Dexter teenager reaching new heights as a freestyle skier
Whether successfully landing a 70-foot jump or practicing hard while attending high school virtually, Luke Votaw hasn’t taken the traditional path in becoming a competitive freestyle skier.
But that’s what makes him unique, and in many ways it starts with where he comes from.
Votaw, 17, and a Junior at Dexter High School, is from the Midwest where the ski seasons are short while the hills and jumps are small.
His father, Steve Votaw, said nearly all of the guys his son competes against are from out west, places like Colorado or Utah, and who are part of developed freestyle teams or academies.
And although he has worked with several coaches over the years, he has done much of his skiing and training on his own with help from his Dad.
Votaw competes in the U.S. Revolution Tour, which is a series of events consisting of Halfpipe, Slopestyle, Big Air, and Cross. The Revolution Tour is designed to serve as a stepping stone for athletes making the transition from competing at the grassroots level to the elite level.
He’s been attending DHS virtually since ninth-grade.
The U.S. Revolution Tour attracts some of the best amateur skiers in North America, in Slopestyle (series of jumps and rails all scored together), and Big Air (one giant jump, best trick(s) win).
The Tour is focused toward competitors age 13 through 19 years old. It awards the top athletes an invite to compete in the U.S. Grand Prix, Junior Worlds, and USASA Nationals.
It took a lot of dedication and commitment to get to this point.
He started down this path at age 3, when he first put skis on. His dad said by age 6, his son, Luke, was lapping the Mt. Brighton terrain park, which is an area at a ski park that allows skiers, snowboarders and snowbikers to perform tricks.
He won his first Rail Jam at the age of 7, and started competing in local United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) events at age 8.
Some of his talent may have been inherited, but it also comes from his environment and growing up around skis and snow.
His father, who grew up an avid skier himself in Michigan, said he also loved to jump off anything he could when he was young.
“I became a volunteer Ski Patroller at Mt. Brighton when Luke was very young, so he would come to the hill with me every night, and we would go up north to ski on the weekends,” said Steve Votaw. “Luke was skiing 80-100 days a season by the time he was 6, and immediately gravitated to the terrain park at Mt Brighton.”
Nowadays Luke spends most of the winters training and skiing out in Colorado, but his dad said he still loves to ride the rope tows with his friends at Mt Brighton when he is home.
Looking ahead, he continues to motivate himself with a tried-and-true method.
He wants to keep working to be the best he can be, and at the same time have some fun doing it.
“I love to compete and learn new tricks,” Luke said in answering what he likes about freestyle skiing. “I also enjoy the friendships that I've made through skiing, and the places I've been able to travel to train and compete, such as New Zealand, and Whistler, Canada.”
He’s now headed to Mammoth Mountain in California to train and ski for most of the month of May.
“I will continue to compete in the U.S. Revolution Tour next season, with my goal being to score well enough to get an invite/opportunity to compete in the World Cup level events,” he said.
This past season, Votaw finished 8th in Big Air at the Tour, which took place in Aspen, Colorado.
“The field was stacked with several high level athletes from around the world, so I was happy to land my tricks, make the Finals, and finish 8th,” said Votaw.
Like with many things during the COVID pandemic, things have been challenging for the Tour. Votaw said he’s just been really grateful that they could compete this season in the midst of COVID, as many of the events were up in the air as to whether they would even happen.
Back here in Dexter there are some fans and supporters who will be keeping an eye out as to how he progresses, one being his dad, who said he’s proud of his son’s dedication and talent.
“Obviously his skiing and athletic feats speak for themselves... spinning and flipping off 70 foot jumps only to land back on your feet is very cool to see, and something few people in the world can ever do,” said Steve Votaw. “However, I'm most proud of his work ethic and determination to improve. I am also very proud that no matter what level he rises to, he has always been humble, and grateful for the opportunities he's been afforded.”