Spirited freshmen give Flames' ski and snowboard team a lift
January 5, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Youthful exuberance, spiritual focus, and unlimited upsides on the slopes are characteristics of Liberty University's ski & snowboard team this season.
"It's a new year, a growing year, with guys going out there to have fun and focus on being a good example on the hill," Flames Head Coach Ryan Leeds said. "A lot of the guys understand skiing and snowboarding is really just a means to an end — to form relationships and have intentional conversations" to lead others to Christ.
There are now more newcomers than veterans on the roster, with 10 freshmen and nine sophomores forming the foundation for a team that returns a total of just eight juniors and seniors.
"One of the cool things about the team this year is that they're really positive and they do a great job of building each other up," Leeds said. "It's really cool to watch everyone get along and encourage one another, pushing each other to be better."
"Trent Laubach is really positive," Leeds said. "He comes into practice really excited and amped up every day, loud and boisterous and excited to be part of the team, and his attitude is contagious. He grew up riding mostly on big mountains and doesn't have much freestyle experience, but he's very coachable and he's learning fast."
He enjoys the freedom and creativity snowboarding fosters.
"I grew up playing competitive sports and a lot of times you get burned out," Laubach said. "The cool thing about snowboarding is it's pretty laid back. You can express yourself and put your style to your riding and it's still very much fun, even though we are competing and getting better."
Like many of their teammates, Laubach and Loomis are using the Christmas break to train at their home resorts — in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Wenatchee, Wash., respectively — in preparation for the Flames' USCSA Southeast Conference season opener on Jan. 21, a slopestyle competition at Beech Mountain (N.C.) Resort.
Loomis is a strategic communications major who grew up around the ski industry and wants to use slopes as stages for sharing testimonies through video productions.
"I'm a film skier, and I edit and I film ski edits," Loomis said. "It's what I love to do. My goal is to use strategic communication to learn to tell stories, using individual skiers and snowboarders as a platform."
|Trent Laubach is featured in one of the snowboarding videos produced by him and his brother, Chase.|
Laubach and his brother Chase have dabbled in videography as well, through a series of adventure stunt features posted on YouTube.
Loomis looks forward to opportunities to train at the LMSC, a shining light on Liberty's sprawling East Campus.
"It's really cool that we have Snowflex and we bring the freestyle skiing and freestyle snowboarding community to Liberty because generally the freestyle riding community is not necessarily something that you would associate with Christianity," he said. "It's noticeable when you ride with the Liberty freestyle team because we create a really fun atmosphere and a Christian community as well, and when riders come and notice that, it's different from what you get at just any other ski hill."
In December, Leeds and assistant coaches Isaac Gibson and Kevin Hoff traveled to Breckenridge, Colo., for a Snowboarders and Skiers for Christ (SCC) conference, sharpening their spiritual edges to help train the Flames to share their faith through their sport.
"Any time you can get around like-minded individuals who have a similar passion to make disciples in the ski and snowboard industry, it was a good opportunity to hear from people all over the United States, Canada, and Britain," Leeds said, noting he and his staff picked up tactical tips on "how to approach people and to implement the Gospel in everyday conversation."
Laubach and Loomis have captured the vision of communicating God's Word through their actions and interactions on the slopes.
"At the end of the day, whether it's skiing or snowboarding or anything, God gives us gifts and this team is obviously a platform for us right now to be lights and just to love on other people," Laubach said. "It's an awesome opportunity and hopefully we can use it to glorify God."