On February 3, 2022

Killington’s Hannah Soar heads to Olympics

By Katy Savage

Hannah Soar heard it growing up. As she bumped down the moguls of the Outer Limits trail at Killington Resort as a child, other skiers told her, “You’re going to be an Olympian,” Soar remembers.

Courtesy U.S. Ski Team

Soar, a fearless child, just liked to be on snow and though she was talented, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go to the Olympics at first.

“I had points where I was like, ‘I don’t want to be an Olympian — that’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of pressure,’” she said. “You really need your stars to align just perfectly — there’s a lot of luck to that.”

It wasn’t until 2018 that Soar, a Killington Mountain School graduate, decided to make a four-year plan that started with qualifying for the World Cup and ended with getting a medal at the Olympics.

“It’s definitely been a master plan,” Soar said.

So far it’s worked out the way she wanted it to. Soar finished sixth in Freestyle skiing on the World Cup last year. In December, she found out she made the Olympic team for Freestyle skiing. Now Soar, 22, is in Beijing waiting to start her first Olympic event on Feb. 3.

Hannah Soar takes a break while prepping for the Olympics.

“I was in complete shock,” Soar said. “It’s not just that I want to go — this is my plan to go.”

Soar grew up in Connecticut and came to Killington every weekend as a child— the mountain her father TJ Soar has skied since he was young.

After a day of skiing, TJ reflected on his daughter’s success and said there’s something that sets Soar apart from the other Olympic athletes — the Killington community.

Dozens of local skiers watched Soar grow up. From her first time competing in the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge at Killington when she was 8 to watching Soar travel the world for competitions, there’s a group of Killington die-hards who have been Soar’s fans since the beginning.

“The Killington community is unique —especially in ski country,” TJ said. “She’s one of the few skiers that have a community at that level.”

To them, it was obvious Soar had the right character and work ethic to get to the top of the sport.

No spectators are allowed at the Olympics this year due to Covid protocols but about 30 people who ski weekends at Killington flew to Utah to see Soar compete at Deer Valley Resort for the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup Jan. 13-14, where Soar took seventh place.

Lisa Magliano, a longtime ski friend, had bibs made for the group in Soar’s signature tie-dye color with a photo of Soar printed on the front.

Tie-dye has been part of Soar’s wardrobe since she was a child, taking after her parents, who are Grateful Dead fans. The group cheered so loud Soar could hear them from the top of the mountain.

“It was quite a scene,” Soar said.

The entire group of skiers took turns with Soar after the competition — all in tie dye bibs.

Hannah Soar wears tie-dye with a group of Killington skiers, who watched her compete in Deer Valley Resort Jan. 13.

Magliano, who remembers watching Soar as a baby in her parents’ Subaru in the Killington parking lot so her parents could take runs together, said it was never a question of if Soar would go to the Olympics.

Magliano remembers telling Soar, “When you go to the Olympics, we’re going.”

By the time Soar was 4, she was skiing moguls with some of the best in Killington.

Soar competed in her first event — the Killington Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge—at age 8 and took fourth place.

By 11, she was doing back flips and full twists into an air bag at Killington. Soar qualified for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team her junior year of high school. She landed her first World Cup podium in 2019, taking third in a dual moguls FIS World Cup event in China.

Soar has many friends her own age, but her hometown ski community mostly includes people who are decades older than she is. “That’s the remarkable thing about Hannah,” friend Gary Hellman said. “She’s very well poised, she’s smart. She can be friends with people across a wide range of ages.”

When Soar comes home from traveling the world for competitions, she’s on the mountain everyday, following close behind the turns of all of her ski friends.

Soar’s favorite is following behind other skiers, matching their lines, turn by turn. Soar said it helps her be a better skier.

“I’m always skiing behind someone — just matching their turns. Skiing behind all those people is definitely how I got there,” Soar said.

Sammi Sofer, a friend, said she schedules times to ski with Soar everytime Soar’s home. Sofer and Soar call it “rabbit turns” when Soar skis behind her.

“The competition is so fierce and mentally demanding that for her to just want to ski with us and want to follow us, it’s just so special,” Sofer said.

Sofer, an eighth grade science teacher in New York, skis at Killington every weekend. Sofer made Soar’s seemingly flawless ski turn into a science lesson on calculating rate and time.

“I ski with her all the time and my draw drops everytime I’m behind her,” Sofer said.

Soar’s friends and family can’t be there with her, but they told her before she left: “Just listen to your heart and we’ll be there,” Sofer said. “The best part of Hannah is that there she is in this huge competition but at the end of the day, all she wants to do is ski.”

Soar will be the first Olympic competitor from Killington since Donna Weinbrecht took home gold in the first Olympic mogul competition in freestyle skiing, at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

“I always looked up to Donna Weinbrecht and hopefully I can bring as much light to the community as she did,” Soar said.

Soar took extreme caution against Covid-19 the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

She was tested for Covid everyday, rode chairlifts by herself and didn’t go outside. If she were to test positive, she wouldn’t be able to go to China. “That thought comes into my brain like every 30 seconds,” Soar said just before she left for China. “It’s uncontrollable. It’s unseen and it would change your life. It would be so devastating not being able to go based on a virus.”

Soar isn’t the only person representing Kilington in China. Matt Gnoza, the head mogul coach for the U.S. Ski Team, was formerly Soar’s coach at Killington Mountain School.

“He understands what I need,” Soar said.

Gnoza also understands where Soar came from.

“Matt definitely gets me,” Soar said. “He understands where my energy comes from.”

Soar said there’s artististry in picking the line to ski down a mountain and “skiing Outer Limits 100 times, but never skiing the same line.”

“I love the socialness of mogul skiing,” Soar said. “I love the free spirit-ness of it and the flow of it.”

Picking her lines, changing her turnup based on the mogul in the moment is part of Soar’s preparation. Before every competition, Soar picks a trail and goes freeskiing.

“It’s a quick way to remind myself, I’m not here because I’m amazing at competing. I’m here because I love mogul skiing,” Soar said. “With freeskiing I just get back into my flow state.”

Several of Soar’s local fans are planning to get up early to watch Soar in China. A watch party is scheduled at Snowshed at 5 a.m. Feb. 6.

As for getting a medal, Soar likes her chances.

“As long as I don’t get in my own way, I feel like my chances of getting a medal are pretty good,” Soar said.

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