Sogard: Freeride Skiing National Champion


Spencer Baese

Amelia Sogard rushes down the slope of Alta Ski Area during a freeride on December 10th, 2022.

Lydia Hawes, Online Editor

While the majority of toddlers spend their first years learning to communicate and trying to walk, Amelia Sogard, a junior at Highland, was moving with speed on skis at Snowbird’s resort, learning how to slide with the snow. She was steps ahead of most kids, developing athleticism early on.

Her dad, Rob Sogard, worked as the director of skier services, and was also a member of the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) national team. Sogard had quickly adopted the culture, community, and definitely the cold of skiing with ease.

Sogard first started to ski at two years old, learning the basics like “pizza” and “French fries” from her father, to help get her down bunny hills and green runs.

“Amelia was a super easy kid to teach. I didn’t really teach at all,” Rob said. “She just learned by watching and doing.”

As Sogard got older, she advanced to blues and black diamonds, taking on new terrain and challenges with the more experience she gained. She learned more skills that she’d later incorporate into her skiing career and competitions.

However, Sogard didn’t know at that age that she’d be where she is now: competing at nationals with one of the best freeriding teams in the country. When she reached the end of ski lessons and training at the age of 10, she found herself deciding between skiing as just a weekend hobby, or joining the Altabird freeride team.

“I [was] done with ski lessons and stuff, and so [I] wanted something else, but didn’t want to race, so I found freeride,” Sogard said.

She quickly jumped into the skiers’ world, competing that first season. Sogard clearly had a future in the sport, when at that first competition, Sogard placed first. From there on, Sogard started competing and training more and more.

At comps, free riders are judged off of six categories: line (the “route” riders choose to approach their hill/cliff), fluidity (how airs mesh together), control, air, style (simply, how the rider “rides”), and technique.

To Sogard, she believes her technique is one her best categories, but her energy/style is where she thinks she struggles. However, the most impactful is her line.

“Your line choice is a really big one—so it’s like what line you take and how you connect your airs—that’s the biggest category,” Sogard said.

She’d spend her weekends and some weekdays up on the hill with her team, working hard at improving her performance for competitions.

During COVID, Sogard was able to get up even more with online school, but now that school is in-person, she is back to training solely on weekends.

“When the snow is bad, we’ll do skills training, so they’ll work on your technique when you’re skiing,” Sogard said. “When the snow is good, you’ll go hit cliffs and work on how comfortable you are in the air.”

Some of her biggest competitions have been at Snowbird several times, Park City, Solitude, and one of Wyoming’s resorts: Grand Targee.

Sogard continued progressing over the years, competing more and more. However, as Sogard got older and there was more at stake, as well as more difficult and intense terrain, she didn’t enjoy competing as she used to.

Last season was where Sogard started to lose the elation she originally gained from skiing and competing. The pressure from coaches and judges began to get to her, as well as the mental preparation that came along with hurling herself from cliffs, all while trying to maintain good technique, energy, and a smooth landing. Not to mention, Sogard still had to balance her education and social life into her busy schedule.

Competing became a stress.

“She puts so much into preparing and training, and she has had great results,” Rob said. “But results don’t always match the effort [ . . . ] In [skiing], one little mistake can cost you, and it can also be painful.”

The 2022 season presented several challenges for Sogard, like whether it was something she really wanted to continue working towards. A lot had come between her being able to enjoy her sport again. The pinnacle moment where Sogard had come to her breaking point was at Nationals in Grand Targee’s resort in February of 2022.

“It was the first [competition] that didn’t feel fun anymore,” Sogard said.

The stress level was high among the whole team, even with riders who didn’t typically get visibly nervous prior to a run.

Sogard competed the first day, completing a smooth run and qualifying for the second day, even though she wasn’t feeling up for it.

Whether it was the nerves, the pressure, or the terrain, that caused it, Sogard crashed the second day, which would typically disqualify her from the competition. However, due to a storm, the competition was drawn another day, giving Sogard an additional chance at riding, giving her a second shot at Nationals.

But she didn’t feel that she could compete another day, and she dropped out of the competition.

“It took absolutely everything in me to run my comp the first time,” Sogard said, “and I couldn’t bring myself to do it again.”

Over the months following that competition, Sogard debated competing again this year.

Her father was encouraging and supportive of whatever decision she made, hoping she could regain the love she had lost for skiing.

“I just want her to continue to love sliding on snow, and right now, freeride is her way to do that. Skiing Little Cottonwood with great friends and great snow make great days,” Rob said. “As long as the training and competitions are part of that, I’m all in for her.”

Despite last season’s stresses, Sogard has started this new season ready to compete again. Her biggest goal for the season is to revert back to why she originally competed: for fun.

Her first competition of the 2023 season is early January at Snowbird, taking her back home to where she had first started.

She’s up at the resort training each weekend, working on her airs and her technique to get herself prepared for this upcoming season.

“I’m nervous about competing again,” Sogard said. “But, hopefully, it will be a more fun experience than last year.”