World Cup Freestyle Aerialist Chris Lillis remembers practicing hundreds of backflips before his coach at Bristol Mt. allowed him to try it on skis.
"There's nothing cooler than doing a backflip for the first time, especially at 9 years old."
On Saturday, Lillis reminisced about his training, joining the next generation of skiers at Bristol Mountain. He was there nine years ago under ski team coach Johnny Kroetz.
"He made sure I had a very safe jump to do it on, talked me up, and got me ready to go,” said Lillis. “You never forget the first time you do a back flip."
Rochester and the Bristol Mountain Snow Sports Club are well represented in World Cup skiing. The U.S. Ski Association shows five members of the U.S. National Freestyle ski team who started at Bristol: Pittsford’s Jonathon Lillis, Chris Lillis, Harrison Smith and Morgan Schild. Dylan Walczyk of Rochester, who now lives with his family in Colorado, also represents this area.
Chris is proud of the local connections, and says he lives in Park City, Utah, with Morgan Schild, the International Ski Federation's 2015 World Cup Rookie of the Year. She’s on the mogul team, but is sidelined as she recovers from a knee injury.
“We're roommates there. It's definitely cool, we all come up together and support each other and then come back to Pittsford, the home town, and try to support the next generation coming up."
Competing with friends and family has its moments. On February 13 at a World Cup event in Moscow, Jonathan Lillis pushed his little brother Chris off the podium, but on February 22 in Minsk, Belarus - it was Chris' turn.
"Yeah, it did shake out that way,” said Lillis. “But we've always done really well competing with each other. If one person pushes the other off, it's all about supporting them in the final round."
Younger brother Mike Lillis also skis. He and Patrick O'Flynn of Penfield are in skier development programs and doing well in competitions.
Lillis credits coach Kroetz for creating an environment that helps athletes become the best they can.
“I've never had trouble training or pushing myself while I was here at Bristol."
Lillis’ had only a little time Saturday to visit Bristol Mt. He had just competed in Quebec, and planned to leave Sunday to resume training in Park City.
Chris’ season concludes March 18-20 at the U.S. Nationals at Colorado’s Steamboat Ski Resort.
Thanks to his World Cup win in Belarus, Lillis says he will ski as part of the top level U.S. team next year, beginning in China in December. His training will be paid for, and he’ll be automatically entered in all the World Cup events.
He likely will not be the only athlete representing Bristol Mt. and Rochester.