When we spoke to Sydney Mason on a Saturday morning in August, she was already away at boarding school in Vermont. Sydney was eager to discuss her passion for the sport and her father was excited for her. He ensured us that Sydney’s enthusiasm was something special. It wasn’t until he sent us a photo of Sydney that we realized her face was a familiar one. We had used the exact same photo on advertisements and gift cards over the years. As it turned out, the photo had been taken after Sydney’s first ski race. Six years later, she’s still competing and enjoying the sport.
Sydney Mason learned to ski at Mt. Tremblant as a toddler and spent her winter weekends with her family at the Craigleith Ski Club in Collingwood. At eight years old, she took part in her first race with no training or coaching before the big day. “They had to tell me, ‘Oh, you go on this side of that one, this side on the other gate,’ and I just went, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go fast.’ Then when I got down everybody was like, ‘Whoa, you did really good! Who are you?’” She laughs at the memory of her first race. Over the years, Sydney developed with the help of her coaches at Craiglieth and attended numerous development camps with Alpine Ontario and the Peaks.
Now, at fourteen years old, Sydney is living in Waitsfield, Vermont where she attends Green Mountain Valley School, a world class alpine ski academy. “It’s been different. When I first came here, it was weird and I wanted to talk to my parents more. Then I realized it’s actually quite a good experience. I like it in ways because it makes you become more independent and not so reliant on your parents. It’s harder because a lot of the people live closer, so they can go home on weekends and that kind of stuff, but I don’t live close enough to go home on weekends, it’s an eight hour drive. That’s the harder part, not getting to see my parents as much.” Despite the inevitable homesickness that comes with living so far away from family, Sydney explains that she feels fortunate to have been given the opportunity.
“They have given me the most amazing experience of my life,” she says of her parents, “They’ve helped me achieve my goals and they’ve given me pretty much the best opportunity I could ever want.” This expression of appreciation and excitement about the opportunity to work hard and develop as a skier are among the many things that make Sydney so lovable.
“No one was on the same schedule as me, and everybody would ask ‘Why can’t you hang out?’ I’d tell them I have to workout and they’d say, ‘Well you don’t have to workout everyday!’ and I was like, ‘Yes I do!’”
Like any athlete, Sydney loves to win, but she’s focusing her attention on improving instead. She recognizes that winning does not always indicate improvement. Too many result based goals, she admits, can be damaging to your confidence if you don’t achieve them. After a hard season of not getting the results she was after, Sydney decided to reframe her thinking. Not surprisingly, when her approached changed, her results did too. Last season, Sydney won the Eastern Can Ams for both the Slalom and Giant Slalom disciplines.
"Ski racing is not an easy sport. It’s very mental and it’s an individual sport, so you can control your result. You can control how you want to end up, you can control your future.”
In the classroom, at the gym and at competition, Sydney has benefitted from the high performance environment at her school. Everybody is “so focused and so competitive” she tells us. In fact, her biggest rival on race day is a teammate. On race day, it’s usually only one hundredth of second between them. While that must certainly up the pressure to perform, Sydney wouldn’t have it any other way. “We train together everyday, so that’s the best that you can get.”
To mentally prepare for a race, she goes over the details, pushing any panic about points and results out of her head. Instead, she thinks about what she needs to do and when she is going to do it. Lastly, Sydney takes a moment to remember that she’s doing something she loves and that there’s no reason to be nervous. After five months in the gym, longing for snow, Sydney plans to get the most she can from the upcoming ski season. This means going hard every run, and treating every training session like it’s race day.
She’s not wasting any time in pursuing her goals and she’s clear on what she wants to get out of her skiing. Without hesitation, Sydney tells us that she wants to ski a World Cup race and feel that she’s become a better person through sport. Already, skiing has given many good things to Sydney Mason, from the values of hard work and persistence, to the life lessons learned in losing, and even the opportunity to travel places she would never have seen otherwise. At fourteen, Sydney is already living out her dreams.