Getting to know World Cup Athlete, New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) Alum and Simsbury, C.T. Native, Erik Sparkowski
“This is how we do it…” is frequently playing from Erik Sparkowski’s headphones prior to a competition. When asked if he had any rituals before a large race event, Sparkowski answered, “I just want to have fun while getting amped up listening to R&B, 90’s hip hop…or the Billboard 100 Country Station.” Having fun and making a new goal daily has been a key passion of Sparkowski’s from the beginning.
Sparkowski began in the alpine ski racing program at the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) at the age at 7. Sparkowski’s father, Ed, skied for Bates College and gave him the opportunity to test out gates as early as 3 years old. Sparkowski did the long weekend journey to Whiteface from his hometown, Simsbury, Connecticut. He transitioned into freestyle and Ski Cross as soon as he turned into a teenager. The spectator motivated sport, Ski Cross, is a part of freestyle skiing in which four skiers start at the same time and compete on a specially constructed course over jumps and rolls while going through gates. A typical Ski Cross season is January through March. In order to put on a Ski Cross event, a venue needs “pounds of snow” to make the jumps and curves.
The reasoning for switching snow sport disciplines was simple. “I was motivated to challenge myself and try something different than traditional alpine ski racing,” Sparkowski said. Who would have imagined that the transition would gain him a World Cup start at Nakiska Ski Area in Alberta, Canada on January 18-19, 2018?
When he is not competing, Sparkowski is training and doing some recreational dry land around the Lake Placid region. When he is not on snow, you will see him in the gym lifting and doing cardio to stay in shape for the next event. In the summer, Sparkowski rides his mountain bike while being challenged in the Adirondack trails by his girlfriend, Megan.
One of many highlights of Sparkowski’s career has been racing against his childhood hero, Chris Del Bosco, at 2017 Canadian Nationals. Del Bosco is a FIS World and X Games champion in Ski Cross. This is a unique opportunity to race against a Ski Cross role model! Canadian Nationals also allowed Sparkowski to race with new competitors and start the path to racing at the highest level in Ski Cross.
From traveling all over the world, Sparkowksi noticed several common threads about youth programs and believes NYSEF has and continues to do a great job to retain athletes, coaches and families. “There are so many programs that lose youth athletes as they grow because of the competitive nature of the sport.” When asked about the difference in the programs, he answered:
“NYSEF put an emphasis on free skiing and not just running gates…it encouraged fun versus always being competitive with other members of your group…I have a better advantage to enjoy skiing for the rest of my life because of NYSEF.”
Sparkowski has the mindset and attitude that prepares him for Alberta in a couple of weeks.
The NYSEF Family wishes him much success this season!