Snow bros: Ward brothers pursue skiing greatness in Grand County
Over the years the snowy slopes of Grand County have served as an incubator to the careers of more than a few world-class ski athletes, and if the recently transplanted Ward brothers get their way, two more names will eventually be added to that long list.
In August 2018, the Ward family moved to their new home in Grand County from nearby Summit County. Making the transition with their parents were Sam and Beck Ward, brothers and budding young elite skiers. Sam, the elder of the two brothers, is a World Cup-level freeskier who competes for the British National Ski and Snowboard Team. Beck, the younger of the two, is an aspiring young freestyle skier who recently joined the Winter Park Competition Center’s Fulltime Freestyle Academy.
Sam Ward: Three disciplines
Sam Ward’s journey to the highest levels of competitive freeskiing has had its fair share of twists and turns.
Over the last several years, Ward has called the Tahoe area of California and Summit County home as he has pursued success both on the slopes and in the classroom. The 18-year-old Colorado native graduated from high school in spring 2018, with a 4.1 GPA, while also preparing for his impending career as a professional skier.
Ward, whose residence is now Tabernash, is a three discipline skier who competes in World Cup-level events in slopestyle, big air and half pipe. According to Ward, he is one of only eight skiers in the world who competes in all three disciplines at that level.
Ward’s father was born in Britain and Ward retains dual citizenship for both the United States and the United Kingdom. His unique status offered him the opportunity to qualify for and join the British National Ski and Snowboard Team, also called GB Snowsport. He became an official member of the British national team in recent months after transitioning from the development team to the pro-team.
“My current goal, since joining the British Team last fall, is definitely to compete in Beijing in 2022,” he said. “I would like to do that in two of the disciplines.”
No freeskier has ever gone to the Olympics in two disciplines, he said. “It is such a feat to make it even in one, but I am hoping that with the resources I have with the British Team, and by working hard in all three disciplines, that I will match the progression needed to qualify in two disciplines.”
During the off-season, Ward works at Christy Sports in Winter Park and often travels to far off locales, such as New Zealand, for training camps. Now that winter has descended upon the northern hemisphere, Ward has been traveling about, training and competing. So far this year Ward has competed in the World Cup Grand Prix and the Revolution Tour, both held at Copper Mountain, taking home a 27th and eighth-place finish, respectively.
Ward was in Breckenridge at the start of the New Year for a training session before heading to Europe on Jan. 5. Once there, he will spend a few weeks training with the British National Team at their complex in Livigno, Italy. He will compete in a competition in Austria before heading back to Italy and then returning to the United States to compete in the FIS World Championships in Park City, Utah.
While Ward has several major sponsors, including Monster Energy, Smith Optics, GB Snowsport and Volkl Skis, he is still struggling to gather the funds needed to pursue his dream of skiing greatness. To that end, the Ward family created the Sam Ward Make a Champ campaign where supporters can donate funds to help cover his air travel costs.
You can find more on Sam’s story and his fundraising campaign by visiting http://www.makeachamp.com/samward.
Beck Ward: Tenacity and drive
While Beck Ward might not yet be quite as accomplished as his older brother, the 13-year-old freestyle skier has a tenacity and drive that inspired his parents to pick up stakes and relocate to Grand County.
“Once Sam started down the path to join the British National Team that gave us as a family a little breathing room to support his younger brother at the same big dreams,” said Amy Machin-Ward, Sam and Beck’s mother. “The choice of Grand County was 100 percent a combination of the Winter Park Competition Center and its full-time freestyle academy.”
Academics were a recurring theme for Amy Machin-Ward, who said she has stressed to her boys the need to secure a quality education as they pursue their dreams of glory on the snow.
“Education is not a backup plan,” she affirmed.
For the Ward parents, the focus on academics as much as ski training at the Freestyle Academy was the key component behind their decision to come to Middle Park.
“The program combines academics and full-time training in probably the best way we have seen,” she explained. “And we have seen quite a lot of different programs.”
Beck was very happy with his family’s recent move to Grand county calling it “the best decision of my life so far.”
Beck is currently an eighth-grade student at East Grand Middle School though, thanks to his membership in the Freestyle Academy, he spends Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Fridays training at Winter Park Resort.
At only 13, Beck has been a serious mogul skier for several years, after getting into the discipline at age eight.
This weekend, Beck will kick off a multi-week stretch of freestyle skiing competitions beginning in Steamboat Springs with hopes of qualifying for the upcoming Junior Nationals.
“If you have a passion and someone like my brother to follow, then I believe that I should go for it everyday!” Beck said.
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A photo of a frosty Lake Granby from longtime Granby resident Penny Hamilton will be featured on the 2022 Grand County Names and Numbers phone book.