A skier never forgets the first time they picked up a pair of skis and the emotion they felt as they fell in love with the sport. But sophomore member of the University of Utah ski team Sam Dupratt’s early memory wasn’t necessarily along those lines.
As a kid, Dupratt remembers skiing behind someone much older and far better than him at the time, and he witnessed him fall and hit a snow gun. The reason that memory still gets to Dupratt’s is because of how he felt watching it all happen. That frightening feeling was something he still remembers, but that accident didn’t stop Dupratt from getting on his skis again. Now, he has far more positive memories to reflect on.
“A moment that stands out the most was training with an Olympian when I was eight, following him around and free skiing with him,” Dupratt said. “It kind of made me realize how cool that sport could be.”
Dupratt, however, didn’t always want to be a skier. Growing up, he wanted to play baseball, but when baseball started to overlap with skiing, he decided to stick with what he felt he was best at and enjoyed more.
“I love training just as much as I love the actual race day,” Dupratt said.
Originally from a small town in the Sacramento Valley called Dixon, Dupratt grew up only skiing on the weekends, and he had to drive two hours to do so. When he moved to Utah at the age of 13, all of that changed. Dupratt, who now lives in Park City, has flourished in his sport in part because he has had the opportunity for more practice.
“I learned what it was actually like being surrounded by snow all the time,” Dupratt said. “It didn’t snow in Dixon at all. That changed a lot for me and showed me how a lot more kids my age were skiing while growing up. I felt like I had to play catch up once I got here, and the mountains allowed me to do that. It was a good transition in terms of skiing.”
In Dupratt’s first season as a Ute, he had an unforgettable experience as his team won the NCAA Championship. With three more years to go, he feels he has room to improve, and he wants to fix the mistakes he made last year. Dupratt had a “heartbreaking” second place finish in his main event at the championships, the giant slalom.
“The guy who beat me is a great skier, and I have no hard feelings, but I don’t like losing,” Dupratt said. “I’m glad we won and did my part, and I’m glad I didn’t ruin it for my team. I’m very happy with our result, but next year I want to go just a little bit faster and win it as a team and for myself.”
To correct his mistakes, Dupratt has already entered over 40 days on snow this summer — more than he has his entire life — in order to capitalize his time on snow to get the giant slalom down. With that being said, he also hopes this extra training will help him pace himself more since he felt he started to slow down when the team entered championship season in March.
Director of skiing at the U, Kevin Sweeney, also hopes to see improvement in Dupratt’s giant slalom, but one of the bigger things he, along with the other coaches on staff, would love to see is Dupratt competing at a higher level in the slalom discipline.
“He’s certainly talented enough,” Sweeney said. “I do think collegiate skiing at this level is a good and exciting thing for Sam. He has a lot of upside in his career whether he chooses to pursue national team or Olympic aspirations. He is in this environment with the great facilities and staff, and he has positioned himself really well to really blossom and get stronger and perform even better than he has in the past.”
Beyond what Sweeney is excited to see from him, Dupratt is looking forward to what the team will be able to accomplish. With the new recruits coming in, Dupratt is hoping to step up into a leadership role and get the younger people going. He wants to show them that college ski racing is different, and he wants to show them the ropes so that his team can try to have a repeat championship.
“It’s hard to go back-to-back seasons,” Dupratt said. “We don’t have the same team, because we had a lot of people graduate, but the NCAA’s are in Colorado [next season], so there is more of a home-field advantage than far over in the East, so hopefully we can do it again.”