MELISSA — Many folks around here know Melissa senior Krista Butterfield as a spark-plug guard on the bi-district-champion Lady Cardinals basketball team. Perhaps lesser known is that she’s one of the top female waterskiers — on the planet. That’s no misprint. The International Waterski Federation ranks her 27th in the world in women’s trick skiing. Butterfield has competed in nine U.S.A. National Waterski Championships to date and has won several South Central Region tournaments, which include top entrants from Texas and four nearby states. Two Canada-America and two Junior U.S. Open Invitationals also adorn her resume.
“I haven’t won a Nationals yet, but I’ve gotten second place in tricks a few times, and second overall,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield started “skiing” at the ripe age of 2.
“My dad would drag me across the grass on little skis that were tied together,” she said. “I’d just be, like, pulled along the grass.”
Before turning 3, she was riding those trainer skis on a 15-acre lake behind her family’s home, southeast of Sherman. It’s still one of her favorite skiing spots. Butterfield can’t recall her actual first try on the water, but an early memory of hers is, “They’d be driving the boat and they’d go in circles, so the biggest waves would be in the middle. I’d ski into the middle and purposely fall just so I could go over the waves. They’d always have to come back for me.”
She started competing in local tournaments at age 8 and “tricking” a year or two later.
“From there I just started loving tricks,” Butterfield said. “And eventually, I got into jumping. … It’s just really exhilarating. It’s always changing and you get to be outside all the time, instead of just sitting there doing nothing all summer. It’s addicting.”
Butterfield said she also enjoys getting to meet new people at tournaments and comparing notes.
Her last big competition event was the 2016 Nationals in Caldwell, Idaho, last August. There, she finished third in tricks and third overall among girls, 14 to 17.
Competitive skiing involves three events: slalom, done on one ski around a series of buoys; tricks, also on one ski, with contestants getting two 20-second passes to perform as many tricks as possible; and jumping, which is strictly distance-based. Butterfield’s specialty, tricks, involve a wide range of stunts including perhaps a dozen varieties of flips; 180-, 360- and 540-degree spins; toe-hold maneuvers and various feats with the ski-line. Butterfield’s favorite is also the toughest she’s ever tried to master: the front flip.
“I got it last year,” she said. “I landed it, and then I lost it. I’m still trying to get it back. It took me three years to learn it.”
Butterfield said the optimum boat speed for her tricks is 18.4 miles per hour, with 34 miles per hour used for slalom and 32 for jump. Her longest tournament jump is 108 feet. She still skis recreationally, maybe once a year.
“If we go to a big lake and I have my trick skis with me, I’ll just go jump the wake and kind of have fun with it,” she said.
Butterfield’s skiing quiver includes a slalom ski, a pair of jump skis — they’re much longer at more than 7 feet — and two trick skis, one for hand passes and one for toe passes.
Her father Bruce Butterfield has been an accomplished skier for decades. He started as a youngster in Upstate New York and began competing at around 20.
“My second year in college, I found out there was a ski school 15 miles from my house,” he said. “I spent the next three summers going to that school getting instruction from a couple of national champions.”
Bruce Butterfield came south three years later with a main priority of locating a good place to ski. He found it in North Texas. Bruce Butterfield has skied semi-professionally and has competed in Nationals since 1987.
“I try to stay with it,” he said. “I still enjoy it a lot.”
Krista Butterfield’s brother, 15-year-old Zachary, and her mother Kim are talented skiers as well. At last year’s Nationals, Zachary placed second in jumps, second in tricks and second overall in his age group. Kim has competed in regional and national tourneys for about as long as Bruce has.
“I think I’ve won two medals,” she laughed, “and my daughter wins more medals in one year than I’ve won in my entire training. … It’s been a fun hobby with the whole family. I enjoy the summers, when we’re always on the water. We’ve gotten a lot of family time together.”
So what makes Butterfield such a good skier?
“Her desire to improve,” Bruce said. “She’s a perfectionist. She’s always trying to get better and is always putting in extra effort, whether it’s running to stay in shape or just going out and practicing for a long time. … All the work she’s put in has paid off. I’m very proud of her.”
Those attributes are echoed by Butterfield’s head basketball coach Heather Lane. “She was ‘3D’ for us,” Lane says. “Dedicated, determined and disciplined. … She was a very dependable player – — a quiet leader and well-respected by her teammates, and also a top-notch student.”
Of course, in achieving skiing greatness, falls are inevitable.
“I haven’t broken anything, thank goodness,” Butterfield said. “I’ve bruised my foot a few times and I’ve cut my shin open, but I haven’t done anything major.”
“She took a bad jump-crash a few years ago — landed on her face about 90 feet after leaving the ramp,” her father said. “That was pretty bad.”
National ski competitions are often held in Florida, but for their 75th anniversary in August they’ll return to San Marcos, where they last appeared in 2014. Butterfield will be there and then turn her sites on school at Texas A&M. With summer approaching, Butterfield’s ski dance card is again filling up. There’s a tournament June 10 in Fort Worth and then “they’ll start coming, like, every weekend,” she said.
“I would definitely recommend it to others to do,” Butterfield says of riding the summer waves. “It’s so much fun. And it gets you active and really working out.”