Fun, family time & medals highlight season on slopes

Greg Hunt

10 year-old Haley (above) and 8 year-old Cierra Karels (right) enjoyed a successful season on the slopes this winter. Photos by John Hofstade

Downhill skiing is not only a great family sport for Haley and Cierra Karels, but the two young ladies from Isanti are finding that racing is a great way to get through long Minnesota winters.

Haley, age 10, and Cierra, age 8, raced in the traveling D-Team (Development Team) schedule at Wild Mountain and periodically raced the Nastar “Ski Challenge League” on Wednesday nights at the resort near Taylors Falls. They have stacked a large memory box with medals won the past couple of winters, including taking 1st in their divisions at Wild Mountain’s final championship race at the end of February.

The girls also participated in the Rauscher Ski Challenge in mid-March at Wild Mountain which raised over $26,000 for various cancer charities. Their group, “Team High Maintenance,” placed 1st at that event.

“We kind of all encourage each other,” added Cierra. “Having fun is the thing I enjoy most about skiing.”

“We practice and practice; we’re out there three or four times a week. We have really good coaches at Wild Mountain. We’re happy to have that, and our team does really well,” explained Haley when asked how the sisters became so fast so soon. “And Outdoor Edge provides a lot of wax.”

“KC at Outdoor Edge is really awesome with that, getting us the right wax for the conditions and keeping our skis tuned,” said father, Tom Karels.

Tom and Kari Karels enjoyed skiing their whole lives, being members of various ski clubs. They took a little time away from the sport, but then they picked up the pace since getting their season passes at Wild Mountain since 2003.

“The girls have been skiing since they were two (years old). Cierra was out there in her diaper and nook,” said Kari. “Haley finished her third year of racing and Cierra her second. Tom patrols out at Wild Mountain now, and I give lessons out there,” explained Kari.

Along with racing at Minnesota ski resorts, the Karels ventured west to Winter Park, Colorado for a Nastar event in February. Haley and Cierra both placed 1st in their divisions.

“The runs are a lot longer, and we had a bunch of fresh powder to ski on out there,” described Haley.

Asked if the girls keep track of Lindsey Vonn’s races, Haley responded, “Yeah, she’s our idol. We’ve got the same skis as her. We like Bode Miller, too.”

In the off-season, the Karels sisters join their parents racing in water skiing events.

• Along with the D-Team and Nastar programs, Wild Mountain also offers racing through the U.S. Ski Association and hosts high school ski events. For more information on programs available next ski season, go to