The U.S. Alpine Ski Team travels the globe, far and wide, to a myriad of majestic mountains, but one of the most magical of these mountains is without a doubt Ohau Snowfields in New Zealand. Recognized as one of the “9 Most Stunning Places to Ski on Earth” in 2015, Ohau (pronounced “oh-how”) is one of three locations that plays host to the men’s and women’s alpine ski teams as they return to snow each summer for their first prep period of the season. Lake Ohau Lodge is like summer camp on steroids—all of the good of summer camp mixed with a touch of luxury and fine dining…and a staff that rivals the best camp counselors from your childhood memories. But what is it, exactly, that makes Ohau’s magic so unmatched?
Even after spending all day in the gym, the Europa Cup boys on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team returned to the USSA Center of Excellence on a Thursday night in September. It was a festive atmosphere with pizza and loud music, but the guys weren’t quite dressed for a party. Instead, they all showed up in their downhill suits.
The Center of Excellence gym—full of elite skiers and snowboarders getting strong for the upcoming season—houses a ski simulator designed by SkyTech. The athletes put on their ski boots and step into the bindings. There are sensors everywhere—tracking movement, angles, the position of skis and more. They’re on a motor that generates forces and the sensation of skiing. In front of them is a World Cup track filled with gates—an actual World Cup course filmed in previous seasons—allowing the skier to train a hill over and over, prior to actually racing it on snow.
The U.S. men’s alpine team has accomplished almost every major feat on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup—Olympic gold, World Championship gold, slalom and giant slalom titles, Hahnenkamm gold—that is, except for winning the coveted downhill title. Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) and the American Downhillers hope to change that in 2017. Nyman knows it’s a big feat, but he’s making his intention very clear: full steam ahead with American Downhiller-style grit and determination.
What is an American Downhiller, exactly? Sure, there’s a Levi’s denim vest adorned in a permanent marker-drawn American Flag and an Ullr Norse Ski God pin, but there’s more. Let’s start there.
AMERICAN DOWNHILLER, noun.
1. Born in the USA, resilient, risk-taking, defy-all-odds badasses.
You may know Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) for her consistent top 10s in speed events at the end of last season, or maybe you know of her because of her beautiful photos on Instagram or her flowing words on her blog. But how much do you really know about the creative, talented ski racer?
From local ski hills to the PyeongChang Olympics, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) encompasses all athletes that share a passion for skiing and snowboarding. We explore what makes each skier and rider a champion with stories from the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing, next to kids winning a NASTAR medal, landing their first cork 7 or joining a club team. Alongside USSA’s mascot Champ, take a look at how all of these athletes strive to be Best in the World.
During the summer months when the snow’s not flying, the U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes are still hard at work at the Center of Excellence and beyond. Athletes use the summer to focus on building a solid strength and endurance foundation to prepare them for on-snow camps in the summer and fall. So, what does it take to fuel an elite-level female speed athlete (aka “Speed Unicorn”)? Building a strong foundation means consuming a high-calorie, high-iron diet.
We sat down with the USSA’s High Performance Sports Dietitian, Allen Tran, and High Performance Chef Megan Chacosky to get the scoop about what it takes to fuel a women’s speed team athlete through a day of strength and endurance training.
Allen Tran stands in the USSA Center of Excellence kitchen. (U.S. Ski Team)
At the end of June, officials from the USSA, FIS and Killington headed out to the official site of the Killington World Cup to map out the event in which the best female racers in the world will race in Vermont for the first time since 1978.
The crew included Tao Smith—the president Vermont Alpine Racing Association and headmaster of Killington Mountain School—and FIS women’s Chief Race Director Artle Skaardal, among others. Discussions ranged from hill set and spectator seating to weather and snowmaking on the hill ‘Superstar.’
The crew walks the hill that will hold the upcoming World Cup race. (Ski Racing-Gabbi Hall)
PARK CITY, UT (July 18, 2016) – The U.S. Ski Team has announced that Mike Day, current head men’s coach at Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS), will make a return to the U.S. Ski Team to serve as women’s head coach, working specifically with Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin.
A coach in various capacities for more than 15 years, Day previously coached Ted Ligety (Park City, UT), who became a world champion and won two World Cup giant slalom titles during Day’s tenure with the men’s technical team from 2010 to 2013.
Each athlete accepting the nomination to U.S. Alpine Ski Team receives a high level of world-class program support, along with access to the USSA Center of Excellence, as well as athletic benefits including an elite coaching, sport science, sports medicine and high performance staff, and education opportunities.
An official team announcement will be made in the fall.
Florian makes his debut on the U.S. Ski Team in 2017 with a D Team nomination. In 2016, he was part of the historic downhill day at World Juniors on the 2014 Olympic track in Sochi, when four young American Downhillers made their way into the top 10. Teammate Erik Arvidsson (Woodside, CA) was crowned downhill champ, Sam Morse (Sugarloaf, ME) was fourth, Szwebel seventh and Drew Duffy (Warren, VT) in 10th.