“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell
I did not realize how much I loved winter. I love winter. It’s not just winter- it’s who I am in those cold, blurry months.
My parents got my skiing as soon as I could start. I remember being attached to a leash with my mom trailing behind me, swerving down the bunny hill of Welch Village. My older sister, Kelly, went skiing one time with her friends and when she came home, she told mom how much she had liked it. So, my mom looked into something more she could do with skis.
My mom found DEVO, the young Saturday team. Trust me, Kelly was horrible. I mean, we had no idea what ski racing even was. Kelly has some horrible skis that my mom had found at a garage sale and she didn’t even have goggles. But, every Saturday after that time with her friends, she went and practiced at Welch. None of use knew how much this would eventually impact our lives.
Kelly, one day, got really good at ski racing. That’s just who Kelly is though- she can be really good at anything. Sometime down the road we met a coach named Joel Johnson. Again, little did we know, but this man made a massive impact on the entire Pechous family.
Joel taught my mom and Kelly the in’s and out’s of ski racing. He recommended what ski’s to buy- even though we were too poor to buy them. He introduced Kelly to more practice opportunities. Overall, he taught Kelly how to ski.
It was no question, once I came around in the ski world, I was going to learn to race, too. After years of experimenting with the ski world with Kelly, once I was old enough to race- my mom knew enough. I joined the Saturday team and worked my way through the program. I was really good as a kid, I remember winning all my Saturday races. I remember being the “good skier.” I had good skis- because Joel told my mom what skis to buy that were best for me. I listened to my coaches and caught on right away.
After a quite a few years of competing every Saturday, my mom wanted Kelly to do more. The program USSA is a higher, more elite program for young ski racers. It’s also more expensive and more time-consuming. However, my mom knew how much Kelly was interested in ski racing. Soon, Kelly became a USSA skier and was traveling the Midwest to compete in races.
Following suit, I joined USSA as soon as I could, too. For one year, Kelly and I competed on the same team for Welch Village. That was such a fun year, being able to travel around to races and have my older sister on the same lineup as me. The two Pechous’s.
Eventually Kelly graduated high school, but I continued USSA- at Afton Alps. My little sister soon joined me in the program as well. I can’t begin to explain to you how much that time on the hill I cherish with me now. Don’t get me wrong, 5 nights a week, practicing for 3 hours a night got exhausting. Add on a 6 hour practice on Saturday’s if we weren’t racing somewhere- it gets exhausting. There were nights in my skiing career that I just wanted to lay in bed and be a normal person, but instead, I drove to Afton and practiced in the freezing cold for 3 hours while I still had 2 hours of homework ahead of me.
Now that I have graduated high school, I will no longer have those hard, stressful practice nights and even longer weekend races. I chose not to race in college, something a lot of skiers don’t do. I chose to cherish winter for years to come. I look back now and those years of taxing practices and races taught me one thing: I love winter. I love skiing. I want to live each day of winter on the hill, enjoying what I learned to love: skiing.
This winter I will not be racing. Instead, I’ll be free skiing at my leisure and coaching the youth of ski racing. Yep, I will be spreading what I once learned on to the same kids I used to be. I remember my coaches still today, and it amazes me that one day, kids will look back and remember me as their coach. I can’t wait to get a group of young skiers, see where their ability levels are at the beginning of the season, work with them, and see how far they have come by the end of the season.
Winter is not a season, it’s a lifestyle. Who I am in the winter is my favorite part of who I am. I love getting out on the hill at 8 am open and skiing the very first tracks of the day. I love waking up to a fresh face of powder and ignoring my classes for that day because powder days are rare enough in the Midwest. I love spending my weekends in a hotel because there’s a race the next day. I love my frostbitten fingers trying to drink the $1.50 hot cocoa. I love how my free time becomes ski time.
Each year I wait for winter because winter is my little home. I regret all those nights of hating hard practices and cold nights because now, all I want back is those nights. I wish winter wasn’t ending because of the climate change. I am fearful my children will not be able to grow through the ski racing community as I did. I am fearful I will not be one of those old people who spend their retirement days out on their local ski hill. I love winter, and I want to love winter for my entire life. It has become a part of who I am.
Never did I think ski racing would make this big of an impact on who I am. Thank you to all the people I have met through the way, and endless thank you to all the coaches who have helped me a lot the way. I have had too many coaches over the years- and each one I have learned something special from. I have never had a constant coach, but I have had multiple coaches and each of their styles have morphed the skier I am. I am a mixture of every coach I have ever been with, and thank you all for that. I could never be who I am without you.
With that, thank you winter. Thank you for the people and opportunities you have blessed me with. I am extremely excited for you this year. Treat me well, and treat all the outdoor enthusiasts even more.