Erik Matoush performing jumps and tricks at Winter Park that he first perfects on an Olympic-sized trampoline.
By Daniel Williams; photos courtesy of Linda Nyström
Accounts vary on exactly when Erik Matoush began skiing. He says he was three years old. His mom, Linda Nyström, says he was four. What is not up for debate is how much he loved being on the slopes right from the start, bumping down little hills, completing a slick turn.
Sure, it was cold at Winter Park, where the Castle Pines-based family made a second home, but “Erik was a happy camper on the slopes,” according to Nyström. “And he was always wanting to do more and more – the jumps and the trees, and then building his own jumps, and then trying to outdo what he had previously done.”
Erik, who is now 13, said he doesn’t remember too much from those first trips on skis. What he does remember has been passed down to him through family lore. His most vivid early memories come from watching other skiers, but not just any skiers – Erik was drawn to tricksters who were out there to test themselves and to have fun.
“I wasn’t doing any tricks back then,” he said. “But I would watch people going backwards and doing flips and I really wanted to do that some day.”
Over the years, Erik’s talents grew and he entered ski training programs in Aspen and Steamboat Springs to refine his skills, and last year a decision was made to apply for a competitive training program in Winter Park. After spending last year as a seventh-grader at Rocky Heights Middle School, Erik transferred this fall to go to school in Granby so he could train. The family has a condo in the mountains and Nyström says she and her husband alternate weeks living there with Erik.
“I like the new school [East Granby Middle School] a lot,” Erik said. “You never know with a first day of a new school, but everybody is really cool.”
And Erik also has plenty of time devoted to training in the sports performance program at the Winter Park Competition Center, according to Nyström. “Erik trains half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then, during the ski season, the kids ski every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Before the ski season began, Erik did conditioning work, including core training and endurance running after school, and on the weekends, he practiced jumps on an Olympic trampoline. “Anytime we do a new trick,” he said, “we always work on it on the tramp first."
To get into the program, Erik had to write three essays that asked “Why should we accept you? What would you bring to the program? And what do you want to get out of the program?” Erik said. “For me, the biggest thing was wanting to inspire my brother, Oskar.”
Oskar is 10 years old and was diagnosed with autism two years ago, according to Nyström. “We had always known there was something going on, but we didn’t know specifically until the diagnosis. Oskar and Erik have always had a special bond. Erik was able to interpret what his brother needed, even before Oskar was able to speak.”
As for the skiing, Erik said it would be cool to one day ski in the Olympics or the X Games, but that’s not the main objective. “What I love about the sport is hitting the rails and skiing backwards and doing jumps. It’s really cool to be so high in the air, and for a second or two, it really feels like you’re flying.”