In 2011 Skyler Davis made headlines by claiming third place in the 1.4 km classic sprint at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Rumford, Maine. This was just the beginning of a successful year for the then 19-year-old, which ultimately ended with a naming to the U.S. Ski Team D-team. In 2012 Davis’ success continued with a standout-24th place in the freestyle sprint at his second ever World Cup in Canmore, Alberta. In 2013 the former SMS T2 skier had another successful U.S. Cross Country Championships, qualifying second in the 1 km classic sprint before finishing just off the podium in fourth.
Though he did not reach his goals at U23 Championships that year in Liberec, Czech Republic, Davis was hungry for a bounce back in 2014. However, the young skier virtually disappeared from the cross country ski world after nationals in Soldier Hollow, Utah. As it turns out, Davis was ready to go back to school.
“School was the biggest deciding factor for me,” Davis said in a phone interview. “I loved my team [and] I loved my coaches, Gus [Kaeding] and Sverre [Caldwell], at the time when I did retire. I was in a really good situation actually because the T2 Team had just started to really send off. We were doing well, we had a good group of guys, the coach was great, but I really wanted to enter school before another Olympic year went by.”
“If I made the Olympics I would keep skiing and then probably enter [school in] the fall and if I didn’t, I would stop skiing and enter the spring semester which started I think honestly 12 to 24 hours after senior nationals ended that year,” he added.
Even though Davis was headed to school, he didn’t want to leave athletics completely behind. Searching for a continued relationship with sport, he turned to an old passion of his, soccer. “As I viewed it, it was my chance to stay at a really high level…Soccer was something I had a really strong background in. I was very raw going back into the sport but it definitely was what I was looking for,” Davis, who played on northern Vermont’s premier soccer teams throughout elementary and middle school, stated.
Prior to the of the 2014/2015 ski season — knowing that he might not qualify for the Sochi Olympics — Davis met with many division 1 soccer coaches and ultimately decided that the University of Vermont (UVM) was the right fit for him. “The deciding factor with UVM was the coach, I really love the coach, and I really like the team,” Davis said.
Though Davis was ineligible to play until the following year, he was allowed to join the team for practices and training, which proved to be a challenge. Suffering from ailments ranging from shin splints to back problems, Davis worked to transition from low-impact skiing the high-impact movement required in soccer. That, in combination with intense lifting sessions, left Davis wondering if he would be able to reach the level required for large university soccer program. “That was definitely an interesting two plus months where I was like, I might get cut. I really wasn’t sure,” stated Davis.
But the former cross country ski racer took on the challenge, and managed to impress the coaches and the team enough to maintain his roster spot for the following year. Still, he was ineligible to play in the fall and patiently waited for his chance this past spring. “Once the spring started up for games, we play about six games in the spring, I was able to actually carve out a roll on the team at center back so I actually played every minute of every game in the spring,” said Davis.
This past June, Davis was named as one of the two captains for the upcoming season — something he credits to both his relationships with his teammates and some lessons he learned from skiing.
“I think nordic skiing definitely helped me as far as being a good role model and leader for the team because with nordic skiing you have that work ethic that surpasses basically any other sport,” Davis said. “There definitely are moments where it brings me back to my nordic skiing training where we will be doing intervals which are obviously a little bit differently tailored, but the get me excited compared to other people.,” said Davis.
In a recent press release by the University’s athletic department, the program’s staff had nothing but praise for the former USST member.
“Skyler is a natural born leader who has a tremendously positive impact on the program from day one”, Head Coach Jesse Cormier said. “He has established himself as a strong, mature voice in the locker room and is an exemplary student. He has made amazing progress in training, his game has changed so much and is reflective of the consistent growth we have seen from the group as a whole. I’m excited for Skyler to play in his first match, he was waited a long time and prepared well to say the least.”
The newly named captain is currently in Burlington, Vt. preparing for the upcoming season. “It has been ratcheting up pretty quickly,” Davis said. “Basically every day we train together. We have about half the team here now and preseason starts in about a month, so everyone is filtering in soon…Once we get about 20 to 25 guys we can really make it competitive with playing and training.”
Though the 2015 soccer season at UVM is currently his biggest athletic focus, Davis certainly has not forgotten about his love for skiing. “Hopefully, after I’m done with soccer I’ll be able to get back to skiing and other more nordic ski related activities,” he said.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.