New To Ski

12 Pro Skiers Who Started Late

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022

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As is the case with most athletes who make it to the pros, training starts early in life. Many times we hear professional skiers described as being able to ski before they could walk. While such statements are endearing exaggerations, we see how learning the sport at a very young age played into their success as professionals.

So it might be surprising to some to learn of several pro skiers who had what many consider to be a late start in their professional career. Here are 12 Pro Skiers who started late.

1. Adam U

Adam first put on a pair of skis at the age of 5. His first day of lessons ended with him taking off his skis, walking down the hill, and sitting the rest of the lesson out in the lodge.

It wasn’t until he was a senior in high school that he gave skiing another chance only because rock climbing was deleted from his school’s athletic roster. He eventually trained in the Canadian National Ski team after leaving college. Later a freestyle competition got a sponsorship from K2. Skiing is now both a hobby and a career for Adam.

2. Charley Ager

Charley grew up outside of Vancouver, Canada, in a suburb known as White Rock. Although he grew up around skiing, it was never his focus, and he skied only once a week or less. When he graduated high school, he decided to move to Whistler and couch surf for a year.

That one year turned into many years of living out of his truck and then in a camper. During that time, he competed in local competitions and worked on ski films.

His first big break came when he was chosen to be part of Atomic’s Whistler crew and finally had a sponsor. Later he was dropped by Atomic but got on board with K2 and now focuses on his films.

3. Tom Wallisch

Even though Tom had skied from a young age, he did not start competing until he was 22 years old. He was initially recognized for his film shorts that he posted online featuring his ski skills. That is where his real fame began. In the meantime, he started winning competitions, and his recognition grew.

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In both 2010 and 2012, he won Freeskiers Magazine’s Skier of the Year. Additionally, Tom has won several Winter X Games and Dew Tour competitions. He even set a world record when he completed a 424-foot rail grind.

4. Colby West

Colby was a three-time bronze medalist in the Winter X Games even though he had a late start. He did not start freestyle skiing until he was 23 years old, but he quickly made his debut at the Winter X Games XII.

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Since Colby has more or less retired from the professional ski scene and is focusing his talents on the entertainment world. He still enjoys skiing with friends casually, but tired of the pressures that come with competition.

5. Mark Abma

Mark was ten years old before he even learned to ski. It didn’t take him long though to catch on. From that moment on, he was hooked. In his early years, he participated in competitive mogul skiing and then park competitions in his late teens.

He was 23 years old when he got his big break into the ski film industry and has since starred in several Warren Miller and Poor Boyz films. In both 2005 and 2007, he won the Powder Video Award for Best Male Performance.

6. Mike Douglas

The Godfather of freestyle skiing, Mike Douglas, didn’t learn to ski until he went on a 5th-grade ski field trip. He was hooked, but it was still sometime later that he went pro. It wasn’t until his late teens that he started filming and staring in ski movies.

But it was still a few more years before Mike became the legend he is known as today. At the age of 29, he helped design the world’s first twin-tip ski allowing skiers to expand their freestyle repertoire by being able to ski and land frontwards and backward. He has since been focusing on more ski filmmaking.

7. Kajsa Kling

Professional Swedish skier, Kajsa Kling, was 25 years old before you had a real breakout season. That year she scored her first World Cup podium getting second place in the Super-G race.

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Formally she competed in all five alpine disciplines but has since retired from professional ski racing.

8. Ahmet Dadali

Ahmet enjoyed skiing from a young age, but he grew up in western New York, where skiing conditions were never ideal. He often traveled into more urban areas to practice his skills on the rails.

Once Ahmet turned 18, he headed west in search of steep terrain and deep snow. He got a job at the resort in exchange for a season’s pass and had few intentions of going pro.

He quickly gained exposure and won the “Best Male Performance” award at the 2010 IF3 Freeski Film Festival and the “Breakthrough Performer” and “Best Jib” awards at the 2011 POWDER Awards

9. Tommy Ford

Although Ford got an early start to skiing at the age of two and did a lot of ski racing growing up, he didn’t get the recognition of a pro skier that he deserved until he was among the top ten finishers of the World Cup in 2017 at the age of 28.

The following year he competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang.

10. Sarah Hoefflin

Sarah was already in her 20s and attending college when she learned to ski. However, she caught on quickly, and the combination of natural talent mixed with her keen sense of drive put her in the fast lane to professional skiing.

Now she holds an Olympic Gold medal, as well as several X Games and World Cups podiums.

11. Hermann Maier

As a teenager, Hermann didn’t find much joy in skiing. He was told by a ski instructor he would never be successful racing because of his smaller size. He continued to learn skiing from his father and even worked as a ski instructor for some time.

He participated in local events but did not make his World Cup debut until he was 23 years old. The following year he won his first World Cup event, and the world began to recognize him for the professional athlete that he was.

12. Adam Delorme

Adam grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, far from snow and mountains until he was nine years old and moved to Montana. There, his father taught him and his brother how to ski moguls. Adam was a natural skier and is praised for his effortless, fearless style.

After he graduated high school, Adam moved to Colorado to pursue skiing as a professional career. There he honed in on his park skills and is known as one of the smoothest freestyle skiers around.  

It turns out being a late bloomer in the world of professional skiing isn’t as uncommon as you might have thought. As opportunities opened up to these athletes later in life, they took full advantage and made their mark in ski history.

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NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I share everything I wish someone had told me when I was learning to ski. My name is Simon & I've been skiing since 2005. This winter, our family is taking a 3-month camper ski trip across the Alps. If you enjoy our articles, please join the free email club. We'd love to have you.
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