When Tyler Ceccanti was a kid, trips to Crystal Mountain were torture.
“He cried all the way to the mountain,” said David Ceccanti, Tyler’s father.
It wasn’t that Tyler didn’t like skiing. He loved it, in fact. What he hated was ski racing practice.
Tyler wanted to hike out into the backcountry with his dad and cut lines through the trees instead of plastic gates.
“Basically, the racing program was day care,” Ceccanti said. “The deal was I had to stay there until I could keep up with my dad.”
Nowadays, very few people can keep up with the 22-year-old from Lake Tapps, Wash. Ceccanti is a professional skier who’s showcased in this year’s Warren Miller Entertainment movie, “Like There’s No Tomorrow.”
Andy Mahre, a 27-year-old accomplished freeskier from Yakima, Wash., counts himself among those who says it’s hard to keep up with Ceccanti. Mahre is featured with Ceccanti in the segment that shows the skiers chasing each other through the trees and powder in British Columbia’s Monashee Range.
“I’d usually send him in front,” said Mahre, who’s appearing in his third Warren Miller movie in four years. “And I’d really have to haul ass to keep up.”
The skiers fed off each other during the eight-day shoot, pushing each other to go faster, catch bigger air and take tougher lines.
“He is fearless,” Mahre, 27, said. “Some people shut down when conditions aren’t right. He’s just stoked to be doing whatever it is he is doing. He has a great attitude.”
Ceccanti, who appeared in his first Warren Miller movie in 2010, has spent almost all of his life on skis. He was 1 and still in diapers when he first hit the slopes.
“He could ski better than he could walk,” his dad said.
As Ceccanti grew, it was clear he was going to be a gifted athlete, but he was a bit of mystery on the race course. “He’d either crash or win,” David Ceccanti said.
“I’m no good at any sport that involves a ball,” Ceccanti said, but he excelled on the youth motocross and gymnastic circuits.
When Ceccanti was 9 he attended a national gymnastics meet with more than 200 other kids.
When the meet was over the entire field was invited to participate in a handstand competition. After several minutes everybody had dropped out except for Ceccanti, who was still walking around the mat on his hands.
“I think that’s when I realized how strong and how talented he was,” David Ceccanti said.
Another one of those moments was when Ceccanti finally earned his way off the race team at the age of 10. He and his dad were touring in the backcountry when they reached the top of a notoriously steep double-diamond face called Niagras.
“We’re at the top of this chute and it scared me,” David Ceccanti said. “He went down it like a pro. Edge to edge, perfect turns. It was unbelievable to see somebody that small do that.”
He could finally keep up with Dad, but Ceccanti didn’t quit the ski team right away. In fact, between gymnastics, motocross and skiing, his schedule was packed. When he was 12 it was finally too much. He quit gymnastics, then motocross.
Taking a leap
On the slopes he kept pushing himself.
One day he and a friend found a ledge and a pocket of powder just off the Mr. Magoo run at Crystal, and they challenged each other to do their first back flip. Ceccanti landed it on his first try and his life has revolved around freeskiing ever since.
When he was 13, he talked organizers of Crystal Mountain’s freeskiing competition into allowing him to compete even though the minimum age requirement was 18. Ceccanti finished in the top 10, and suddenly the Northwest skiing community was abuzz about the young talent.
He landed his first sponsor that year and in 2007, at age 17, he won the Junior U.S. Extreme Skiing Championship in Crested Butte, Colo.
That same year, Ceccanti finished sixth at the Canadian Open Freeskiing Championships and second in another Canadian freeskiing competition. He has been racking up top-10 finishes ever since.
In 2010 his career got another boost when Warren Miller Entertainment shot a segment at Crystal Mountain and Ceccanti was one of the skiers asked to participate. It went so well that he was asked back this year for the shoot in British Columbia.
“It is really cool to see my son in a Warren Miller movie,” said David Ceccanti, who has taken his family to watch the ski flicks for years. But what he likes even more is what people in the ski industry are saying about his son.
“He is a great guy,” Mahre said. “I think that’s one reason he’ll do well at this.”
On her blog, Crystal ski patroller Kim Kircher says Tyler “is a fabulous skier, but more importantly [he] has a good sense of the business of pro skiing. He doesn’t let it go to his head. Well, at least not too much anyway. … Plus, and I think this is the most important thing, Tyler is a nice guy.”
Like any nice-guy skier, Ceccanti doesn’t take his skiing career for granted.
“I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had,” Ceccanti said. “And I hope I can keep building my career.”