Q&A with Kelly Sildaru: Get to know the 10-year-old female phenom
If you haven’t heard her name by now we’d be surprised. She’s a 10-year-old freeskier and her YouTube videos have amassed hundreds of thousands of views. She’s beginning to make a name for herself in the competition scene as well. We’re talking, of course, about Kelly Sildaru.
Hailing from the Northern European nation of Estonia, Sildaru slid her first box at the age of five. From there, her love of the sport combined with a remarkable natural talent inspired her family to travel the globe in search of new skiing experiences. Along the way, Kelly’s abilities have progressed at an astounding rate. This is a girl who, at age 10, is performing tricks that many of the sport’s top females have yet to learn, including switch 900s.
We got in touch with Kelly through her father Toni, who was gracious enough to ask Kelly questions in her native tongue and translate her answers for us.
Kelly Sildaru / Wanted Edit
Freeskier.com: At just ten years of age, you demonstrate a talent level on par with some of the top females in the sport. Can you explain how you first got into freeskiing, and how you’ve worked to progress your skills?
Kelly Sildaru (Translated by Toni Sildaru): I got into freeskiing with my first skis, they were my uncle’s snowblades, and they allowed me to ski both ways. But, my first little jumps and boxes came at the age of five. I remember a time when we were in Germany in summer, skiing at an indoor hall. We were taking lunch break, and I finished mine very quickly to go back to hit the jumps and boxes.
As for progression, somehow it all comes naturally for me. I just keep learning. Like at the Mayrhofen Freeski Open, on training day I was doing switch 720s, but at the end of day they placed a rail as the last feature on the slopestyle course and it made me worry because I didn’t want to hit that switch, so I decided I’d go for a 900. My parents weren’t happy about that, they said it wasn’t time for learning new tricks, but I tried anyways. Before the competition everybody had some time for training, and I used it to try the 900. The first time I landed sideways, and the fourth or fifth try was already pretty clean and I ended up winning that day.
Freeskier.com: Tell us about your home of Estonia. What’s the freeski scene like there right now? Are there many others your age who you ride with on a regular basis?
[Left: Kelly and Jossi Wells in Tignes, France. Photo by Shay Williams.]
Kelly Sildaru: In Estonia it is hard to do freestyle skiing. Most of the time I spend progressing my skills I spend on the trampoline, because our skiing season is very short. Usually I train, be it skiing or trampolining, about three-four times a week for two-three hours. Sometimes less, depending on the weather. But if we are on a skiing trip to mountains with good conditions, then I ski almost every day during the trip. If I wouldn’t be doing that then I couldn’t basically ski at all.
Freeskiing isn’t popular at all here, cross-country skiing is and that’s because the highest summit in Estonia is only 318 meters above sea level. My home mountain is 100 meters long, and it has only one 5-meter jump and a few rails. This season the snow didn’t come before the New Year, and opening the parks takes even longer. The first week of the year I was skiing in Finland and next time was three weeks later at the Polish Freeskiing Open.
I don’t see many people my age skiing, especially girls, but there is one girl younger than me and she is doing very well. It might surprise you, but my best skiing mate, who I ski with most of the time, is a 38-year-old guy. He also jumps and does rails and boxes, we have fun together. My mother already knows that when he is skiing at the same time with me, there is no point waiting for me come home early. Outside Estonia I ski with my brother and parents, but I also have been skiing with my uncle, the same one whose snowblades I used as my first skis. My whole family loves to see me go skiing, even my grandparents are ready to go with me if nobody else can.
Freeskier.com: You came to the States last year to ski some of the famed terrain parks. What did you think?
Kelly Sildaru: I visited two ski resorts in America, The Canyons and Park City. The parks there are very attractive. Canyons’ park was the longest I have ever seen. A great thing was that I got invited to Red Bull’s Under My Wing event, where girls had a day skiing with Grete Eliassen at Canyons. It was a special day because I had a chance to ski with girls my age, something I had never done before. I was surprised that in April there was still lot of fresh snow for pow skiing.
Freeskier.com: Who do you look up to within the sport of freeskiing?
Kelly Sildaru: I got to meet and ski with Virginie Faivre and Ane Enderud, they are my first and forever idols. Also I like Kaya Turski, I like her style and confidence.
Freeskier.com: Is Justin Bieber popular in Estonia?
Kelly Sildaru: No, at least he isn’t in my community. Estonians don’t fan people the way Americans do.
Estonia on the map—today’s geography lesson.
Freeskier.com: What are your favorite subjects in school? Do you plan to learn English?
Kelly Sildaru: Sport and math. I already have learned a bit of English by myself and by meeting different people, and after one more year it will also be in the school schedule.
Freeskier.com: What do you like to do when you’re not skiing?
Kelly Sildaru: If I’m not skiing then I play different games with my brother. Fighting with him also takes up a lot of my time. Once a week I go to basketball training, in the summer I ride my bicycle, skate and wakeboard, and in winter I also do cross-country skiing.
Freeskier.com: Any shout outs?
Kelly Sildaru: Like always, thanks to everybody who has made this possible for me. My family, friends, fans, and my sponsors, which are K2, Nike 6.0, Red Bull, Spy, Level Gloves, Mariine Auto, Dalbello and Marker.
About the author:
Henrik Lampert loves hot dogs, backflips, the Boston Bruins and Norway. Twenty-seven years old and a Massachusetts native, he's the Editor of Freeskier Magazine and Freeskier.com—a proud staffer since 2010.