Learning Freeskiing

The Early Show Correspondent Melinda Murphy admits she is kind of a klutz and is lucky if she gets down the slope in one piece when she is skiiing forward. But she found that the kids at the U.S. Open in Vail go forward and backward and upside down, and do it all with amazing grace.

It's sort of like ballet, complete with tremendous twists, spectacular spins and hair-raising jumps, only the dancers wear skis instead of tutus.

It's called freeskiing, and it's a way of life for the Olenick family.

Peter and Michael Olenick are consumed with freeskiing. So is their sister Meghan, who is one of about 30 girls in the sport.

The family is inseparable. In fact, the two brothers take every single run together unless they're competing.

Peter says, "It's sick. I'm lucky. He's lucky. We're lucky."

The Olenicks have been daredevils from the start.

Grandmother Molly says, "From day one, all they wanted to do was ski. It's a 360 and then it's a back flip and there you go."

But freeskiing itself wasn't even around until the late '90s.

Team manager Bill O'Connell says, "Snowboarding did a lot for skiing and now freeskiing is now kind of taking off where snowboarding took us to. It's just kind of re-invented the sport."

So did a new type of skis called twin tips that curve up on both ends. They make it possible to go backwards.

And skiers are really strutting their stuff at competitions like the U.S. Open at Vail.

Head judge Josh Loubek, with a laugh, says there are no limits to what they can do. "They can do anything. It's crazy, because you think there's a limit, and they beat it, and it's amazing to watch these guys keep progressing," he adds.

But as the tricks get more dangerous, the injuries get more common.

One was jumping with a torn muscle, proving that it is precisely this toughness and lack of fear that is making these athletes real sports legends. So much so, MTVU - the college version of MTV - came to cover the event.

MTVU VJ George Oliphant says, "For kids who ski, they're trying to emulate them so if we can get them on TV, college students will be like, oooh."

Manufacturers recognize the appeal, too, providing sponsorships for everything from skis to clothing to eyewear.

Asked how much money these guys can make, US Freeskiing Open Founder Michael Jaquet says, "Tanner Hall, who is the top competitive freeskiier in the world right now, probably pulls down between 150 and 200K a year right now."

And Tanner is just 19 years old. It all pays off for the sponsors. Thousands of fans showed up at the big air event the final night in Vail - including the Olenicks' parents.

About their children, they say, "Not so important that they win or lose, it's that they, first of all, don't get hurt and that, second of all, that they're happy with what they're doing."

For a while, Michael was ahead of Peter. But in the end, he fell. Peter had a better night and placed 4th overall. Talk about living out your dreams.

Asked about what he wants to do when he grows up, Peter says, "I'm doing it right now."

And these guys don't have to put their passion aside in the summer, either. Nope. Believe it or not, they spend their summers at ski camp, learning new tricks by working on trampolines and doing new tricks in the water.-->
  • Tatiana Morales

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