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LINEUP

Editor ED STONER | estoner@vaildaily.com Marketing Director MARK BRICKLIN | mbricklin@vaildaily.com Design Direction ALI & AARON CREATIVE Contributing Writers JOHN LACONTE, GEOFF MINTZ, ED STONER Contributing Photographers ASSOCIATED PRESS, BRENT BINGHAM, DOMINIQUE TAYLOR, SAMO VIDIC

VAIL DAILY MAGAZINE GROUP General Manager SUSAN LUDLOW | sludlow@vaildaily.com Editor in Chief WREN BOVA | wren@vaildaily.com Managing Editor BRENDA HIMELFARB

88 THE SUPERSTAR

Lindsey Vonn opens up about her comeback, her boyfriend and her still-expanding legacy.

90 THE MASTER

Disappointment in Vancouver helped Ted Ligety evolve into an unstoppable force; he is ready for redemption in Sochi.

92 THE FREE SPIRIT

For Julia Mancuso, it’s her against the mountain. Everything else is just noise.

94 THE PHENOM

Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin suddenly became the best slalom skier on the planet. That’s just the beginning.

ABOVE IMAGE

Mikaela Shiffrin clears a gate during the first run of the women’s slalom at the 2013 Alpine World Skiing Championships in Schladming, Austria. Shiffrin went on to become the youngest women’s slalom world champion in 39 years.

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100 THE ROAD TO VAIL

Sochi tops the bill of this year’s alpine races; next season, the world’s eyes will be on Vail/Beaver Creek for the Alpine World Ski Championships.

103 THE LOCAL CONTENDERS

From lifelong residents to Ski and Snowboard Club Vail transplants, the valley will have an impressive contingent competing at the 2014 Olympics.

108 THE LEGACY

Skiing gave them the world: Love, friends, family and a business. David and Renie Gorsuch reflect on the 1960 Olympics and the good life that followed.

ON THE COVER

Mikaela Shiffrin as photographed by Brent Bingham at his studio located in Edwards, Colo. Learn more about Shiffrin and her rise to fame on page 94.

Photo Editor DOMINIQUE TAYLOR | dtaylor@vaildaily.com Ad Director PATRICK CONNOLLY | pconnolly@vaildaily.com Copy Editors ROSS LEONHART, ALI MURRAY, KAYLEE PORTER Advertising Production & Design LOUIE ATENCIO, AFTON GROEPPER CARLY HOOVER, MALISA SAMSEL Sales Manager KIP TINGLE | ktingle@vaildaily.com Account Managers HEIDI BRICKLIN | hbricklin@vaildaily.com CAROLE BUKOVICH | cbukovich@vaildaily.com ERIC BURGUND | eburgund@vaildaily.com CHRIS JACOBSON | cjacobson@vaildaily.com BETH MCKENZIE | bmckenzie@vaildaily.com Circulation Manager JARED STABER | jstaber@vaildaily.com Publisher DON ROGERS | drogers@vaildaily.com

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Let Ski & Snowboard Club Vail help fulfill your child’s dreams too!

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PER S O N A L I T I ES

SUPERSTAR

LINDSEY VONN IS HEALED, HAPPY AND READY TO DEFEND HER DOWNHILL GOLD.

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C

COMING BACK FROM injury is nothing new for Lindsey Vonn. Remember the 2006 Olympics training run, when she went flying through the air, slammed on her back, and then lay in the snow, her chest heaving? She came back days later to place eighth. Last season’s crash, at the Worlds in Schladming, Austria, wasn’t even a bad fall in her mind. Just bad light, a sketchy course and a slightly awkward landing. But unlike the 2006 crash, she was hurt badly — a torn ACL and MCL and a lateral tibial plateau fracture. “I just happened to land funny and tweak my knee in the wrong way, so I dislocated my knee,” Vonn, 29, said from her home in the Ritz-Carlton in Lionshead in August. “But I’m not afraid. I fall and get back up. That’s just what I do. I think I’ll have no problem when I get back on snow.” She underwent surgery in Vail, and embarked on a six-month-long rehab process. Meanwhile, she went public with her relationship with golfer Tiger Woods and began following him around on the PGA Tour, wearing floppy hats in the gallery at events like the Masters. Her relationship has raised her profile to a new echelon of celebrity — not just the defending downhill gold medalist and maybe the best female alpine skier ever, but Tiger’s girlfriend and a presence in the pages of gossip magazines. “I don’t read any of that stuff,” Vonn said. “It doesn’t bother me because I don’t really care. What I care about is that I’m happy and I’m around people that I love and love me.” Vonn will build her strength and confidence through the World Cup season, and hopefully peak in February in time to defend her downhill gold medal — and perhaps bring home more hardware. “I have a lot of expectations, and I’m just trying to make sure I’m ready for it,” she said. — ED STONER

SAMO VIDIC / RED BULL CONTENT POOL


PER S O N A L I T I ES

MASTER

A

DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE 2010 OLYMPICS FUELED TED LIGETY’S RISE FROM GOOD TO GREAT.

