handles the pressure — “Be like Maggie.”

That same sincerity and genuine passion for the sport holds true today.

“Obviously the Olympics are next year, but I’m trying not to focus too much on that,” she said. “For me, this year it’s just about staying healthy and trying to make a couple podiums and just have fun. It’s crazy the Olympics are already almost here, but more than anything I’m just focused on having fun.”

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