Inspired by the official U.S. Ski Team mascot Champ, the Team kicked off a content series asking athletes and fans about the moment they truly felt like a champion. Hundreds responded using the hashtag #WhatMakesAChamp to try and win a trip to the NASTAR Pacesetting Trials at Copper Mountain to race Olympic champion Ted Ligety.
Ligety sorted through athletes young and old, from the east coast and the west, from new racers to experienced professionals, and here is who he chose...
1) GOLD MEDAL GRAND PRIZE – Auden Pankonin, Hudson, WI – Welch Village
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Nov. 5, 2015) – U.S. Ski Team’s Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) has been nominated for Best Male Olympic Athlete in Team USA’s Best of the Year awards. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced a total of 26 male, female and team finalists for this year’s awards. Fans are invited to vote for their favorite athletes and teams at TeamUSA.org/Awards through Friday, Nov. 20.
In the midst of a challenging 2015 season, Ligety brought his A game to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek. There, he took home a gold medal in giant slalom and a bronze in the combined, making him the second most-decorated U.S. skier in World Championships history.
At the end of the 2014-15 season, the U.S. Alpine Championships took place on an uncharacteristically warm day at Sugarloaf in Maine. World Cup winner and longtime U.S. Ski Team member Steven Nyman sat in first at the super G after 29 racers. The crowd at Sugarloaf, the TV audience and those watching live timing all assumed Nyman had taken yet another national title and had started to pay attention to other things. Journalists began writing the articles with Nyman as the headline. But then, bib 30 came down and the audience glanced up at the scoreboard to see young Drew Duffy slide into first place by four hundredths of a second.
The Audi FIS Ski World Cup opening weekend in Soelden, Austria is a celebration of the sport. Thousands descend on the tiny Oetztal valley to cheer on their favorites. High atop the stands in the Glacier Stadium, a hard core group of fans waved the American flag proudly, holding Ted Ligety banners for all to see. There’s nothing unusual about that. After all, the Park City, Utah native has long been a star of the sport.
But what unusual was that this group – the Ted Ligety Fan Club – didn’t come from America. They weren’t hometown supporters from Park City. Many of them didn’t even ski. Yet they drove 600+ kilometers from Saxony, in east central Germany, simply to march down Soelden’s main street in the Fan Club Parade, try to meet up with Ted during an autograph session at a local ski shop and to cheer on an athlete most of them had never met. Last winter, a contingent of them came to Vail/Beaver Creek!
Just before the first bib number starts, the clock will tick for the final forerunner and no athlete will go on course. Instead, it will act as a moment of silence for Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle—the two development athletes killed by an avalanche.
Ski racers Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle were young men taken too soon in an avalanche accident in Soelden, Austria on January 5, 2014. USSA columnist Tom Kelly takes a look at their lives in this week's Behind the Gold.
California born Bryce Astle scored when his parents relocated to Sandy, Utah when he was 3 years old. Why? This meant he was raised skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon —home to some of the best and deepest snow in the world. Ripping around Alta from a young age, Astle quickly became a lover of powder skiing and the mountain culture. When he was just eight years old, Astle was skiing upwards of 150 days a year and had ambitions to become a professional freeskier.
SOELDEN, Austria (Oct. 25, 2015)—In front of a packed crowd, Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) reminded ski racing fans of his giant slalom skills at the opening Audi FIS Ski World Cup race, taking his fourth win in Soelden, Austria. It was a stacked podium, with Thomas Fanara of France and Marcel Hirscher of Austria finishing under two-tenths behind Ligety, in second and third place respectively.
A year ago on the Rettenbach glacier, Hirscher set the tone for his 2014-15 season of collecting small and large crystal globes by claiming a decisive victory in the giant slalom opener as Ted Ligety finished a disappointing 10th. But the tallies refresh anew every year in Soelden, and Ligety is back on top after claiming a nail-biting victory over Fanara and Hirscher.
Mastering the lower flat by carrying speed off the pitch and then gliding through the final gates on the course was something Ligety learned from Swiss great Didier Cuche in 2009.
SOELDEN, Austria (Oct. 24, 2015) - On an icy injected course in Soelden, Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) threw down two solid runs of giant slalom to walk away with second place at the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup of the 2015-16 season. She finished behind Italian Federica Brignone, who won her first World Cup. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein took third.
Brignone had stood on the podium seven times without recording a single victory. All that changed on the Rettenbach glacier as Brignone completed two nearly flawless giant slalom runs down a slope so icy the 14,000 fans in attendance could practically see their reflections while watching the competition.
Brignone held nearly a second lead over Shiffrin—who had won last year’s giant slalom in Soelden—after the first run. Although Shiffrin was pleased with her first run, she knew Brignone would be hard to touch.
Team Naming + NASTAR Pacesetting Trials Moved to Nov. 21
COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO (Oct. 23, 2015)—Due to U.S. Ski Team athletes’ training schedule and warmer weather in Colorado, the date of the U.S. Ski Team’s annual Nature Valley First Tracks celebration and team announcement and Putnam Investments NASTAR Pacesetting Trials has been pushed from November 6 to November 21.
The tech teams have found training opportunities in Europe and will remain there until after the first Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom race in Levi, Finland the weekend of November 14.