Born and Raised on Whiteface Mountain
by Jaime Collins (Series, Article III)
Imagine children playing outside – not just in summer but all year long. You’d expect them to grow up aware of themselves and nature, right?
Now imagine those children growing up playing outside on a mountain. In winter. We’d expect these kids will face some very real challenges and grow up resilient, right?
Now, add to that quality time with parents and coaches and role models, all with smiles on their faces, challenging them, encouraging them, teaching them skills, and answering their questions. That’s the childhood Yvetta and Nilana Hofrichter are experiencing, and they couldn’t be happier kids.
“Some things I get a little scared to do,” says Yvetta talking about new freestyle skiing tricks. “But when I’m with a friend or a coach or someone, I do it, and then have the courage to do it again.”
Hearing that, a knowing smile shines on her parents faces. I’ve known Tatiana and Nate Hofrichter for years, but this is the first time for me meeting their children. Nine-year-old Yvetta and six-year-old Nilana walked in and greeted me confidently, a big collection of medals around each of their necks and trophies in hand. “I got this one from Empire State Games,” says Nilana about her gold medal from last season skiing moguls.
Turning seven soon, this will be Nilana’s first year in the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) program. Yvetta started the program at the same age.
“They’re very active kids,” says Nate, Rental/Repair Shop Manager at Whiteface Mountain. “I couldn’t even name all the people who have influenced their development. NYSEF coaches, other employees here at Whiteface, and friends. They all deserve credit for getting these two interested and engaged in skiing and teaching them the skills they have today. Being here in this environment gives them so much opportunity. Yvetta now is already helping other kids learn, too.”
“Everyone at Whiteface can teach you something,” says Yvetta.
They both began to ski as soon as they could walk, and on any winter day if they’re not skiing at Whiteface, they’re probably skiing in their backyard in nearby Jay, NY. When Yvetta was younger, her parents harnessed their dogs (and sometimes dad) to pull them up the hill in the yard. As they grew, the dogs struggled (so did dad). That’s when Tatiana and Nate installed a rope tow. Since then, they’ve added lights, rails, and small jumps to their backyard terrain park.
“I like freestyle the best,” says Yvetta gleefully. “And I like going to the park at Whiteface. I like the boxes and jumps. This year in NYSEF we’re going to race slalom, too.”
Though Nilana started on a snowboard, she switched to skiing and also enjoys freestyle. “The most fun thing to do on skis is the rainbow box,” she says. “When I did it for the first time I was really scared, but my dad was there to hold my hand and catch me. The first time I fell off, but then I did it again all by myself.”
Even this early on both girls have lots of memories to share. Not surprisingly, many of those involve firsts. Nilana’s favorite is when she did moguls for the first time. Yvetta’s is when she learned to do a 180 off a jump. There’s also meeting Picabo Street, former U.S. alpine ski racer and three-time Olympic medalist, including a gold medal in the Super G in the 1998 Games. “She’s one of my heroes,” says Yvetta whose first time skiing Whiteface’s Wilmington Trail was with Picabo.
Both girls have also skied all of the 90 trails on Whiteface mountain (more than 25 miles of varied terrain), though Nilana is quick to remind us she has yet to ski the trail, Lookout Below. While they love the terrain park, both insist Skyward is their favorite trail.
“One day I did all the open trails at Whiteface,” says Yvetta. “Coach Caper gave me that challenge, and I skied them with my friend JoJo.” For Yvetta and Nilana Hofrichter, rising to a challenge is practically a daily norm. And as a result, they’ve grown to be positive, adaptable, and adventurous children. After all, these two young people will both tell you flat out, this mountain that looks so imposing for many feels like a second home to them.
Yvetta and Nilana show us there’s much more to being outside than not being inside. Our modern world so often compels us to make childhood as safe as possible by shielding children from risks of all sorts. The Hofrichters and families like them, however, show us there’s a different path.
They demonstrate that growing up skiing a mountain like Whiteface comes with many benefits. Theirs is a childhood that teaches obstacles don’t have to stop them. One with friends and role models encouraging them to carry on. And fun challenges that help them grow stronger because they’re simply part of everyday life.