Auburn boy skiing in 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships at Squaw Valley

17-year-old attends Sugar Bowl Academy, will compete at Middlebury College next year
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Auburn’s Riley Plant is set to compete against the best skiers in the country — including some that he’s been following for years. 

Plant, a 17-year-old who currently attends Sugar Bowl Academy, is slated to ski in the 2013 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships from March 20-24 at Squaw Valley.

“I’ve skied in some other competitive races but this one will be pretty neat,” Plant said. “It will be all the top guys from the U.S. ski team and World Cup. It should be pretty neat to race against them.” 

Plant, who has been skiing since he was 2 and will be on the Division I Middlebury College ski team in Vermont next year, will partake in the slalom, giant slalom and super g events.

The field includes top skiers Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin.

Plant considers Ligety his favorite American skier and the 18-year-old Shiffrin a “teenage prodigy.”

Other athletes who will be challenging for titles include Olympic gold medalists Julia Mancuso, World Cup winner Marco Sullivan and U.S. champion Travis Ganong.

“These are like the Tom Bradys and Jerry Riceses of skiing,” Plant said of the field he’s facing. “The people kids watch from the time they’re 6 years old. It’s pretty cool to race against them.”

Plant attended Alta Vista Elementary School and E.V. Cain Middle School in Auburn. He went to Placer High for a semester before transferring to the college ski prep school at Sugar Bowl.

“It wasn’t for the academy I would be nowhere in skiing,” Plant said. “People think of it as a place to ski, but to get into Middlebury you have to have good grades and high test scores.”

Several of Plant’s fellow students will be attending Dartmouth, Hamilton College and Middlebury next year.

“Middlebury is going to be super cool,” Plant said. “Ever since I realized what NCAA skiing was I wanted to get on a good team. I was hoping for either Dartmouth, Middlebury or the University of Vermont. To get recruited to the team was a high school-long dream come true.”

There are about 60 fellow students attending Plant’s school this semester. His graduating class in the spring will consist of about 15 other kids.

Plant’s father, Graeme, said that while the students focus on skiing, they have also receive a well-rounded education from the school that has a strong focus on academics.

“They go to school and generally train in the morning. They’re on the hill for a few hours in the morning and then start school midday,” Graeme said.

Plant, who specializes in the giant slalom, has previously competed in United States Ski Association and Fédération Internationale de Ski events.

In November, he took part in the Nor-Am Cup (North American Cup), where he had a tough outing against the top 25 skiers in the world.

Plant’s parents taught him how to ski as a toddler and by age 5 he was on the Sugar Bowl ski team.

“Everybody’s a skier here,” Graeme said of the Plant family.

Plant’s sister, Meredith, skied at Placer High before skiing for the UC Davis team, like her father. Plant’s mother, Debra, also likes to hit the slopes.

“It’s in the blood basically,” Plant said. 

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter@matthewkimel