‘The modern, athletic family’: Summit County family uses sports and flexible schooling to foster well-rounded family
9-year-old Eli Aldana has back-to-back state championships in jiu-jitsu while competing in freeski slopestyle, ski cross, motocross and other adrenaline-heavy sports
Growing up it is not uncommon for kids to play multiple sports. Most kids will play at least one sport for every season — but for Summit County’s Eli Aldana — the norm is to engage in several all at once.
Slopestyle skiing, ski cross, jiu-jitsu, BMX biking, motocross racing and jet skiing are some of the sports that Aldana competes in throughout the calendar year.
Aldana, 9, doesn’t just participate in all these activities at a recreational level. Rather, he excels to the highest level in each sport.
On the mat, Aldana is an undefeated, back-to-back state champion in jiu-jitsu with over 200 wins and 50 competitions under his belt.
At Copper Mountain Resort’s recent Rocky Mountain Series regional competitions, Aldana racked up several accolades on the slopes including two fifth-place finishes in freeski slopestyle and fifth- and sixth-place finishes in ski cross.
Eli is not the only one in his family to dabble in several sports. Eli’s younger siblings, Ryder, 4, and Lily, 6, aspire to be multitalented in several different sports just like their older brother.
Much like Eli, Lily and Ryder have a need for speed and propensity for action sports. Lily loves to ski and ride bikes while Ryder was kneeboarding behind a boat at the age of 3.
”Ryder is following in Eli’s footsteps, and Lily does the same stuff too,” father James Aldana said of his family. “My wife (Jennifer) homeschools them all, and I work from home. We are like the modern, athletic family. It is pretty cool what we do.”
Whether it be from completing school through Colorado Connections Academy or hustling to the next practice or competition, the Aldanas are a family that are always on the move.
The Aldanas even migrate throughout the year in order to diversify the children’s perspectives and allow them to engage in other sports.
“We spend four to six months of the year in Breck if it works,” Aldana said. “We have been staying at least four months a year in Breck for the last 10 years. We spend four months in Vegas and four months in the Midwest split between Michigan and Illinois.”
While in Breckenridge, the Aldana children get the opportunity to engage in winter sports while James and Jennifer help run their newly established ski rental company, Royal Rentals.
With so much activity throughout the day split between sports and school, the biggest challenge the Aldana family faces on a daily basis is juggling everything.
“Our flexible schedule is the backbone of our whole operation,” Aldana said. “We work when the kids are motivated and in the right mood.”
Colorado Connections Academy helps foster this flexible schedule by providing a remote, online-learning environment where students can learn at their own pace through Colorado Connection Academy’s curriculum.
Sports like jiu-jitsu, skiing and motocross may seem like they have little in common with one another, but Aldana argues that each sport actually compliments the other.
“In jiu-jitsu, it is important to have good grip strength, and the same thing crosses over to motocross,” James Aldana said. “Racing is racing. A lot of the racing techniques transfer over. Like not looking over your shoulder at your competitor. All of them require good core strength.”
Although the Aldanas’ lifestyle is atypical when compared to other American families, James feels like the lifestyle his family has adopted gives his kids the best opportunity to grow into well-rounded human beings.
“My goal for them doesn’t have anything to do with sports,” Aldana said. “My goal for them is to make them well-rounded people that function well in society and help others.”
Aldana said that many of his kid’s biggest life lessons occur out of the classroom through sports. Whether it be hard work, dedication, humility or grace, Aldana feels like his children are on the right path to becoming competent and kind adults when they grow up.
“They learn a lot of accountability and making difficult decisions quickly while under pressure,” Aldana said of the lessons learned through sport, “and good sportsmanship because it is so difficult to be a good sport after you lose a match or something.”
In terms of aspirations from Eli and his siblings, they are shooting for the stars. James says that Eli sees himself competing in the Winter X Games in the next five years and at the Winter Olympics in 2030.
Aldana says Eli, Lily and Ryder may be far away from making their X Games and Olympic debuts, but overall is encouraged by his family’s unique way of raising kids.
“The goal is mainly for them to be the best they can be at anything they do,” Aldana said. “Whatever you do, do your best and be better than you were yesterday.”
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