A two-time Olympian who grew up in Stowe, U.S. Ski and Snowboarding president Tiger Shaw is the man behind the nearly 200 skiers and riders who will go to PyeongChang.
Just after the Sochi Olympics, Tiger Shaw took over as president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Since then, he’s done a lot to shake things up. Shaw rebranded the organization. He’s been instrumental in bringing the women’s World Cup to Killington, and he’s worked hard to put the organization on sound financial footing, chipping back a $6 million debt. He’s also made education for athletes a priority, setting up a partnership with Utah’s Westminster College so skiers and riders can learn remotely while on the circuit.
Shaw went to high school in Stowe and then raced for Dartmouth.. He was the top American finisher in slalom at the Calgary Olympics in 1988, finishing 12th. Shaw spent 20 year in Hanover, N.H. before moving to Utah for the job but he still spends a good deal of time in Stowe, where his mother and cousins (who run Shaw’s General Store) still live.
If you could be on any chairlift in the world now, where would it be?
No question, the Four Runner quad at Stowe. I grew up in Stowe and lived there until I was 18. With my family in either the ski business or the retail business, my entire life was centered around skiing and I just loved it. I remember being a little kid and going up the Toll House chair and then coming down, going off the groomed terrain and just falling in soft snow and thinking how fun that was, just lying there in this light fluff.
Mikaela Shiffrin’s father was the doctor who delivered your kids, and you’ve known her since she was born. When did you first realize how good she could be?
Even at age 8, Mikaela was creaming 12-year-olds. It was clear to me then that she had all the makings of a great racer, but so do a lot of kids. After that comes the hard work. And Mikaela has put that in. When people ask me how she got so good I have to say, it’s an old-fashioned answer but she just works incredibly, incredibly hard. She’s really deliberate and dedicated to her practice and her parents have supported her in that since she was a kid.
Bode Miller recently said Mikaela was the best racer, male or female, that he’s seen. Do you agree?
Mikaela is certainly among that rarified group, and I’d say currently she’s absolutely stunning. Best racer? Maybe she will be, though there’s also Lindsey Vonn, and Ted Ligety has won 25 World Cup races and has 51 podiums to his name.
What about the men’s alpine team?
It seems to go in waves. Right now we have a lot of depth and a lot of incredibly talented men coming up on the B and C teams, but we’ve also had a lot of injuries. It’s really good to see skiers like Ryan Cochran-Siegle coming back from knee surgeries and climbing a giant staircase. It’s going to take a few steps to get back to the top, but I think he will.
How do we get more skiers like Mikaela and Ryan?
One of the reasons why we’re seeing so many top athletes coming out of Vermont is that we have an incredible depth and activity in our ski clubs, and the top athletes from the past are helping new ones grow. Take Craftsbury Outdoor Center or Stratton Mountain School. At Stratton, you have [two-time Olympic medal winner] Ross Powers coaching and Sverre Caldwell has attracted a world-class team of cross-country skiers. But most important, the good coaches and the good schools realize it takes a village to raise a top athlete. Parents also need to accept that sometimes not all the kids are going to be able to get the same treatment or get the same top coach’s attention. Generally, kids know this and accept the fact that maybe they won’t be the one going to Nationals or the Olympics, but they can help someone else get there.
Best thing about bringing the World Cup to Killington?
For me, the best thing was seeing the ski club kids have a chance to see people like Mikaela race and to have a chance to interact with her. If you ask Mikaela, or other ski racers, what the turning points in their lives were, it was often seminal moments like that, meeting the heroes who inspired them. —L.L.