Tomorrow, I am racing my first World Cup slalom in Alta Badia, Italy! The last two Europa Cups went well, finishing in 20th in Pozza with a bib number of 49, and 16th in Madonna after dropping back a few spots from 14th after first run. As a result, I have a World Cup spot for tomorrow racing the best of the best. You can imagine my excitement. I’m starting with bib number 52 so not really any further back than in the Europa Cups, in fact better than in the first Europa Cup slalom that we had in Oberregen. It should be a blast and I’m ready to rock! The snow is rock hard so it should be a fair race, and hopefully I can pop myself into the top 30 for second run and World Cup points. Follow along online wherever you are and I’ll update after the flight home for Christmas. Wish me luck!
After a long, but good prep period on skis, it’s time to go into full race mode. I spent all of November over in Summit County, CO. The training there was excellent, skiing on water-injected snow over in Vail and Loveland. Last time, I mentioned that there were open spots for the first World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland. I was hoping to get to do a time trial over in CO to qualify for the spot, but unfortunately, the US lost a slalom spot. That meant that there were no openings and no time trial even had to be run. It was a bummer since I know Tim Kelley, Paul McDonald, and I were psyched and ready to compete to get in there, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Oh well. We had some great training and can now bring that into the race season.
It’s great to train and work on skiing, but racing is what it’s all about and it definitely feels good to let loose and put it on the line when it counts. Loveland held two Nor-Am slaloms and the two GSs were over in Aspen. Both race events were tough races as the injected snow was about as icy as it can get, but that made for good racing. I hooked a tip in the first slalom putting me out of the race, but I put down two pretty solid runs in the second slalom and ended up 7th and as the top US finisher. I was satisfied with the result and it’s a good place to work from. There was definitely a lot of talent present at the races as a fair amount of World Cup racers were around for the following Beaver Creek World Cup event.
The GSs went fairly well. I didn’t have a great result, but my GS skiing is definitely coming along. I had mistakes in both runs the first day, but I did have a couple top 15 splits at the top of the course, which was encouraging for me with a starting position in the 40s. I had a DNF the second race, but I’m looking forward to more GS races to score some results there.
We are now in Europe and after a bit of training and wearing off the jet-lag, we went to a couple GS Europa Cups the past few days. The snow was very soft unfortunately and the course broke down pretty quickly. It didn’t help that I was starting in the 60s. Both races did not go well for me, but it was tough to do too much in those races. We got some great slalom training today on some hard snow which brought the confidence level right back up again. There are three Europa Cup slaloms coming up this week including to back-to-back night slaloms in Pozza and Madonna di Compiglio. Next Monday is the Alta Badia World Cup slalom, and my next shot to get a start there. There is one spot open and the three of us here are again gunning for the spot, this time for real, hopefully. The best finish in the upcoming Europa Cups will lock a start for the World Cup. This week should be exciting. Wish me luck!
It’s been a while since the last post, but I’m back as the season is almost under way. I had a good summer and spent most of it training in Park City at the U.S. Ski Team’s new Center of Excellence building. It was a new experience and a great advantage for me to have such a facility and a training staff along with it available to me. I definitely clocked more hours in the gym this summer than any other, so I felt strong on snow over the summer and feel confident going into the winter months.
For August, we took off to go skiing down south. We set up base near Queenstown in New Zealand and trained there for about 3 weeks. The first half of the trip was great; the weather held up, and for the most part, the snow was perfect to train on. The weather got warm and rain moved in for the last week of training, and a small muscle strain in my back forced me to sit out for a few days of skiing. I was happy that it wasn’t a serious injury, but at the same time, it was kind of a bummer since it was just a nagging pain that didn’t quite let me train at my full potential. It also luckily happened towards the latter part of the trip so it didn’t set me back too much. All in all, it ended up being a good trip as I got comfortable with my new equipment and took some strides to make my skiing even faster.
After a couple weeks at home and healing my back, I was in good shape for our camp in Saas Fee, Switzerland where I just got back from. Again the weather was great to start off the two-week camp, giving us some prime glacier training. The entire men’s tech team present, including Ted Ligety and Bode Miller making his return to the U.S. Team, so it was a great group to train with out there to get ready for the beginning of the upcoming season. I was happy with my skiing and felt like I was getting back into good form. Towards the end of the camp though, I had another little mishap when I tweaked my knee in a slalom crash, which took me out for the rest of the camp. Luckily, I didn’t tear any ligaments and it looks like it is just a bruise on my patella or something of the sorts. It already feels great and it should be back to 100% by our next camp gets under way here in Colorado in two weeks. I’m just getting all the crashes and injuries out of the way before things really get rolling.
With the opening World Cup slalom coming up in about a month in Levi, Finland, there are two U.S. spots up for grabs and four of us competing for the opportunity. The plan was to hold a time trial towards the end of our camp in Saas Fee to decide who would clench the spots. Tim Kelley, Nolan Kasper, Paul McDonald, and I would battle it out in a three-run slalom session where the best two runs would count and the winners would get the Levi berths. Things didn’t quite go to plan, however, as Paul injured his back a week into the trip and flew home early, and I had my knee injury just a few days before the time trial. The two healthy skiers ended up going head-to-head for one of the spots where Nolan edged out Timmy for the spot. He’ll be starting his first World Cup in Levi so congrats to him for that. To try and make it fair, another time trial for the remaining spot is set up at the beginning of November during our Colorado camp, so I still have a shot at making it up to Levi. Hopefully we’re all ready to go by then, and after that, I hope I’ll be on a plane and on my way to make my own World Cup debut!
For the last month, I’ve been sweating it out and checking the FIS page daily, waiting in anticipation for the latest FIS points list to come out, the one from which the U.S. Ski Team makes its selections. Last week the world ranking list was updated and, with the help of my US Nationals slalom win, I had squeaked into the top 60 and met the criteria set by the US Team. A few days later, my phone rang. The US Alpine Team’s head coach made it official that I had been nominated to the 2009-2010 U.S. B Team!
I am currently ranked exactly 60th so it was very close, since a few skiers had jumped in front of me because of their injury protection status which locks them into their world rank while they recover and are fit to race again. I didn’t anticipate some of these guys getting ahead of me so my heart was thumping when I realized how narrow the edge on which I was sitting was, but I made it!
This is a huge checkpoint in my skiing career. It is something that I have been working hard at for a long, long time, ultimately, even if I knew it or not at the time, since my racing days got under way some 17 years ago. With this goal that I strived to reach this year accomplished, it’s time to set my sights forward to the next step and begin the next leg of my journey. My dream is still very alive. Next season should be very exciting and I am eager to see what it will bring. I hope to earn some World Cup starts and begin battling withthe big boys there. As for now, I’m headed back to the snow at Mammoth next weekend for our first camp and begin dialing in the new equipment.
I want to thank everyone following along with my progress and those who have aided me in any form this season. Thank you for helping me reach the demanding goal I had set for myself this year and to get me to where I am right now. Thank you for your support and for believing in me.
Be sure to tune in to the Versus (VS) Channel to watch the coverage of the slalom and Downhill portions of U.S. Nationals in Alaska. I’m not exactly sure what is going to be shown, but I think I have some sort of interview and hopefully some parts of my slalom runs as well so check it out. It airs twice at the following times:
Sat. April 11, 2009: 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST
Tue. April 14, 2009: 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST