"I don’t dominate a certain aspect like some guys do. I am just decent at a lot of things."
The Snow Report
On a foggy day in Val Gardena, Italy, this past December, the U.S. Ski Team’s Steven Nyman became the first American male—aside from Bode Miller—to win a World Cup speed event since 2008. Starting in position 39, the 30-year-old Utah native surged from the back of the pack to snag victory. No man has raced to the top of the podium with a bib number that far back since 1996. It was a victory well won—Nyman has been plagued with numerous injuries over the last few years. A torn Achilles forced him to miss the 2011-12 season. Needless to say, he likes Val Gardena—he won the classic Saslong there in 2006, his first—and last, before December—World Cup win.
Nyman, a two-time Olympian, lives in Park City, Utah. When he’s not skiing, he’s an avid stand-up paddleboarder, music lover, and freeskier. In 2011, he appeared in Warren Miller’s Like There’s No Tomorrow. Off the slopes, he runs Fantasy Ski Racer—think fantasy football but for ski racing. Skiing runs in the family—his father ran the ski school in Sundance, Utah, and his brother Blake is a professional freeskier. Come January, the World Cup circuit is in full throttle. Here, Nyman talks about the Kitzbuhel, the biggest race on the tour, overcoming injury, and why downhillers get better as they get older.
What do you love most about ski racing?
I love the challenge of each individual course. In downhill it takes years to master the intricacies of some of the hills. I also like the mental battles I face day to day. I love them and hate them. I’m scared every time I push out of the gate, but the feeling of conquering your fears is thrilling.
What's your favorite downhill race and why?
That’s a tough one. They all have their unique traits. But the most well-rounded race on the tour is Beaver Creek. It’s a lot of fun to ski as well. I love Wengen, Switzerland, too. The scenery is jaw dropping wherever you are and the people love skiing there. The fans are incredible.
You're going into one the most classic and prestigious downhill races of the season, Kitzbuhel, can you talk about what makes it so special?
Kitzbuhel is the ultimate intimidation race. Right out of the start gate, it’s “full gas,” as they say in Austria. It’s the most dangerous course on tour. It’s also a great spectator event when it comes to ski racing. It’s jam-packed with 60,0000 to 80,000 people on the day of the downhill.
What was it like the first time you raced Kitzbuhel, also known as the Hahnenkamm?
My rookie year I didn’t plan to race it but the season was going well. I decided to stay and do it. I was shaking in my boots at the start, but I remember hearing a story of a guy who quit there. He backed out of the start gate and said no more. I wanted to do that but decided otherwise because I didn’t want that story to be told of me. And I ended up scoring World Cup points my first time down. So that was a bonus.
After several years off the podium, to what do you attribute your win in Val Gardena in December?
When I started out on the World Cup circuit, I started winning quickly. It was only my second year when I collected my first win and I was just along for the ride. I was on the podium the next year but then had a long drought mostly due to injury. But I also blame my lack of management of myself. With success comes privileges, and I wanted to experience those as well. I didn’t manage my body and then the injuries set in. I had to relearn how to take care of myself. Now I think I have a pretty good grasp on it.
As for Gardena, I like the race because of all the terrain. When you run the course top to bottom, you come off the ground over 25 times. I am pretty good with terrain and I think it’s because of my height.