Kelowna's Ty Schulte flies high towards freestyle success
When Rutland Senior Secondary student Ty Schulte approached his parents with an interesting idea last summer, he wasn't expecting to get the answer he wanted.
The 16-year-old freestyle skier wanted to live in Whistler and train full-time with his freestyle ski coach.
And despite what he thought, the answer was yes.
"I just kind of asked my parents as a joke if I could move to Whistler to train," Schulte said this week, after placing first in a slopestyle event last weekend at Apex. "They have always been super supportive and they sent me to Whistler and let me live on my own. It was really neat to focus on skiing and training all summer."
Schulte trained with Patrick Walsh, his coach from the Silver Star Freestyle Ski Club. Walsh says normally his skiers may show up for a week to train but when Schulte showed up, he was there for more than a month.
"I was living in Whistler and he crashed on my couch for a bit," said Walsh, who noted that the extended training in Whistler was not out of the ordinary for the hard-working Schulte. "He's a very talented young man but moreso than that he is a very hard worker. He has the natural ability that many top skiers have but what gets him to the podium is just working really, really hard and never giving up. He has a great attitude and can always find something positive."
Schulte opened the season last weekend at Apex by placing first in the slopestyle event, one of his two specialties, the other being the half-pipe. Both events feature big jumps and tricks, something that attracted the RSS student to the sport and keeps him coming back for more.
"There is a lot of freedom when you are skiing jumps," he said. "You can be as creative as you want on skis, there are no limits. You can go as easy as you want or as hard as you want. You can express yourself through the jumps."
Growing up in the North Okanagan, Schulte began skiing when he was two-years-old. But he was a minor hockey player as well and that sport took up a lot of his time. His passion however, lay on the slopes and at age 11, he informed his parents that he wanted to be a freestyle skier.
"I really enjoy doing things that are exciting," said Schulte, who moved to Kelowna for Grade 8. "I've always been into biking too but skiing was just what I found worked the best for me. I really enjoy the individual sport aspect of it, just focusing on yourself and trying to get better."
Schulte is hoping to gain enough points this season to be named to Team B.C., the first step in what he hopes is a road to the top of his sport that ends with the national team and possibly the Olympics. In 2014 in Sochi, Russia, slopestyle freestyle skiing will make its debut as an Olympic sport.
"That's very exciting," he said. "We will get a lot more funding toward our sport now that it will be on the international stage. Long term I would love to represent my country in the Olympics."
The first step toward that goal will be gaining enough points in competition this season to be named to Team B.C.
As far as his coach is concerned, that shouldn't be problem.
"I can almost guarantee that is going to happen," said Walsh. "I can see a very big future for him in professional skiing."
The next big event for Schulte is in a few weeks he and the rest of his team heads to Ontario for a Canadian Open Tour event. Schulte is supported by sponsors SunValley Source for Sports, K2 Skis, Full Tilt Boots, Gopro, Giro and The Mountain Apparel.