Although Sam Dupratt grew up in Dixon, Calif., he considers his home mountain in Park City.
The freshman alpine skier knew that if he wanted to be at the top of his sport, Park City would be the place to be. He moved at the beginning of his high school career to the mountains, and he attended the Winter Sports School.
“My first two years of high school I went to Park City High, which gave me the social aspect,” Dupratt said. “The Winter Sports School gave me a little less of the social side, with very small classes, and the academics were incredible. I do well here at the U, so they must have helped me out.”
Since 1994, The Winter Sports School has operated as a private school (moving to a charter school in 2014) catering to young winter sports athletes. While traditional school runs from August/September to May/June, the academic schedule begins in April and continues through November, giving the students ample time for training during the winter months.
“When you’re young and don’t have a grasp on time management, that break is huge,” Durpatt said. “I got to focus only on ski racing the entire winter,”
Not only did the school helped Dupratt in academics, but attending the school shot him into the national spotlight on the mountain. He spent time off and on with the U.S. ski team for five years. His first year he was a team invitee, meaning that he was on the team, but he was completely self-funded. He paid to race, and he bought his own skis, travel, bags, racing equipment, tune-ups, wax. The next season he was a full-fledged member of the team, which helped offset costs somewhat, but not entirely. This back and forth between invitee and team member continued for three more years.
“I was fortunate enough to find sponsors, which was a huge benefit to me,” Durpatt said. “The invitee system is U.S. skiing’s way of bringing on more athletes, without bringing on more cost. Baggage fees alone, traveling with eight pairs of skis, can kill you. Airlines charge around $200 a bag for skis, so a four-day trip can end up around $3,000 just in baggage fees.”
After U.S. skiing, and spending time on the Eurocup circuit, his love for the sport began to fade. His decision to start school was based on criteria he set for himself during the 2016 World Cup Circuit.
“I basically told myself that if I didn’t place in the top 30 in a world cup event that I would go to school,” Durpatt said. “I didn’t meet that goal, and missed the criteria for the U.S. team again, so Jaka [Korencan, head alpine coach] and everyone here at the U took me in.”
“I had been trying for several years to get Sam on campus,” Korencan said. “He’s such a great competitor and an even better kid. He’s funny and a good teammate, and he is exactly what we wanted here at Utah. It was such a happy day when I finally reeled him in.”
Along with Korencan, Dupratt’s sister Jamie had a hand in his joining the Utes.
“My sister skied at Utah for four years just before I got here and had an incredible experience,” Durpatt said. “Because of her I got to spend a lot of time with the team and got to know the coaching staff and it made the decision really easy for me.”
Dupratt is now learning the balance between skiing and school, which he said has been a fairly smooth transition. He is a business major looking to enter into the world of entrepreneurism, which came with a glowing recommendation from Spence Eccles to join the Lassonde Institute. As for skiing, Dupratt has slotted two giant slalom victories this season. His desire is to bring a team championship for his team first and himself second. Ultimately, returning to the World Cup is the ultimate goal.
“I’m one of those rare cases, trying to blaze a trail from college to the World Cup,” Durpatt said. “Racing in Europe, I got my teeth kicked in a little bit, and it took a lot of love out of the sport for me. I want to use college to break through the barrier and get my world ranking down to the point that I’m competitive on the circuit. My plan is to get back to the World Cup, not necessarily to get back on the U.S. team, but they sometimes go hand-in-hand.”
For now, Dupratt enjoys being back in Utah and training on his ‘home mountain.’ While Park City will always be a special place, he said that following his giant slalom win at the Utah Invitational, Snowbasin is rising on his list of favorites.