03 Jan On the Road with Mikaela Shiffrin, the Olympic Gold Medalist
The world-class skier discusses travel, jet lag, music and the power of Mom.
By Amy Tara Koch
November 15th, 2019
Many are betting that three-time Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin will become the most decorated skier of all time. The youngest athlete to reach 60 World Cup victories, she is also the first skier, male or female, to win across all six disciplines: slalom, parallel, giant slalom, super-G, downhill and alpine combined.
This ski season, Ms. Shiffrin plans to compete in approximately 28 world cup races, , a goal very few athletes have attempted. Here, the 24 year old discusses travel, jet lag, music and the power of Mom.
Jet Lag: How do you deal?
Hydration is essential. While I am traveling, I drink a lot of water, often infused with juice for electrolytes. When I arrive at the destination (we always fly at night), I expose myself to light right away and try to adjust to the time zone. Exercise helps a lot so, if there is time, I’ll go to the gym. The worst thing one can do is take a nap. It just makes acclimation more difficult. At night, I might use a melatonin but I need to be careful with supplements as they can make me lethargic the next day.
What do you bring on the road for feels-like-home comfort?
I like to have candles next to my bed. Right now I have a pink peony one. I also travel with a super soft blanket that was given to me by a member of the Italian ski team. The best, of course, is having my mom with me for much of the competition season. If you can travel with family, that is home.
Music is a big part of your routine. What’s on your playlist now?
I have a playlist for gearing up to race and another for chilling out. My race prep includes classics like Eminem “Guts Over Fear” featuring Sia, One Republic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dua Lipa, Imagine Dragons, Kygo. To relax, I like uncomplicated, soulful melodies by artists like London Grammer, Italian pianist Ludovico Einaud and Ólafur Arnalds, whose music sounds like symphonic lullabies.
How do you relax?
During competition, we always try to find hotels with or close to a swimming pool. Skiing is tough on the back. Submerging myself in water — I usually float and just walk back and forth without actually swimming — is like a massage for the lymph system and great for recovery. I also play the guitar. I bring a small campfire-sized one, like a ukulele, on the road.
What do you do to combat anxiety?
Aside from breathing techniques, my mom’s pep talks help. Though they may not take away the fear and anxiety, her wise words (“What could really go wrong? Winning isn’t everything, Just put your best skiing out there”) get me centered and help me to focus. If nerves creep up on me while I’m in the hospitality tent (it can get tense waiting alongside competitors), I’ll do some free skiing (if there are groomed runs near the venue) before my race. The movement and seeing people enjoy the sport brings me peace.
What is your dream vacation?
Definitely a beach vacation. Hawaii is my happy place. Our family trips were always to Maui where we biked, hiked, windsurfed and just watched the sunset. I would also love to go to the Maldives.
Which hotels on the World Cup circuit are your favorites?
I love the charm of small, family-run hotels where the service is personalized and the staff become like friends. My favorites are Hotel Grätschwirt in Dobbiaco, Italy. Hotel Scheffer’s in Altenmarkt, Austria. Bever Lodge in Bever, Switzerland. Hotel Payerbacherhof in Semmering, Austria. The Panoramic Lodge in Sarntal, Italy.
What ski resorts should Americans know about?
For late season skiing, Squaw Valley (California) and Arapahoe Basin (Colorado) both can have snow as late as July because of high elevation. In Europe, I raced at a resort called Soldeu in Andorra which was beautiful and easy to combine with a visit to Barcelona which is 2.5 hours away. Kronplatz in the South Tyrol region of the Dolomites is stunning with amazing food. Every time I am there I wish I could be on vacation instead of working! The fact that you can ski mountain to mountain (the Dolomiti Superski is comprised of 12 resorts on one ski pass) is a bonus. In South America, Cerro Castor in Ushuaia (in the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego) is the southernmost ski resort in the world and pretty interesting.
What is your favorite stop on the circuit?
Killington is the most special. It brings in bigger crowds than any other women’s race on the World Cup circuit and, for me, has the most energetic, fun vibe.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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This story originally appeared in the New York Times on November 30, 2019.