HELENA – Skiing is a huge part of the Winter Olympics, and Montana is home to not only great ski areas but great ski legends.
Helena-born alpine skier Roger Little was a member of the United States Olympic Ski team in 1972. He is now an assistant for the Great Divide Ski team.
“To be able to talk about what you do physically, and communicate that to children and kids who are learning how to ski, a legacy of what I’ve done with skiing that probably is more significant to me than my actual competition career,” Little said.
According to Little, he comes from a very active ski family and he felt the need to compete early on in life.
He said his memories of skiing in Montana included Jim Barrier who was part of the Olympic ski team in the 1960’s.
“We didn’t have coaches back then. Our one opportunity is when we would go up to Whitefish during the Christmas break and be coached by Martin Hale, and those are memories of going up as a family, traveling with the family, for ski races,” Little said. “Distant memories, staying in old lodges where all the families were and we would be there at night singing ski songs.”
Skiing was a major part of his parents’ life and an activity they did as a family.
After Roger graduated from high school in 1966, he qualified for the U.S. Ski Team in 1971 while attending the University of Colorado. His career was cut short by an injury.
“Something that I really look back on, that was very positive from sort of the negative from my ski competition career is my ski coaching career,” said Little.
His competitive career might have ended, but his desire to pass along his love for the sport never wavered. “It’s been working with kids and teaching them how to ski and giving them a skill that they can use for the rest of their life,” said Little.
Roger returned to Montana in 1982. He’s currently working behind the scenes for the Great Divide Ski team with head coach Craig Krueger.
“Just something that I’ve always enjoyed, enjoying working with young skiing athletes, I’ve enjoyed skiing myself, I still enjoy skiing, so I continued coaching kids because I love it,” said Craig Krueger, Head Coach of the Great Divide Ski Team.
Ethan and Morgan Hayes say they can relate to how Roger grew up. “Yeah, it’s the best. I get to know what he does, he’s a role model for me,” Morgan Hayes, a Great Divide Ski team member.
“My favorite part about skiing with my little sister is most of the time I’m the one that’s following her, because she’s trying to beat me on the hill,” said team member Ethan Hayes.
Coaching is more than just teaching technique, it’s about encouraging the desire to push harder.
“If that candle is burning inside of that child, whatever sport or activity, kids are going to gravitate to something that really becomes a passion for them. Nobody is going to interfere with that, and I think for it was skiing I was so passionate about it, that it was the one thing I thought about all the time,” said Little.
Roger said skiing was important to his mother and father, but was never pushed on him and his siblings.
“It wasn’t because my father was pushing me, it wasn’t because of my brother or sister, it was because that passion was inside me,” said Little.