Dressed in purple pants and a lime green jacket, Mikaela Shiffrin looked like any other 18-year-old skier taking in a sunny spring morning with her mom, Eileen, at Loveland Ski area Thursday, except for the sponsorship patches all over her jacket.
She barrelled down the slope, with her mom and Loveland Ski Club director and former U.S. Ski Team coach John Hale in hot pursuit.
The threesome stopped mid-slope for Mikaela to get a quick movement analysis and coaching pointers from mom and Hale. Even when out “free skiing,” the world champion slalom racer works on her form.
That’s part of what makes skiing fun for Shiffrin, she later tells an audience of Loveland Ski Club members. She’s always improving. She credits her Type A personality for part of her success, as well as the strong support of her parents and her brother. “He’s my rock,” says Shiffrin of her older sibling.
The last six months have been a whirl-wind tour for the young pro from Vail. In December she became the second youngest American to win an alpine World Cup event. Within a month she added two more first-place finishes. Her season culminated in March with a World Championship title in slalom, just days before her 18th birthday. She describes the aftermath as, “36 hours of go, go, go!” Those hours included a flight back from Europe, and appearances on “Letterman” and the “Today” show.
Between a U.S. Ski Team press event in Hollywood, working toward graduating high school, and an upcoming trip to Mammoth for U.S. Ski Team training, Shiffrin took a break Thursday to talk with aspiring ski racers of the Loveland Ski Club. The event was a big treat for members of the club who just started their spring training camp Wednesday.
Club director Hale introduced Shiffrin to a crowded room of kids and parents, “She was sitting where you guys are not too long ago, and now she’s a world champion,” He proceeded to list Mikaela’s accolades.
Shiffrin stood in front of the group. “You said that like I have to retire now.”
For an hour and twenty minutes, Shiffrin fielded questions from the young crowd. Before having to head home to do school work.
One of the first questions, from a 14-year-old, was how she trained when she was his age.
Shiffrin responded, “When I was a kid,” the 18-year-old stopped and laughed as did parents in the audience, “I would see the trees as a course. Then I realized I could hit a tree and kill myself.”
“Gates don’t kill you,” she soon realized and started race training instead.
When asked about how best to train, Shiffrin emphasized the basics. She recommended to always start with your stance, on flat ground before skiing, and go up from there.
She also emphasized the importance of turning negatives into positives. In one race she remembered hearing louder cheers for her competitor, and she turned that into motivation.
Easily the most entertaining response of the question-and-answer session was regarding what goes through her mind at the start of the race.”
“Sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Oh God I’m gonna die.’”
As the session was wrapping up, Shiffrin encouraged her captive audience of young skiers by talking about goals. “It’s within reach. It’s not unattainable.”
To the kids who approach her and say they want to be like her, she responds, “Try to be better than me.” Certainly an ambitious goal for any aspiring skier. But it’s clearly worked for Shiffrin.
“When I think about Lindsey (Vonn), I think about when its my turn to put her to shame,” she says with a laugh and quick clarification of how much respect she holds for Vonn.