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Youth Spotlight: Cleo Braun

Get to know Cleo. She is a VSSA competitive skier and she would like for people to get to know what it is like. We sat down for a conversation and she filled me in on her world. BTW: VSSA is Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.

Q: What does ski life at VSSA look like?

A: It is tough. Tuesdays through Fridays, during ski season, we ski for three hours, do dryland for 2 and go to school for 4 hours. One of the hardest things for me was being injured last year. Climbing back to a competitive level has been hard. There is failure in that. My coach, Mark Smith, has helped me build back my confidence. Also, it’s a bit of a life lesson to know that I am competing against my friends. I want to win, but they are also people I hang out with.

Q: What is one of the best things about being a ski racer, besides the skiing, of course?

A: I am an alpine slalom skier and I compete in the NorAm Cup. My first race was against Resi Stiegler, a world cup level, Olympian skier. Even though I was terrified in that race, I loved the competition, the feeling that I was getting close to accomplishing my goals. Ski racing works really well with my need to have set goals and striving toward them, which is from my parents. They push me, but also let me be a kid.

Q: Do you have any free time?

A: I do have some time to hang out with friends. Last year my friend and I organized a fundraiser 5k trail run to raise money for the Bindu Pomeroy Memorial fund which was created in honor of our awesome teacher who passed away last November. The event had 250 participants and our goal was to have 100! We raised 6000$ for the Memorial Fund. That took lots of my free time last year. The race is going to continue to be held annually and will be my senior project.

Q: How does this happen to a young lady in Eagle County and what advice do you have?

A: I began skiing when I was 2 years old and I skied in the Buddy Werner League and then Ski Club Vail. Erica Ghent was my childhood coach. She was a definite role model for me. I started school in 5th grade at VSSA. I love Eagle County so much, but I also enjoy traveling to ski. For other young people, I would say that is important to have something to drive you so you stay on a good path. For me, it was skiing, but lots of things can help avoid getting wrapped up in unhealthy things that some teenagers do.

Q: From your perspective, what are some takeaways from being a ski racer at VSSA?

A: This whole experience has set me up for success. I have to be responsible for getting myself up at 5AM in zero-degree weather so that I can train. Then there is the gear, keeping track of it and also being away from my parents. I have been exposed to different cultures and traveled to Europe 6 times before I was 15! I have really learned to persevere through failure.

Q: If you could change something in the world, what would it be?

A: I am pretty concerned about climate change. I would have people across the world focus more on that. Also, the poverty that I have seen is a big issue. If I could, I would try to better distribute the wealth of the world so that it is more even.

Cleo is finishing her senior year at VSSA and will be back on the slopes soon. Just try to catch her to find out more about her amazing life.

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