Heading into last year’s slopestyle competition at Dew Tour, then 18-year-old Emilia Wint was on top of the world. The U.S. Freeski Team pro and Team Breckenridge skier was coming off of a breakout 2011-12 season that included a third-place finish in the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix series, which this year is a part of the U.S. Olympic selection process. Her path to the first Olympic slopestyle competition, in February’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia, seemed as if it had already been paved. Then, in front of a home crowd, Wint tore her ACL in competition, ending her season.
Looking back she says the experience was largely positive.
“You realize there’s a bit more to life than skiing,” she said.“You realize how lucky of a lifestyle you live. It’s our job to ski with our best friends.”
While rehabbing, Wint said she also picked up cycling and mountain biking, crediting the injury for getting her into new sports.
After the injury, the now 19-year-old moved to Park City to take advantage of the U.S. team’s Center for Excellence for her training and rehab.
Much like her alpine counterpart Lindsey Vonn, Wint spent the summer strengthening her knee, eyeing a return to snow early this season.
Wint’s return to snow came Nov. 1, 10 months after surgery. But in a twist of fate that oddly mirrors Vonn’s, Wint crashed trying a trick on a rail while training at Keystone, Nov. 19, the very same day that Vonn partially tore her ACL at Copper Mountain.
“I basically just took a fall off of a trick I’ve done a hundred times,” she said.
Unlike Vonn, Wint will have to wait four more years to pursue her Olympic aspirations. She completely re-tore her ACL in the crash, again ending her season in December.
Team Breck freeride director and Wint’s personal coach Chris Hawks said she was on track to pick up right where she left off and was a virtual shoo-in for a trip to the Olympics in Sochi.
“I thought this year she’d come back and be top five (in the world),” Hawks said. “I had a plane ticket to Russia. There was no doubt in my mind we were going.”
But with the prospect of competing in the first Olympic slopestyle now off the table, Wint is still in good spirits.
“It wasn’t in the cards for me this time,” she said pragmatically. “It’s definitely not fun knowing what I have ahead of me. Luckily I have youth and experience on my side so I’m not worried about coming back.”
Hawks said he was surprised how well she’s handling it. “I would have taken it much harder.”
With the U.S. freeski team to fall back on, Wint will again rehab at the Park City facility, which Hawks said increases her chance of come back just as strong next year. “She’s not going to be working out at the local rec center,” he said, adding that she will have access to some of the best coaches and trainers in the world to help her return.
Even with the injury, Wint is excited about the addition of slopestyle competition being added to this year’s Olympics.
“I think it’s super exciting. It’s going to be really good for the sport,” she said.
She also still plans to attend the Dew Tour next week, if only to support friends and teammates from the bottom of the slope.
Going forward she said she’s using other athletes like Vonn as inspiration.
“Knowing that can happen to someone of that caliber, it’s definitely inspirational,” she said. “If they can do it, I can do it.”
Hawks is fully confident that Wint has the character to make it happen, having worked with her since she was a kid. He remembers her first day in his freeskiing program, as just a little girl in a yellow outfit who looked well under the minimum age for the program.
“My dad just signed me and left,” Wint said of that first day, explaining that he’d said she was older than she was so she could participate.
Since then she’s been driven, and Hawks expects it to continue.
“Emilia is a really hard-working dedicated skier. She has a real passion and drive for the sport,” he said. “She’s going to bounce back and come back on top.”
As for Wint, she’s already got her sights set on next year.
“I’m just looking to move forward from here and get back on the snow so I’m ready next season. I still have a lot of years ahead of me.”
Giving back to
the home team
As a part of Dew Tour festivities, Wint will be working on a fundraiser raffle for Team Breck that will be drawn at the close of the tour.
“Team Breckenridge has been super important to me,” she said of her desire to give back. The fundraiser will start a scholarship program for other aspiring athletes.
“It gets really expensive. I don’t want that to be a barrier to kids,” she said
Prizes include donated items from the U.S. team and her sponsors, and a chance to ski with her that will now be pushed to next season.
Wint credits the team for getting her to where she is. She said that’s a part of the inspiration to give back.
“If you work hard, you can get anywhere you want to go,” she said. “I think it’s cool for kids to see that. I see being on Team Breckenridge for years to come.”