Born for the Snow

By Gianna Cefalu

Leah Lange of the University of Utah ski team was born with a passion for skiing  — just like the rest of her family. Both of her parents were Division l skiers along with her brother, Wyatt, who is a competitive mountain skier. Lange was born and raised in Park City, Utah, where she was constantly surrounded by competitive skiers. The competitive environment motivated her to want to commit to the sport.

Her first memory as a competitive skier was when she raced in Bozeman, Montana, at 12 years old. She remembers her coaches telling her to not get discouraged if she didn’t win and them telling her that she would be lucky to get in the top 10. She ended up winning that day, and that’s when both she and her father knew that she was bound to pursue skiing.

Although she grew up in the state of Utah, it never crossed her mind to join the University of Utah ski team until she met with the coaches. It was then that she suddenly realized that the level of talent and the work ethic on the team would improve her skills as a skier if she chose to attend the U.

“I’m super thankful I got the spot on the team. It shows a lot that I can ski competitively and internationally,” Lange said. “It’s a huge difference because I’m the only female American and the rest are all Norwegian. They know a lot more about skiing than me, so it’s really cool to learn from them.”

Lange’s father Gordon was her role model and mentor during her childhood. His 30 years of coaching experience and his time spent as a former head coach of the United States Ski Team has helped her along the way. Lange said her dad provides constant encouragement and support.

“I would credit who I am today to my dad, who was my ski coach growing up,” Lange said. “He’s always striving for me to have fun. He will put anything into my training plans, helping me peak, and if I have a bad race he’s always supportive and finds the positive aspects.”

For Gordon, the most rewarding part of coaching his daughter has been to see how much Leah has come to love the sport. Leah was always taught to have fun and never give up, and she taught her dad how to become more patient.

“It’s hard to coach your own daughter. I’ve heard about it and seen it, and there has to be a separation from a coach and a dad,” Gordon said. “I was super lucky that we were able to separate ourselves from a father-daughter relationship. She would look to me as a coach, and I was able to see her in an environment that’s not [our] household. It was very rewarding to watch her set goals and achieve them and go through the process of training. As a father, it has been as lucky and cherishing as I could hope for.”

Leah’s mentality and key to success is to always have fun during her competitions. She tries not to take her races too seriously, because she performs better when she enjoys the competition. So despite any obstacles that might stand in her way, Gordon has faith Leah will find a way around them.

“It goes along with my basic philosophy [that] cross country is ridiculously hard on you physically and technically because you have to be willing to hurt yourself in practice,” Gordon said. “I taught Leah to love the sport first and then everything else falls in line with what you want to achieve.”

[email protected]