by | January 19 2024

The Purpose of the Vertical Challenge

The Vertical Challenge’s purpose is to provide an inclusive environment for families to engage within the community and try ski/snowboard racing. We operate solely for the benefit of the mountain, our sponsors, and the community. The Clark family is a perfect example of why we operate and what we want families to be able to take away from our program.

The Clark Family

The Clark Family consists of Damon, Christy, and their two sons, Taylor and Morgan.  Damon is from the United Kingdom and Christy is from Massachusetts. After deciding to raise their family in MA, Damon had the question of “What do you do in the winter in New England?”  So, he took Taylor, his oldest son who was three at the time, to a nearby resort and they both learned how to ski! Taylor has grown up being very active. He is dedicated to playing many sports including soccer, and basketball. He likes to ice climb, and now he has a serious passion for ski racing.

Taylor’s Introduction to Ski Racing

Taylor, who is now ten years old, has been racing with the Vertical Challenge for over half his life. When Taylor was four years old, his family had decided to go skiing at Nashoba Valley for the day. The Vertical Challenge was at that mountain, and the fun, family-friendly atmosphere drew them in. They signed Taylor up to race and the rest is history.

            On Taylor’s first ski race, he said he was very nervous at the start gate, staring down at the steep race course. He was able to conquer this initial fear and cruise down the mountain successfully.  Later that day, during the award ceremony Taylor was so happy and surprised to hear his name being called for both a Chewy Dog award and a medal. Chewy Dogs are given to very special kids who show undeniable characteristics that will grow to be a very positive influence in this world. Chewy has not left his side ever since. On the car ride home, Taylor exclaimed “I want to ski race” and from there on out he wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Transition to a Ski Team

Taylor’s mother, Christy, is now the head coach of the U8 ski program at Ski Ward in Shrewsbury MA. Ski Ward is where Taylor was introduced to a more formal ski race team. In support, Christy became a coach a year later. Taylor has been successful here over the years and has grown so much as a skier. He won his league and his championship out of hundreds of skiers and in front of thousands of spectators. This is such a monumental moment for Taylor and shows he is ready to continue with this journey. Taylor trains each morning on their peloton and researches his competitors’ statistics before races. Next, Taylor plans to move up to a mountain’s ski team and gain some more experience on a larger ski race course. They want to get Taylor exposed to more NASTAR ski races and travel to other mountains and ski resorts.

Gateway to Our Next Olympic Skier

When asking if their family would recommend the Vertical Challenge to others, they both immediately said yes. Taylor explained how it is a nice race to try out ski racing and it was a lot of fun for him. Damon elaborated and described how this is such a good entry point for a very niche sport. He said “it is a gateway to our next Olympic champion” and “we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.” He told us how lots of his friends who ski do not consider ski racing because there is a lack of awareness. He described that even though it is an expensive sport, it comes with endless benefits for Taylor and his family. These include making new, supportive friends outside of their town, learning communication skills, experiencing phenomenal coaching styles, and making friends with other families. Damon enlightened us that he feels such a community spirit in this sport and it is unlike any other sport. He loves that he can interact with other parents and families. At the Vertical Challenge Finals, they all met two families that they skied all day with and with whom they stay in contact to this day.

Positive Family Festival Environment

Damon described that the VC is very special for not only introducing their family to ski racing, but also for providing supportive crew mentors and exposing them to quality sponsor products. The crew always remembers Taylor and makes him feel special. Taylor has a picture of the crew from 2022 and a very large trophy cabinet with all his VC medals above his bed. Damon shared with us that personally he was very close to getting a Chevrolet and he would have never even thought of it if it wasn’t for VC. Additionally, their whole family got a Nellie’s t-shirt and won free eggs for a year. They loved this because they purchase a lot of eggs and still buy Nellie’s eggs, even though it is 3+ years removed from winning the giveaway.

Small Ski Race, Large Goals

As clearly seen, the Vertical Challenge may be a small operation, but their goals are very large-scale. The purpose of the program is to positively affect the lives of families, just as it did the Clark family.

If you have any stories about your experience with the Vertical Challenge, please email us! We would love to hear from you- .

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