Mikaela: Back on the Podium, Ready for Vermont

Mikaela Shiffrin talks with VT SKI + RIDE about returning to race in Vermont.

On President’s Day, Mikaela Shiffrin made a glorious return to ski racing as she sped to her 18th World Cup win at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom in Crans Montana, Switzerland.

“That was a pretty incredible race,” said Shiffrin, who suffered a knee injury warming up for a race in December and had thought she would be out for the season. “I’m glad it’s over, but I enjoyed skiing that last run, it was really rough and a challenge at every single gate. It was just bumpy and a wild ride – tough, but a good fight, and that’s the way it should be,” she told the press after the race.

Mikaela Shiffrin, golden girl of the U.S. Ski Team, World Cup slalom champ and current slalom leader, former Vermonter and Burke Mountain Academy grad, is back .

Shiffrin was warming up for a GS run in Are, Sweden last fall when she crashed, hyperextended her knee and tore her MCL. She’s spent the last few weeks in Vail doing rehab. Her doctors had expected her to need the entire season to recover so she would be ready for 2016/17, a World Championship year. She suprised everyone by returning to the World Cup.

“It’s just one of those situations, you take your heart off-line for a little bit,” Shiffrin, 20, told The Denver Post after the accident. “There are going to be really bad days where I just want to cry. And there are going to be really good days where I feel like I could ski. If I have more good days than bad, and the rehab goes well, and I can get to the point where I can ski and not get tired …” Now she’s back, and aiming for next year’s November’s World Cup races in Killington.

“I can’t wait for Killington,” she said in a recent interview with VT SKI + RIDE. “On the one hand, I’m just going to treat it like another World Cup. But on the other hand it’s going to remind me of racing in New England when I was younger and in a sense it will feel like home, even though I live in Colorado now.”

“I miss skiing and racing in the East, so I can’t tell you how psyched I am to get back there, this time at the highest level of ski racing.”

For the record, the first year Mikaela won the overall World Cup slalom title, in 2013, she was a Vermonter: she was a senior at Burke Mountain Academy in East Burke, where she had been a student for four years. After winning that season’s slalom globe she returned to campus and graduated with her class.

That winning streak continued this season. World Cup victories number 16 and 17 came in two slaloms in November at Aspen, which she won by such large margins, more than two seconds in one race and more than three in another, that she made history: no woman had ever finished a slalom that far out in front.

As a 13 year old junior racer in East Burke, Mikaela was faster than most of the boys. It was there where she began winning by two, three and more seconds. When I contacted her on the World Cup circuit in December, Shiffrin said she misses Vermont, just not the weather, even though the weather did teach her a few things.

“One thing about living and racing in New England and in Vermont that has had a huge impact on my World Cup career is racing and training in poor weather,” she said. “It’s funny because everyone talks about the bad weather in the East, and to be honest I feel like one of the tougher athletes on the World Cup when it comes to weather. I tend to thrive when it’s raining, sleeting, bad visibility, or any other sort of adverse conditions — to an extent — because it reminds me of the days when I would take lap after lap in tough conditions in New England.”

As for young Vermonters, she advised: find the fun in learning and working at your skiing.

“Smile and enjoy the improvement process— the drills, technical free skiing, and training. I was lucky enough to have coaches and parents who taught me to not only to love ski racing but also to love getting better. I was out there doing drills before and after everyone else, because I enjoyed it. But many kids find the drills boring. I urge them to look for the little things in those boring technical days that pass the time so they can stay focused and get the most out of it.”





Biddle Duke

Competition columnist Biddle Duke grew up ski racing in New England, raised two ski racers and is passionate for the sport. For 17 years he owned and ran The Stowe Reporter, the award-winning paper that has been central to Vermont ski racing coverage, and then its sister publication, The Waterbury Record. He lives and writes from Stowe.