Ainsley Proffit is in rare company in the world of young skiers.
Proffit, a freshman at Incarnate Word Academy who lives in St. Peters and skis out of Hidden Valley, is one of only three girls and three boys who were chosen to represent the United States in Italy.
Selected to an elite group of Under 16 Rocky Central USSA athletes, she will attend the Trofeo Topolino Race Project in early March in Folgaria, Italy, to compete in the Giant Slalom and Slalom races.
“When I found out I was selected for the Trofeo Topolino Ski Race, I was thrilled,” Proffit said. “It is such an honor to represent the U.S. especially at such an important international race.”
But that honor was born of hard work.
“I know that by working hard, it will pay off by helping me to reach my goal of competing in the 2022 Olympics,” she said.
Craig Spidle, Hidden Valley Ski Resort coach, said the Trofeo Topolino race “is the most prestigious event in the world for young racers of Ainsley’s age group. Only the top 10th of a percent of athletes from around the world are chosen to compete.”
For Proffit, the road to Folgaria began at a young age. She was just 2-1/2 years old when she began skiing. At age 5-1/2 she was noticed by a ski coach who “told me to run a Nastar race to see how fast I was against kids my age from all over the United States.” That began her racing career. She did well for her first race and qualified for the National Nastar Ski Competition for the following year.
“My parents were very surprised but have always supported my dream so we traveled to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for the competition when I was 7 years old,” Proffit said. “I placed third at that race and we met coach Dave Coulter, who is the head coach for Hidden Valley Ski Team. He invited me to join the team the following year.”
For the next two years, the family traveled to races in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
“I quickly outgrew the races there and yearned for bigger races so at age 10, we started traveling to Upper Peninsula of Michigan for races with bigger mountains and stiffer competition,” Proffit said.
In 2011, former Hidden Valley coach Brett Borgard was hired at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail to coach a group of U-14 alpine ski kids.
“He encouraged me to come to Colorado to train with some of the best ski racers in the country,” Proffit said. “The two months that I spent in Colorado were wonderful and I loved that I could ski five to seven days a week.”
At that time, Proffit attended The Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles.
“The following two years, when I was in seventh and eighth grade, I increased the time that I spent training in Vail to five months of the year [November to April] and The Academy of the Sacred Heart was so supportive and encouraged me to chase my dreams while maintaining my high education,” Proffit said.
Last year as an U-14 skier, she qualified for the U-16 National Competition located in Sugarloaf, Maine. At the nationals, Proffit placed third in Super G.
“Her ranking by World Cup points puts her in the top 2 percent of athletes in her age group nationally,” Spidle said.
“This was by far my greatest achievement and I never dreamed that a girl from St. Louis could compete against the best in the U.S.” Proffit said. “It has been such an incredible year and I can’t wait to race against the best in the world in Italy.”