A crying baby. Not the typical alarm clock for a serious athlete, but it’s one that has driven Kylee Toth Ohler’s success as one of Canada’s top ski mountaineer (skimo) racers.
Her route to the top of ski mountaineering hasn’t been a straight line. Toth Ohler was a high level speed skater until age 23. When a mentor suggested skimo, it wasn’t love at first sight. “The first time I used skimo gear was actually in a race in Fernie. I threw myself in. It was rough. I didn’t like it very much the first day. [But] I liked the challenge of it.”
While pregnant with her first son, Toth Ohler assumed her competitive racing days were over. “Being a mom, I never thought I’d race at that level again.” But after her second son was born, she realized she wasn’t finished. “It’s part of who I am. I really believe in taking care of yourself so you can take care of your children.”
Instead of slowing her down, motherhood has pushed her to a new level in skimo.
“I train a lot smarter, because I have a lot less time. I make every moment count when I work out. I didn’t do that as much before I had kids,” says Toth Ohler, 31, a Vernon, B.C., native living in Calgary. When her sons were babies, she pushed them while she ran, or pulled them while she skied. Now that they’re high-octane preschoolers, she’s had to be a little more creative. “Sometimes, it’s difficult. I’ve had days where I’ve wondered ‘Why am I doing this again?’ It’s a continually changing balance.” A combination of gym childcare and family support enables her to make time for workouts.
After a successful season on the 2015 Canada circuit, Toth Ohler travelled to Switzerland for the 2015 World Championships. There was a special joy in competing in Europe. “There was no pressure because at the end of the day, I was coming home to my beautiful little boys.” It was also a chance to compete with the best skimo athletes in the world. While the sport is growing in Canada, it’s nowhere near as well-established as it is in Europe.
Toth Ohler works to raise the profile of her sport. For the past five years, she’s organized the Vert 180 at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park in December. The first event of the season on the national circuit, it’s open to serious competitors and recreational athletes alike. Racers climb up and ski down the hill as many times as they can in 180 minutes, either solo or in teams. Toth Ohler also instructs women’s bootcamps.
“I really love connecting with other women and encouraging them on their fitness journey. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good parent and pursue a dream,” she says.
The crying babies have grown into rambunctious preschoolers. And Toth Ohler’s passion for her sport has grown along with them.