I ask my dad, the memory-keeper of the family, how everything
started. I ask him how he had so much faith in his teenage daughter to uproot his family from the house he built, to sell it, and to
move his five children to a condo in Vail.
“I had a lot of faith in Lindsey,” he says. “By that time I had complete faith in Lindsey. I knew that she could be one of the best.”
We’re sitting in the kitchen, back in our hometown in the suburbs
of Minneapolis. “But how did you get to that decision?” I ask.
“I don’t think that there was a decision,” says my dad, taking off
his glasses and rubbing his eyes, settling into his chair. “The idea
was that Lindsey was really good, she was unique, and I thought
I understood what it took to make a champion. So I said, let’s give
it a shot. And I knew there was a big element of risk in all of that.
Having her ski was not the fulfillment of my skiing; don’t forget, I
coached juniors for 15 years. I skied with the great skiers of the
world so I knew what it was. She was that good and that she deserved a chance.”
He stops to turn and look at me, smiling. “You don’t believe that,
do you?” he says. I stop my typing and raise my eyebrows in response. “You never had a doubt?” I say.
“Yes, but it’s not like it’s an epiphany where the curtain lifts,” says
my dad. “But I can tell you exactly when I saw she had it — the love
My fingers wait, ready on the keyboard as he looks past the win-
dows in reverie.
“She was 9 years old,” he says. “She was at Mount Hood. She
always went with Erich [Sailer] for the first weeks of June and August. In June the weather at Mt. Hood can be bad. Meaning it can
rain and snow at the same time. And one day, it was so bad up in
the Palmer Snowfield they couldn’t run the lifts. But they were running the Magic Mile lift.”
He clears his throat to explain to me that the Palmer is higher than
the Magic Mile.
“When you got on the Magic Mile lift, at the bottom it was raining
and as you got up into a cloud bank at the top and it was snowing,
big, thick flakes,” my dad continues. “And so, you got very wet.
We had a slalom course set. So you had the start, and you would
come down, and it was snowing, and you would be getting wet
from the snow and then go into a fog, and you couldn’t see any-
thing, and then as you come down the snow would turn back into
rain again. Snow to fog to rain. Then, after you got your comments
you would continue to ski down through the rain to the Magic Mile
lift and then ride the lift through rain, then fog, and snow again.
You’d be freezing by the time you got off the lift. And it didn’t take
long before the other kids began to dwindle away to the lodge at
the bottom of Magic Mile — anywhere it was warm and dry. You
know? But Lindsey didn’t. She just went up and down. And up
and down. Until she was soaked to the bone. I thought, ‘Why did
she do that at 9 years old?’ And so I concluded at that time that
the only reason you would do that was that you really loved the
sport. I told her, ‘Lets go in,’ but she wouldn’t. It’s not about the
amount of doubt, because there is an element of proof. That was
the first indication, in my mind, that she had the will and determi-
nation, and stamina to train to be great.”
While we look hopeful into the future with all that is to come this
season, the testament of the past guides us to that confidence,
that faith, we take in all our endeavors and remember that no
mountain is too high when we have our friends and family for
support. That the risks are worth taking.
See you at the finish and wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving.
Laura Kildow is not a world champion skier, although she grew up
with one: Lindsey Vonn. Now, she’s traveling with World Cup with
her sister, reporting to Ski Racing on the Downhill Battle.
THE DOWNHILL Battle with Lindsey Vonn
COURTESY LINDSE Y VONN
Recognize anyone in this photo?
Back row: Lindsey, Karin;
front row: Laura, Dylan,