By Gianna Addario
---- — Beverly’s Michael Hayes has been hitting the slopes at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire since he could walk. His love for the skiing took off from there, and his skill has grown every year since.
The St. John’s Prep sophomore skied on the Eagles alpine racing team last year and plans to try out for the team again this winter.
The 16-year-old made the transition from recreational skiing to competing in a fairly new sport of ski cross, a race where a group of four skiers start simultaneously and attempt to reach the end of the course. Ski cross was part of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and will also be featured at this Winter’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Hayes has excelled at the sport, which involves freestyle skiing as a timed racing event. He has competed regionally in ski cross events in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
“My favorite part of ski cross is that incorporates all aspects of skiing,” explained Hayes. “It combines the alpine discipline of skiing, which would be the gates, and the techniques with the freestyle aspects, which would be the jumps. Ski cross also involves being able to ski with many people in a tight group going down the course very fast, which is not part of any other alpine skiing discipline.”
Hayes will also compete at a national level this winter, taking part in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Holeshot Tour. The event brings together athletes from across the country to identify the top junior competitors.
Last season he finished in either first or second place in all the U.S.A. Snowboard Association (USASA) sponsored regional races he competed in. Since he began competing in 2009, Hayes has qualified for the USASA Ski Cross National races held at Copper Mountain in Colorado each year.
Most recently he participated in the U.S. Ski Cross Team’s Project Gold training session for ski cross and boardercross competitors in Park City, UT. Participation in the project is by invitation only and Hayes was selected along with other athletes across the country to be part of the session.
This past summer, Hayes attended his first training camp with Project Gold. It was a 10-day snow training session at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Hayes trained with other top juniors, U.S. Ski Cross team members and coaches. The camp was focused on setting goals and improving competition skills.