Years ago, two kids who shared a love of everything Winter made a childhood bet. On the T-Bar at Buffalo Ski Club in Colden, NY a frustrated alpine racer took a break from training to go see her friend’s freestyle practice. This racer happened to be me, and one of my favorite things was to watch the aerial team practice as I was enamored with their grace and control in the air. Catching the T-Bar with my friend Matthew DePeters, on the ride up I told him that I would make the Olympics before him. He looked me in the eye and said, “No, I will make it first.” Little did I know, he was right. In 2010 Matt received the opportunity to try out for the 2010 United States Aerial Freestyle Team, and qualified. I still remember the MySpace message and subsequent phone call, as I had not heard from Matt in years. “Ha! I did it! I made the Olympics before you!”
Bringing us to the present, DePeters is now a coach at Holiday Valley. I had the opportunity to catch up with him and talk about his amazing journey … “I don’t remember learning to ski … just always knew how,” he tells me. “My father taught me to ski when I was 1-½ years old.”
INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW DePETERS
CROFT: When did you start on the Buffalo Ski Club Freestyle Team?
DePETERS: I was 9-years-old when my father Mark became a coach at BSC and subsequently I became a freestyler. For me it was all about the fun; I enjoyed being out on the hill in the elements and with my friends. It just so happened I had a natural talent for the sport.
CROFT: Tell me about the training that you were required to perform certain tricks.
DePETERS: In Freestyle Aerials, you must log x-amount of jumps in the summertime into a training pool. It was a great way to learn how far I could push my limits without needing to land perfectly. I would train at the Olympic Training Facility in Lake Placid, New York. The summer before the games, I was jumping double sessions all summer and hiked over 187,000 steps; I do not miss those stairs anymore!
CROFT: What was it like competing in the Olympics?
DePETERS: Even when I went to the try-outs it was all about the fun of the sport. I never had a set goal of making it to any level - I just wanted to spend as much time doing the sport I love. It was the most fun I had in a month ever … just being there was an accomplishment. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that very few ever get, knowing you’re in the club is an honor. The Olympic Village was surreal, your competitors and other athletes out walking around, shopping and dining … words cannot explain it.
CROFT: What is the #1 thing you took away from your time competing?
DePETERS: I have friends all over the world. It is an extraordinary camaraderie that is formed; your competitors become your family. The moments at the top of the hill stick out the most, laughing and cracking jokes with the other athletes. If I wanted to go back to Europe I could call any number of people to go see because of the lifetime bond we created.
CROFT: Why do you coach now?
DePETERS: I want to pass on my love and knowledge of the sport. The joy on an athlete’s face when they land a trick they have been working on does not have a price tag - that feeling is worth everything. I have had the opportunity now to coach from the U.S. Ski Team Level to Grassroots programs and you learn something new every day from the athletes. You get to continue to grow as they do.
CROFT: Here we go … fun questions … When you get a chance to shred on your own, what is on your playlist?
DePETERS: Grateful Dead. (Author’s note: this has not changed since Matt was 7.) If it isn’t the Dead I listen to 90’s Hip Hop, and string bands such as Yonder Mountain String Band.
CROFT: What gear are you rocking this season?
DePETERS: I rock the Lange Surefoot Custom Boot, Salomon Bindings, and Everyday Rocky Mountain Underground Skis. When I competed, I was in a Full Tilt Boot and used Moment Skis.
CROFT: Favorite color?
DePETERS: Other than white, the color of snow, I love earth tones. Most of my gear and belongings are neutrals.
CROFT: Any last thoughts?
DePETERS: I want to give a huge shout-out to my family for supporting me through this lifelong adventure and being there through the ups, downs and injuries. I could not have done this without them. Also, my friends along the way … you all know who you are.
DePeters to this day exudes poise and grace in the air and this same feeling is put into his coaching. There is no athlete left behind. No matter if you are just starting out or are the best in the country, he gives each athlete 110%. There is a common theme I am finding with advanced winter programs: camaraderie. It is ever present and instills a great sense of loyalty for all that participate. You are changed in ways for the better that will translate into all aspects of your life.