Not many people can say they get their car serviced by an Olympic contender, and even fewer a World Cup ski cross champion. Meet John Teller, a local Mammoth mechanic and professional ski cross racer.
You started out on the Alpine circuit. How did you get into Ski cross?
I quit skiing during the 2004-05 season. I was really burnt out and working as an auto mechanic for about two years. Then, the last of the 48 Straight Series came to town, and my buddy talked me into trying ski cross. I fell in love with it right away, and it really brought back the fun of skiing for me.
What happened to the mechanic gig?
I’m actually in the shop putting in a new oil filter as we speak. I still work full time as an auto mechanic in Mammoth for two family-run shops.
What has been the biggest difference in having to train without the support of the U.S. Ski Team?
When ski cross had the support of the U.S. Ski Team, the biggest thing was having a year-round team to train with and getting a little money. Now that it’s not affiliated, I am working on cars full time, but I can still take four months off during the year to travel Europe and race.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Making it to the Olympics and winning gold is a big one, but I’m also continuing one from last year. Last year I had a lot of trouble with consistency—I was a complete roller coaster. I won the World Cup, but then I didn’t even qualify in the race after that. I’m really working to fine-tune that this season.
Competing in Sochi would be your first trip to the Olympics. What are you doing to prep for trials?
I have been working out the same as always to prepare for the season, but focusing more on the mental side of things to be more consistent. My mistake last year was over thinking it and trying too hard to make the win happen instead of being smooth. We have eight races coming up to qualify. If I do as well as I did in the first two last year, then I will be all set. I am hoping to ski steadily all through pre-season and peak in February.
What are you looking forward to seeing or doing in Russia if you’re chosen for the Olympic team (besides medaling)?
I just want to get the full Olympic experience. I missed out in 2010. I qualified to be an alternate, but they made some different choices for the direction of the team. Going to the Olympics has been a goal of mine since before I can remember, so I’m excited to walk in the Opening Ceremony, and just to be there.
Which competitors do you think pose the biggest threat for the U.S. ski cross team in Sochi?
You always have to watch out for Chris Del Bosco. He and I have a good competitive rivalry, but we’re also great friends. I think we have big potential to do well in Sochi because the course is more North American, X Games style terrain. You can’t discount the Swiss, Swedish, and Finnish teams though.
How has the addition of more freestyle events to the Olympics amped up the energy about skiing in general?
Having slopestyle and halfpipe added to the games really shows how action sports are starting to take over. Yes, the older, more established sports are still popular, but the younger crowds are participating in action sports and want to see them on this level.
Ski cross popularity seems to have hit its peak more than a few years ago. Do you feel that the sport is still growing and gaining support?
I don’t think ski cross has reached a peak yet—it’s still gaining momentum. If you look at races like our Nationals competition at Canyons, the ratings were huge. We need to have more backing from big-name sponsors in the ski industry and more support from the U.S. Ski Team. It’s a very big sport in Europe and to the layman, it is a much more exciting and action-packed race than alpine.