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Road to Sochi: Travis Ganong

The U.S. alpine racer dishes on Olympic prep and ski racing in the States.

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Growing up in a family of skiers, it was only a matter of time before U.S. Ski Teamer Travis Ganong found himself in a position to leave his mark on the international skiing community. So with the 2014 Winter Olympics right around the corner, Skiing caught up with the medal hopeful on his training, approach to the Games, and the future of the U.S. racing scene.

How has your training been going leading up to the Olympics.

I’m feeling great. This is going to be my fourth full year on the World Cup Tour, and I definitely got a lot of experience the past few years. I’m feeling really confident, strong, healthy, and ready to just step up to the next level and fight for the podium every week on the tour.

How do you balance pushing your limits and saving yourself for events like the Olympics?

That’s the ultimate thing: fighting the battle between risking everything and the reward that comes at the end of the day, and dealing with failure. It’s a fine line you just have to tiptoe. I’m going into the season with the World Cup races as my main focus. I’m going to really focus on each race, each week, and just have fun, and enjoy the tour. I definitely want to save a bit for the Olympics, but it’s so tough. Every weekend you have to show up with your A-game. This summer I had a good off-season of training. I’m feeling healthier and more fit than I have in the past. Hopefully I can push to the highest level every week and still have a little left for the Olympics.

(by Grafton Smith)

How’s everything mentally? The hype going into the Olympics is pretty high, so are you able to block that out while still adopting the “take every race at a time” mentality?

This is the first time that I am really vying for the Olympics and have a really good shot of going. During qualifiers for Vancouver, I was just breaking onto the World Cup Tour, and it was a really long shot for me to make the Olympics. I ended up winning the U.S. Nationals and was really stepping up and making the jump, but I didn’t qualify that year. This year it’s definitely in the picture, and I don’t really know what I’m going to do. Like I said, I’m just going to focus on each race, each run, each day skiing, and just have fun. That’s what I’ve always done and everything will work out.

Talk about racing in the U.S. versus Europe. Do you think there will ever be a chance that it will get to that European stature over here?

In Europe, ski racing is the predominant sport. It’s football. The highest TV ratings of any sporting event in Europe are races at Kitzbühel, Austria and the Lauberhorn in Wengen. It’s huge over there. People love it. In the U.S., it’ll probably never reach that same level. I think in the U.S., there’s a huge chunk of the country that doesn’t know anything about skiing—that doesn’t have access to skiing.

In U.S. mountain communities it’s super strong and prevalent, and more ski areas are starting to have World Cup viewing parties, happy hours, and other events that bring the community together to watch the races happening over in Europe. But we never hold big races in the U.S. really. That’s the problem. Having this venue here in Copper allows us to spend more time skiing in the U.S., so people can come out and watch us whenever they’re around. We hope to make it grow into what it’s like in Europe, but it’s going to be tough. There are lots of kids that like to ski so hopefully it’ll keep growing.

Do you think it’s getting there?

It’s hard to say. We spend so much time out of the country while we’re racing that we don’t really see it first hand anymore. But it seems like the crowds keep getting bigger every year, more people are asking questions, and the media is interested. Maybe that’s just because of the Olympics, but I really hope it’s a sign of the sport growing and people getting behind it. It’s such an intricate, challenging, tough sport—like Formula 1 on snow. It’s so fun to watch and be there doing it. It’s the most fun thing I can imagine. You’re going as fast as you can down a mountain: About three miles long in two minutes. It’s ridiculous.