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Last Chair- The Phenom

Rising star Mikaela Shiffrin on hazing, training, and learning to lean back a little.

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SKI » You spent your early childhood at Vail and live there now, but you lived your formative years back East, at Dartmouth Skiway and Burke Mountain, but also at tiny Storrs Hill in Lebanon, N.H.?
M.S. » Every single weeknight after school, Mom would pick up my brother and me and we’d go over to Storrs to train. We’d do our homework in the car and have, like, Spaghettios for dinner, and we’d ski from seven to nine. It’s only big enough for about 20 slalom gates, but it was just about the repetition. And I really got used to skiing on ice.

SKI » Is it true you like training gates more than freeskiing?

M.S. » I love training. I like freeskiing, and I know it’s so good for your feel for the snow and courage with speed, but I just always loved the training too. And at a small hill, it’s the most interesting thing to do.

SKI » Given your age, did your Ski Team mates go easy on the initiation rituals?

M.S. » At my first camp Resi [Stiegler] and Sarah [Schleper] were like, “Oh, we need to shave your eyebrows or something.” But then they’d say, “Don’t worry, Mikaela, we don’t have the energy.” And now I’m not a rookie anymore, so I’m home free.

SKI » You went to Burke Academy for high school. So you know where to go on a powder day?

M.S. » It’s ridiculous because I’ve spent like five years there and I have no idea what the names of any of the trails are. Just go out past Dipper and go into the woods; it’s all good in there. And if it’s a powder day, the training hill has pretty good powder too.

SKI » We hear you had some challenges in the deep stuff as a young kid.

M.S. » I was six, living in Vail, and didn’t know how to ski powder. I kept leaning forward, because that was all anyone ever told me to do. My tips would dig in and I’d wipe out. I was flipping out. Then my dad told me to sit back a little, and I just went straight to the bottom, popping up on every mogul, my dad trying to keep up with me. Dad doesn’t remember it, though, so I could be dreaming it all.