Competitive Skiing: Riley Baughman


Riley Baughman skis down the twists and turns of the slopes pushing for a win.

Everyone has a spark. A spark is a passion or interest that lights fire in a person’s life. They bring certain people joy and happiness, and make them feel like themselves. 

Riley Baughman is a fifteen year old whose spark happens to be competitive skiing. It is a thrilling and fast paced sport. As she glides down the slopes, feeling weightless and on top of the world, she pushes for the feeling of immense pride found after a good match. 

After observing the joy brought because of it, skiing first peaked her interests due to seeing her older brothers hit the slopes. “My oldest brother Cole started the sport first, and my other brother Blake followed closely behind him. I’ve been skiing in general since I was about three, but watching someone ski for a sport is a different feeling. I watched my brothers for multiple years before I dove head first into the sport myself,” explained Riley. 

Skiing for fun was something she has always done since she was young, starting small on the bunny slopes and working her way up,  but skiing competitively came a bit later. She started the sport at ten years old and felt that spark of joy come from inside her, and she wanted to pursue the sport  ever since then. “When I was ten, I definitely was not very good, but I’ve gone to states every year I’ve competed and I’ve made the state team a couple of times since then. I’ve definitely improved greatly from when I was younger, but so have the other competitors. Every year, no one can be sure who will have the top spot in the age group. It always keeps the sport exciting and it keeps me motivated to keep improving,” said Baughman. 

Inside the match, her head scrambling with millions of little thoughts. When she begins to ski down they fade away. The anxieties and precautions her younger self took seem almost irrelevant to her newly gained skill. “Before you’re in the start gate, you run the course in your mind, you go through the offset of the gates, how many there are, and the possible combinations. You’ll take note of the snow conditions once you get in line for your run. Then, from the moment you’re in the start gate to the moment you reach the bottom, your mind goes blank and your body feels light. The only thing you can even recognize are the gates in front of you and your body already knows what to do. I’ve been racing for many years now,” Riley described, “Once I reach the finish though, it’s just an immense sense of either pride or disappointment based on how the run went.” 

Ski racing is known to be a dangerous sport. Riley explains that many racers put a lot on the line to take part in something they are passionate about. Small injuries or large, she persists to get better and meet their own personal goals. 

“I was at the state derby and it was the first day of competition. The first race happened to be Super G,” she said. The Super G she explained is the second fastest discipline with an area where skiers can catch air while racing. “The skis for Super G are very long. We had a bit of time before the race so most of the competitors were out training. One of the boys who was out skiing had a pedestrian cut him off in the middle of the turn. This pedestrian caused him to crash into a tree. Keep in mind, the average speed of Super G is 60-75 mph. The boy had to be taken to a hospital immediately,” she said, ”This boy was a really good racer, he had made the state team almost every year I had been racing. Luckily, he survived, but after having that happen at my state derby last year, I don’t think I could have a more impactful story. Anytime I even think about the event I get chills. It gives a really good idea of how much racers can put on the line just for the sport. As racers, we can get into an accident at any time no matter how much control we have over our skis,” Riley assured. 

Riley Baughman and her family love skiing. Generation after generation they will continue to work hard in the sport. Everyone starts somewhere, and she just happened to start here in Pennsylvania. Constantly improving and making her mark down the slopes, Riley skis with pride.