Killington Mountain School products Hannah Soar and Alex Lewis have talent that has taken them far, but they always remember where they came from.
From Finland to Sweden and all across the world, the KMS pair has displayed their passion for the sport they love on the FIS World Cup stage, a love fostered through the “Beast of the East.”
In a COVID-era season, there’s no denying the feeling is different on the World Cup circuit.
“It’s been a bit weird. With all the protocols in place, you can’t really interact with other teams, so it can make the dynamics odd,” Soar said.
Food is the universal way people come together. The World Cup circuit normally has had buffets where athletes from across the globe meet and get to know each other. In the current climate, those experiences have been on the back burner.
“You make so many friends at those buffets,” Soar said. “It creates a community on the World Cup circuit.”
“We’ve had to do cooking on our own,” Lewis said.
Training has been different too. Normally, training has a certain fluidity about it, but with restrictions, athletes have had to adapt.
“It sometimes feels like you’re clocking in and out for training,” Soar said. “I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be heading into the World Cup season.”
Even with an altered training slate, the KMS duo has been strong when the lights are brightest.
Soar has a trio of top-five World Cup finishes this season, one being a podium in Sweden.
For Soar, it took her a while to get back into her flow ahead of the World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland in December.
“My training was going bad. I was not right mentally with all the stress and anxiousness from the summer,” Soar said. “I was able to pull myself together and had my things in order when the World Cup came around. I was happy and present, instead of fearful.”
Lewis had a different experience.
“I was feeling great heading into the start of the World Cup, but then I dislocated my shoulder, so that put me back a bit,” he said.
Lewis said he’s back at full strength.
Lewis has been top 40 in all three of his World Cup outings this season.
While they’ve both experienced ups and downs this year, they are bonded by their love for the sport and their home at Killington. Through this, the two have become tight friends.
“We both grew up skiing Killington and the first year we were both there full-time was my junior year,” said Soar, who comes from Somers, Connecticut.
“We got wrecked (worked out hard) in the gym (at KMS). It was a perfect time to step into that next gear. This wasn’t just something we did for fun anymore, we wanted to win.”
The school allowed them to grow as athletes and as students.
“KMS really pushes you to be your best,” said Lewis, from Carlisle, Massachusetts. “They help with the balance between ski and school.”
Lewis did a pair of gap years after graduating KMS so he could continue to train. He got the nod to be on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team in 2020.
Soar made the team for the first time in 2017.
“It’s really satisfying to see the broader effects that they create,” said KMS Freestyle Mogul Program Director Kris Pepe. “We’ve seen growth in the academy over the last few years and a lot of that can be attributed to the talent that has come through here.”
The program was named U.S. Ski & Snowboard (USSS) Freestyle Club of the Year in 2016 and 2019.
Pepe said the school has some athletes going out to Colorado to compete in Nor-Am and World Cup qualifiers in the coming weeks and there should be more chances to compete on the horizon.
Soar and Lewis take their representation of Killington Resort seriously. They are always running across people in the community who have a connection to the mountain, whether they skied or coached there, among other things.
“It’s great to represent Killington on the big stage. We can feel the support from the community and the personal connection,” Soar said.
That personal connection is something they try to foster with the younger generation. When they aren’t competing on the grand stage, the pair loves spending time on the mountain they call home.
“I like to say any little girl under 5-feet at Killington, I probably have (impacted). I want to be approachable for the little girls,” Soar said. “If they can talk with someone who made it to that level, they can see it’s possible.”
“For the guys, I want to show them that it’s attainable.” Lewis said. “Killington has a great moguls culture, so I’m sure many more athletes will reach that level.”
Soar and Lewis have an apartment together in Park City, Utah, the home base for U.S. Ski and Snowboard. As the only two East coast athletes and with their long friendship, the fit was seamless.
“The biggest thing I use (Alex) for is that he won’t filter what he’s saying and he’ll be honest with me on what he sees,” Soar said. “I can tell him that we’re going to duel for the rest of the day and we will. We have a brother-sister relationship.
“Sometimes in this sport, the claws can come out, so it’s nice to have someone who is in it together with you.”
“We continue to push each other and make each other better,” Lewis said.
The next moguls event on the World Cup calendar is the IHC Freestyle International on Feb. 4 at Deer Valley Resort in Park City.
KMS Alpine skier Bradshaw Underhill is also on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team, as a member of the Development team.
Underhill has been busy competing in 2021, with a pair of top-10 finishes in FIS races since the turn of the calendar.