Breaking through without breaking the bank: Anna and Max Marno

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Author’s note: The good news in this conversation about cost — and there always is some — many of our country’s best ski racers are still finding a way to mature in this sport without stratospheric spending. They’ve made it with talent, hard work, creativity and an extraordinarily engaged and supportive ski community. We’ve talked to many of them and their parents, to learn how they managed to follow their dreams without bankrupting their futures. Their stories are all different, but they share some common themes in what helped them along their journeys, which include:

  • Drive, to persevere no matter what the obstacles
  • Being active in other sports
  • Full family involvement
  • Strong community and program support
  • Discounted family program fees for resort employees
  • Coaches/mentors with good guidance on spending and development priorities
  • Help with good equipment from an early age
  • Public high schools that cooperate
  • Communication and self-advocacy skills
  • Donations, grants, scholarships 
  • T-2! $2.3 million and counting directly to athletes
  • Elite level collegiate racing and programming 
  • National team funding: a game-changer! 
  • National team flexibility with programming when necessary

These athletes and parents shared their stories in the hopes that it will help young ski racers and their families see beyond the obstacles to the possibilities. Ski Racing Media is pleased to present a series within a series, if you will, “Breaking through without breaking the bank.”


Anna and Max Marno: two siblings, two paths

Anna Marno and her older brother, Max, caught the ski racing bug at Snowy Range, a tiny ski area 30 miles west of Laramie, Wyo. Their parents, John and Lisa, had met at the University of Wyoming and settled in Centennial, where Anna chased Max in all outdoor pursuits like biking, horseback riding, climbing trees, cliff-jumping, and the like. John coached the ski team at Snowy Range, and the kids took to that as well. “In winter in Wyoming, there is not a lot else to do, so our parents could cut us loose,” says Anna.

When they started road-tripping to races in Colorado, Max and Anna got used to being the only ones with one pair of skis and without race suits. Nonetheless, Anna set her sights on the World Cup, and named her 4H menagerie after her skiing heroes: Tomba, Picabo, Janica, Hermann, Bode.

For a variety of reasons — not the least being community and schools — the Marnos moved, and the ski town of Steamboat was a natural choice. John continued to be age class director then taught at Steamboat Mountain School so Anna and Max could attend.

As a coach, John was able to bring Anna and Max along to summer camps at Mt. Hood from an early age, and most of their training was coed, with boys and girls attending the same camps. Their first trips to Europe were as FIS racers.

Even as FIS travel ramped up, with travel to Canada, Alaska and the east for NorAms and Nationals, they never missed a race for cost reasons, and their parents tried to shield them from any stress about finances. However, when Max joined Anna in her second year on U.S. D Team in 2010 and the family was faced with two $25,000 fees, they shifted to a “put all our eggs in one basket” mentality. They merged the college fund with the ski fund.

A year later, Max opted for college racing at DU, where a combination of financial aid, academic and athletic scholarships would pay for his education through a graduate degree in Geographic Information Science. College racing had always been one of his goals, and he reveled in the team environment. He wished Anna could enjoy the same experience, but also understood that as a female, and as a speed skier, her opportunities were different.

At the time, women were not yet moving to the World Cup during and after college racing. Achieving her dreams meant staying the course. Also at that time, the cost of being on the U.S. Ski Team kept rising at every level she achieved, so it meant raising up to $35,000 per year, at a time when individual fundraising was new. “I had no idea what I was doing when I started,” Anna recalls. She started a RallyMe, and reached out to family, friends, and community. After asking a coach about sponsors, she received a mysterious envelope. “Before I even knew what T2 was they had sent me a check,” Anna recalls. T2 would sponsor her for seven years, and Elkstone Farm, an organic permaculture farm in Steamboat, signed on as a headgear sponsor.

Along the way there were points where she struggled, especially after back-to-back knee injuries in 2011 and 2012. Her parents sold their house in Steamboat, moved back to Centennial and could no longer help financially. She contemplated going to college for remaining eligibility and going independent, which comes with a huge price tag. In the end, she kept figuring it out, working as much as possible in the off-season, catering and coaching, staying with friends, finding discounted rental properties through World Cup Dreams (T2 and World Cup Dreams have now merged), and getting creative (read frugal) with living expenses. “There is nobody who has sacrificed more,” says Deb Armstrong, who was the head coach at Steamboat during the Marno’s time there.

Once healthy, Anna catapulted to the B Team, with a World Cup start for the 2014-15 season. She became national super G champ in 2016. Today, that part of her journey would be entirely funded, but at that time it meant more fundraising.

Through it all, Anna had the security of knowing she would have a paid college education on the other side, thanks to the (now-expired) partnership between the U.S. Ski Team and Westminster College. She retired from the U.S. Ski Team in 2017, graduated from Westminster with a degree in Computer Science in 2020 and works as a software developer in Salt Lake City while coaching weekends at Snowbird. Max works remotely as a software developer and gets ample skiing and biking. “Looking back I honestly do not know how my parents did it sometimes,” says Anna. I think the biggest thing for us was trusting that it would pay off in the long run.”

The eggs in the Marno’s basket did turn out sunny side up.

Anna’s advice: “If you can overall be a good athlete and hard worker, and be present, that goes a lot further than flying around the world trying to get on skis as much as possible. If you do really love it and want to be there, the community in skiing is pretty powerful and is always willing to lift people up.”

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