2023-2024 Race Place Catalog Cover Stories

2023-2024 Front Cover Winner - Valerie Cross

Valerie Cross

Valerie's Application Letter

My name is Valerie Cross. I was born and raised in Marco Island, Florida, until I was 12 years old and am the second youngest of 6 children. I'm sure you are already confused. She's from Florida, and skis? Well yes. When I was around six years old, my family took a trip driving fifteen hours to Cataloochee Ski Resort in North Carolina, where I saw snow for the first time. Ever since I clicked my little, rented ski boots into my rented skis, I've had a spark in my heart that has continued to burn with love and passion for skiing to this day. After that trip, I would watch FIS World Cup races with my dad on television and each winter since then, my family would take a long ski trip to various resorts every January. After many years of traveling to ski, my parents realized I had a special passion for skiing. In 2018, my family moved to Eureka, Montana, a small town about 10 miles south of the Canadian border. I started racing with the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation as a 2nd year U14.

As a 1st year U16, in only my second season ever racing, I experienced the biggest obstacle I have ever had to overcome in my entire life. The last training day before I would leave for the championship at the end of the year, I crashed into the trees, breaking my femur clean in half, breaking five ribs, and lacerating my spleen and liver. I was unable to walk for a little over a month. I'll truly never take things such as getting out of bed myself, showering without the help of my sister, or even sleeping through the night for granted again. Instead of making me fearful and discouraged, the accident only made my passion for skiing and my mental focus even stronger. I spent every single day over the Spring, Summer, and Fall working for hours on end in the gym to come back even stronger.

As a 2nd year u16, I qualified for the Western Regional Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I had a few of my best finishes. The Super-G race was coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of my crash. I skied that race for the girl who was being evacuated off the mountain in a ski patrol sled just a year ago. I left everything I had on that course. I can remember crossing the finish and immediately shouting, "That was the most fun thing I've ever done!". I finished 28th out of 90 girls.

Through all of this, I have maintained an unweighted 4.0 and weighted 4.3 GPA with Florida Virtual School, a 100% online high school program. I have also been awarded the Northern Division Academics 4.0 Award two years in a row. One of my proudest accomplishments was winning the Bruce Erickson Award with the American Bank for Citizenship, Sportsmanship, Scholarship, and Leadership. It was pretty cool to be recognized as a leader for my team.

In addition to my formal studies, I journal every single day of training, whether it be in the gym or on snow. I write about what I am focusing on to improve so I can squeeze the most out of every day. I especially journal during races so that when I return to the same resort every year, I can remember the characteristics of each hill. Equally important to the mental preparation is the work I put in at the gym. My workouts range from running a 5k at least once a week to heavy compound strength straining and plyometric workouts so that I can be the strongest skier I can possibly be. When I'm not skiing, studying, or training in the gym, I love to sail in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico with my family.

My overall goal is to make the U.S. Ski Team and to race in the Olympics. This season, I will be moving across the state to race with the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation for my first year of FIS. My goal for this season is to make Nationals and to finish in the top 20 for most or all my races. I am excited to make this season the best one yet!

I am very grateful for this opportunity. I would be honored to be chosen for this contest. Winning this contest would provide me with the financial help to get a lot of the equipment I need going into my first year of FIS with a new team. I think my dedication, hard work in training, and the sacrifice my family and I have made make me a worthy award recipient. I believe that it doesn't matter where you're from, when you started, or what you've been through. If you truly love and have a burning passion for something and are willing to work relentlessly for it, with time, you can achieve greatness. Thank you for hearing about me and my story.


We appreciate Valerie's passion and are honored to have her as our 2023-2024 cover winner and grant her the award of $3,000 in gear to assist in her first year as a FIS racer!

2023-2024 Back Cover Winner - Cole Van Etten

Cole Van Etten

Cole's Application Letter

Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the Race Place Cover Contest. I have been skiing with NYSEF since I was a U12 when I moved to the Adirondacks and began training at Whiteface. I learned to ski at Holiday Mountain Ski Hill in the Catskills. Where I only got a small taste of racing in their program. But I loved this sport early on. I am currently a Junior at Northwood School, skiing for Northwood/NYSEF. In the Winter of 2022, I received the NYSRRA Sally Davis Scholar Athlete Award for skiing and honor roll.

The Hovey Race is a well-known race at Whiteface Mountain and a race that we all strive to win when we become U14s. In the 2019/2020 season, I came in 3rd place as a first-year U14 in our local NYSEF Hovey Race. In 2020/2021, as a 2nd year U14, I came in 1st place. It was an exciting and special moment in my racing career, joining some of the past great athletes who have won this race on our home mountain.

As a U14, some of my other results include 1st place in GS, 1st place in Super G and 7th place in SL.and in an Alumni spring series GS at Whiteface, 7th place.

As a first-year U16, there were ups and downs. There were many emotional struggles in my races. I made it to the Eastern Regional Finals, where I finished 3rd in Super G. As a first-year U16, this was a humbling experience. Always striving, I went into my second year U16 determined to make the Eastern Championships.

As a 2nd Year U16 this past season, I never gave up, working harder, trying to get stronger, working on techniques and asking for help and advice along the way. I successfully made it to the Eastern Championships, meeting my goal. I was ranked 11th in the nation for Super G.

In addition to skiing, I enjoy giving back to my community and NYSEF. I was a Boy Scout for seven years and volunteered for many different community events. When I was in Middle School, I raised money in my community to install a water bottle refill station in our Middle School to reduce plastic bottle waste. I have received Character awards and Excellence awards in school, including a team ambassador award for outstanding work ethic, positive attitude and the valuable contributions made to the school community.

In 2021, I, along with my friends and our parents, created a nonprofit organization called Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids. We started this group to raise money to create a bike pump track in our community. In an effort to raise money, we started an annual Pedalfest bike race at Mt. Pisgah Ski Area. In the summer of 2022, after our 2nd annual Pedalfest, we built the pump track in Saranac Lake, creating a fun and safe environment for kids in our community. Our 3rd Pedalfest helped us to raise money for the maintenance of the pump track.

I enjoy volunteering with BETA (Barkeater Trail Alliance) to maintain and work on our local trail systems in the Adirondacks. This year, we built a whole new trail with BETA at Mt. Pisgah. I volunteer at NYSEF events to work to help support the organization that helps support me during ski season.

During this summer, I did dryland training with my coaches to build my strength and get ready for a new, positive and successful season. One of my goals this season is to enjoy my sport more and worry less. Skiing can be a stressful sport. I think by doing this, I will end up getting better results. I am looking forward to a great season as a first-year FIS athlete and would love to represent my community with Race Place.

I work at Fogarty’s Marina 30 hours a week during the summer to help support my ski season. I contribute to all of my skiing expenses, including new purchases and training camps, with my team.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and time. Winning this would help me with equipment and gear purchases for this upcoming season and to kickstart my FIS season.


Cole Van Etten

We applaud Cole’s dedication and welcome him as our back cover athlete with the $1,500 award.