The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “I love big dumps.” Being a Vermonter, I chuckled and continued along my way dreaming of snow-covered ski slopes. Growing up in this state, one is surrounded by mountains, snow, and of course, ski bums. The dedication to skiing that many Vermonters possess makes the sport keenly competitive. For one skier to rise above at a young age is an incredible feat. This month’s athlete has done just that.
Libby Gibson, at 16 years old, hailing from Jamaica, has distinguished herself as one of the top junior skiers in the country. Her most impressive race to date is when she finished first in her age group, and 10th overall, in the super G at US Nationals in April. She took second in her age group in the giant slalom at the same event.
“I shook off the nerves and had a good race,” she said. “I always get nervous no matter what kind of race it is, but those nerves help me stay focused.”
Libby’s success last season did not go unnoticed by the Alpine ski community. In May, Libby was accepted to the US Ski Team’s Development Team. She has spent most of this summer and fall training with seven other dedicated young skiers in some of the best skiing destinations in the world. “We get a little competitive on the hill, but not to the point where it’s overwhelming,” she says of her teammates. “We are trying to push each other and also help each other at the same time, so that we can move up as a team rather than one person being a superstar and the rest of us getting left behind.”
In the past few months, Libby has carved mountainsides in Oregon, Colorado, and Europe. Her favorite place she has ever skied? Sölden, Austria. “All the best athletes were there because it was the World Cup, so it was really inspiring to see them,” she says, “and it was just so pretty.”
Libby’s intense devotion to improving herself as a skier was apparent in my conversation with her. “You have to keep working hard because your competitors are working just as hard as you are,” she says. “At no point will this be easy.”
Although Libby is young, she has had many years to explore her passion for skiing. Her parents met as coaches at Stratton Mountain School, and she grew up a 10-minute drive from the mountain. The kids at her local elementary school used to make fun of her because she was always busy skiing on the weekends. This soon passed when she enrolled in Stratton Mountain School and found a tight-knit community of like-minded skiers and snowboarders. “You get to be close with your teachers,” she says of SMS, “which is good for people in my situation who are rarely at school.”
Libby will be back in Vermont for a short winter break before she is headed back to the Alps. She hopes for a good season with her team and, one day, to compete in the Olympics. “Keep working at it because you never know what’s going to happen,” she says. “If you had told me four years ago that I would have been where I am now, I would have said, “Hah! Yeah right.”