"Be nice and think first."
My Perfect Adventure
Mikaela Shiffrin’s first time skiing was on a driveway with plastic planks strapped under her baby boots. But now she confidently dominates mountains around the world.
Shiffrin, 17, grew up in Vail and took full advantage of her town’s richness of resources. Along the way, she triggered a snowball effect of awe for her talent and work ethic. She’s most admired for her toughness, focus—and sheer speed. (The fact that she’s a beauty doesn’t hurt, either.)
In December, Shiffrin made a splashy international entrance by winning her first World Cup title during Sweden’s night-slalom race. This month, she handily won the World Cup slalom in Croatia. At press time, she was topping every other American woman in the overall standings. Needless to say, she’s on the verge of becoming a massive star.
Shiffrin, who, yes, is on the U.S. Ski Team, will likely be one of the most repeated names in Sochi. But before she heads to Russia to take on the Olympic Games, there are a few things she has yet to do.
During this interview, the teenager told us that she’d love to get to know the gold-medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, that her perfect day would involve a nap and a Glee episode—and that, though she’s one of the fastest humans on Earth, she’s fascinated by some of the planet’s slowest creatures: the giant turtles of the Galapagos.
While Shiffrin says she hasn’t yet nailed down what she wants to do with the rest of her life, her simple, five-word life philosophy has so far served her quite well. Read on.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
A perfect day for me would just be a day that goes the way I plan. I’d wake up to sun and clear skies and go up for a morning training session with perfect conditions—compact snow. Then I’d come off the hill and get therapy and recovery right away, go home and take my nap, get some homework done until dinner, hear from a few of my friends that I don't get to see very often, watch a little Glee or Friends, and then fall into a peaceful sleep.
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
Everywhere! I love traveling and seeing new things, learning the histories of different cultures. But I've always wanted to go to the Galapagos to see the giant turtles.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
Maui. It was beautiful, I was with family, and we had a blast, always doing fun and interesting things.
If you could have lunch with any athlete, who would it be and why?
[Gymnast] Shawn Johnson. She seems so nice and peppy, and she knows a lot about the mentality and motivation necessary to become a champion.
What’s something you can’t travel without? And why do you need it?
My iPhone and a snack called Snap Infusion. My iPhone goes everywhere with me—I need it to update USADA [the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency]. I’ve really gotten into eating the Snap snacks during training. Their “Mel,” “Bean,” and “Gummy” flavors are my favorite.
When you arrive at a new destination, what’s usually first on your agenda?
Unpack and get organized. Or go for a workout, or a recovery exploration.
What motivates you to keep skiing?
My love of it.
As a child, what was your dream job? If you gave up that dream, do you have any regrets?
My dream job has always been to be a ski racer.
When and how did you first start skiing?
My parents strapped a pair of plastic skis on my boots when I was two years old and sent me down our driveway in Vail. Of course, they were holding on to me the whole time, but that was my first experience “skiing.”
What advice you would give to a skier much younger than you?
Work hard. Watch and ski with skiers who are better than you. And look for ways to improve all the time.
Who have been your most influential role models?
My parents taught me to work hard and be honest. [Burke Mountain Academy headmaster] Kirk Dwyer taught me to always be positive and strive for mastery in everything I do.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Be nice and think first.
Have you ever had a near-accident that made you think twice about skiing?
If you had to choose a different career, what would it be and why?
I take a particular interest in music, medicine, and science in general. But I'm still at the point in my life where, if I wasn't skiing, I would just be starting to figure out what I would do. So I don't know for sure.
Name three things you still want to cross off your bucket list.
Learning how to surf.
Windsurfing in Maui.
And seeing the Northern Lights.