Reaching New heights: Family of skiers competes nationally


By Abby Chong and Sosi Sengal, Staff Reporters

Ever since the Laffan siblings can remember, skiing has been a vital part of their lives. Now, junior Liam Laffan, freshman Quinn Laffan and fifth grader Claire Laffan have succeeded at national competitions all over the United States.

Stemming from their father’s love of the sport, the siblings began skiing between the ages of 4 and 5. Through lessons at Shawnee Mountain, the siblings found a love for the sport, and it eventually became a winter tradition for the family. During the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in other sports paused, so the family turned to skiing and started competing. This year, both Claire and Quinn competed in the National Group Ski Cross competitions in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Claire placed third and Quinn placed 23rd, while Liam was unable to compete due to a shoulder injury.

Every year from December through February, the Laffan family travels to local mountains most weekends to hone their skills. They often find themselves waking up at 6 a.m. to drive an hour and a half and make it on the slopes by around 8 a.m.

“It’s great because we’re all getting outside. We’re all skiing and doing things together, and it’s fun,” father Patrick Laffan said. “We all drive up together and it gives us time to talk in the car. It’s (built) a great bond.”

The Laffan family bond stands out at competitions, especially while supporting and encouraging one another. These shared experiences help guide them and motivate them to grow as skiers.

“Supporting each other kind of comes with the package. Every time my sister goes, I’ll be watching,” Liam Laffan said. “There’s moments where I’ll be able to tell my little sister how she should have done it better (and) how my little brother could have done it better.”

With icy slopes and hilly terrains, the Laffan family faces injuries quite often. It is not uncommon to see the siblings with broken bones, torn muscles and concussions. Because of this, they wear protective equipment under their jackets, which helps prevent injuries to their shoulders, ribs, knees and spines.

“They really have to put a lot into it and have (to) be willing to put their life on the line to some extent, which is scary to say. They really have to say, ‘No, I know what I’m doing and I’m confident enough,’” Patrick Laffan said. “It really comes down to where if you make one wrong turn, (you could) go into the netting and almost hit a tree. It becomes scary once you get that fast, but you have to trust yourself a lot.”

Despite the potential danger while on the slopes, skiing provides a calm and peaceful ambiance for the Laffan family to enjoy.

“One of my favorite memories is (when) you’re sitting on the ski lift, even if you’re all by yourself, and it’s snowing all around you and it’s so peaceful and quiet,” Patrick Laffan said.

Even amongst competitive skiers, there remains an atmosphere of respect. Not only do they support each other, the family also supports fellow skiers, especially within their team.

“I’ve had memories where even when I fell (that) have been good memories because there is a decent amount of camaraderie,” Liam Laffan said. “I’ve had myself fall, and then people stopped for me. It’s been those moments (that) are really nice to see.”

The Laffan kids hope to continue skiing throughout their time at school and beyond. They have continued to surpass the goals set by their father — from when they were young and practicing on 10 degree slopes, to now skiing down mountains and ranking nationally in competitions.

“It seems like it’s crazy,” Patrick Laffan said. “They’re all becoming so much better, and it’s so much fun to watch them become better than us.”

Abby Chong can be reached at [email protected].

Sosi Sengal can be reached at [email protected].