Jett Seymour – Races Into New Territory
● By Alesha Damerville
Courtesy of Tania Coffey
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Poised atop the mountain, Jett Seymour is calm, his razor-sharp focus zoned in on the race ahead. And then he’s off, plunging down the course at the top speeds of a highly trained skier.
Born and raised in Steamboat Springs, Seymour isn’t just another Alpine skier. He is the 2019 Collegiate Skier of the Year, a prestigious award granted by the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame to a collegiate skier who demonstrates excellence, perseverance and competitiveness.
Seymour grew up skiing with his family and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, where his mother, Blair, works. She recalls a poster that Jett made when he was 10, after a trip to the Olympic Training Center. “The poster was about how he wanted to go to the Olympics,” she recalls, “and his drive and passion through the years has been impressive. He was the one with the focus and commitment.”
In his younger years, Seymour trained as both an Alpine and Nordic skier, but when the time came to choose a discipline, he picked Alpine, a decision he has not regretted.
“That was when I started to realize that I was actually pretty good at skiing and that I was fast,” Seymour says. “I started winning club races and that sharpened my competitive drive. From that point on, I wanted to be the best.”
That desire has taken him to three world junior events and more than a dozen countries.
When it came time to think about college, Seymour applied to “everywhere that had a skiing program,” he says, laughing. But the University of Denver was his dream. When DU offered him a spot, he snatched it up immediately.
His team won the NCAA National Championship in 2018. “It was an awesome experience,” Seymour says. “Probably the best that I’ve ever had ski racing. We were racing a night slalom on Howelsen Hill with probably one of the largest crowds I’ve ever raced in front of. The excitement level at the finish was incredible. It was incredible to win at the highest level of collegiate sports.”
Seymour says there were a number of reasons that he chose college as his avenue to competitive skiing, but he singles out Hig Roberts, his childhood idol, who grew up training in Steamboat and then skied for Middlebury College, as his inspiration. "I saw what he was able to do with his skiing career while going to school and he was very successful in my eyes," Seymour says. "So I thought, 'Why can't I do that too?'" Eventually Roberts made the U.S. Ski Team B Team. However, when one of Seymour’s U.S. Ski Team C team coaches talked to him about what it would take to become a world-class skier and the amount of money that would be required, Seymour set his sights on college.
“Going to college was going to be a way for me to get a lot of my skiing paid for while getting a free education. This seemed like a no-brainer, so I took the opportunity and never looked back,” Seymour explains.
Andy LeRoy, Seymour’s head coach at DU, says he admires his decision. “One of the things that has separated Jett from other young skiers coming through the ranks is that he chose to go the college route rather than the national route, which is what he is qualified for. He was first in the world in slalom for his age, but he chose college. His commitment to education is inspiring, and his desire to add that with skiing is really cool. He’s definitely paving a different path and will give hope to the next generation of skiers that they, too, can choose the college route.”
"He has the best times, he's a strong skier and it's great that he can be recognized for his efforts and hard work," LeRoy adds.
As Collegiate Skier of the Year, Seymour’s choice paid off. “It was such an honor to win the award,” he says. “But the best part was the event itself; being in the same room with so many people who have shaped the ski industry into what it is today was very humbling. It truly motivated me to be the best athlete that I can be while striving to make a difference in the world.”
There is no doubt that Jett Seymour is on the right course to do just that.
Funding Champions at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
Athletes like Jett Seymour don’t happen by accident –they’re the product of years of training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. But how does a club the size of SSWSC, with roughly 1,000 athletes each year, get funded?
A key piece of their funding is the SSWSC Foundation, which endows money to the club each year. Started in
2000, it serves as a financial safety net – the club is shooting to build $10 million in the fund.
But where does this money go? “One thing would be coach development and coach training – it helps us certify and train coaches to the highest possible level,” says Sarah Floyd, executive director of SSWSC. The money also goes toward keeping a well-maintained and safe vehicle fleet for traveling athletes.
The income also allows the club to be more accessible. The SSWSC’s Ski Town USA Initiative, sponsored by
Christy Sports and Mountain Valley Bank, provides a free lift ticket, free equipment and free coaching through the winter for young athletes who can’t normally afford it. “As a nonprofit, we really emphasize keeping the cost down for families. We’re always supplementing to make it as affordable as possible,” says Ellen Campbell, SSWSC's director of development.
“Some of these athletes go to six international events each winter. To be an Olympic-level athlete, it can be a financial commitment for the family of $80,000 to $100,000 a year,” says John Hayden, president of the SSWSC development committee.
The club works to broaden its pool of supporters whose donations go toward scholarships that keep it in reach for local families. New this season, SSWSC offers Sip and SSWS’See’ events at Howelsen Hill during which visitors can sip wine and view one of the most unique youth winter sports environments in the world.
“Not everybody goes to the Olympics, but they’re all champions on and off the mountain,” Campbell says. “It’s heartwarming to see what the kids have turned into as adults because of what they learned here.”
“Often people see us as a high end, elite program that just churns out athletes, but for a lot of kids, it’s their after-school program,” Floyd says. “It’s really about developing human beings.”