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A FULL SECOND. And an Olympic medal. That’s what Ted Ligety left on the slopes of Whistler Mountain at the 2010 giant slalom. Ligety knew he could have performed better. Well enough to make up the four-tenths of a second that stood between him and the medal stand. Well enough to win his second Olympic gold medal. But Ligety walked away with a disappointing ninth place. No medal, and lots to think about. The experience made Ligety vow to never underachieve in that way again. “Since then I’ve definitely flipped the switch in the sense that when I get in the start gate I want to get to the finish line and be happy with my approach and be happy with my level of intensity and not feel like I regretted that I didn’t go hard enough,” Ligety said. Indeed, Ligety has been transformed. The new Ted Ligety has simply dominated, winning 15 of 27 giant slaloms. That includes wins at Beaver Creek in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The dominance reached its zenith last February, at the Worlds in Schladming, Austria. Ligety won the super-G, the super combined, and the GS, becoming the first man to win three gold medals in the Worlds since the legendary Jean-Claude Killy in 1968. “To watch Ted do that is inspirational,” said teammate Bode Miller. Ligety, 29, of Park City, Utah, is becoming an overall threat in a day and age when many top skiers specialize in two events. He finished third in the overall standings in 2012-13. He will go to Sochi trying to repeat his gold medal success of 2006 in Torino, where he won the super combined as an upstart 21-year-old. — ED STONER

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PER S O N A L I T I ES

FREE SPIRIT

W

JULIA MANCUSO IS REALLY GOOD AT WINNING. BUT IT’S NOT ABOUT WINNING.

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WHEN JULIA MANCUSO reaches the biggest stage, she tends to deliver. She has more major championship medals — three Olympic and five World Championship — than any other female American skier. For someone with such a track record of success, you might think she would be focused purely on winning. Not exactly. She takes a point of view that originates from her laid-back, mountain-town upbringing in Squaw Valley, Calif. “It’s not even about winning every race,” said Mancuso, 29. “It’s about winning your race, which is doing the best you can. For me, I take one turn at a time. It’s between me and the mountain, and I want to make my peace on that run.” Mancuso is feeling more and more at peace with her results. She finished second in the super-G standings last year, and fourth in the overall. Following years of back problems, she is injury free. And after 13 years on the World Cup circuit, she’s becoming more at ease with the demands of months-long travel. (You don’t need 10 pairs of shoes, she realized.) This summer in Hawaii, where she spends much of her off-season, she picked up free-diving, which she says has helped her focus and lung capacity. “Training is about having fun,” she said. When Julia was a pre-teen, her mom, Andrea Webber, would bring the kids to Vail to train early season. Around that time, Andrea realized that Julia was a special athlete. “Really at about 11 and 12 years old, in ski racing, she would beat all the boys,” said Webber, who, with her husband Scott, owns Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty, which has offices in Beaver Creek. Sochi will be Mancuso’s fourth Olympic Games. She’ll be aiming to add to her career medal haul — a gold in Torino and two silvers in Vancouver. “I’m prepared and ready to kick ass when the Olympics come around,” Mancuso said. — ED STONER

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COV ER S TO RY

PHENOM THE

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN HAS TAKEN THE SKI WORLD BY STORM. ARE YOU READY FOR WHAT’S NEXT?

BY GEOFF MINTZ - PORTRAIT BY BRENT BINGHAM

he winter of 2013 will forever be remembered by ski racing fans as the season in which a 17-year-old girl from Vail, Colo., redefined the modern assumption of what is possible. “I’m finally here and I’m finally doing what I’ve always set out to do,” Mikaela Shiffrin said during a post-race press conference shortly after winning the slalom gold medal at the Alpine World Ski Championships last February. “But the hardest thing is when people ask me … how do I do this? I just don’t have an answer. I’m just doing what I do, and I don’t want to wait.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin’s breakout 2012-13 season included four World Cup wins, a World Championship, and the World Cup slalom title.

INSIDE STORY

AFTER LAST SEASON, WITH THE GLOBE AND THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WIN, IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT ANYTHING SHORT OF A GOLD MEDAL IN SOCHI WOULD BE A DISAPPOINTMENT FOR YOU?

I think that just getting a medal either way — gold, silver or bronze — an Olympic medal would be something that I would always look back on and be proud of. Obviously, I’m kind of shooting for the gold. If I’m at my best, if I’m skiing my best, I have the capability of winning the gold, but there are a lot of other girls who have that capability. So it all just boils down to who skis their best on race day. So it would be a disappointment under certain circumstances if I felt like I didn’t give it my all, that’s what would be disappointing. If I give it my very best and somebody else just absolutely crushes it, then I’ll look forward to working on something for the future.


COV ER S TO RY

N

ow entering her first Olympic season, Shiffrin, 18, is quickly becoming a household name. The youngster, however, has been on the radar of ski racing observers for some time, certainly at least since 2010 when she cleaned up at Trofeo Topolino (essentially the world championship for 15-yearolds), winning both the slalom and giant slalom titles there. While there has been a broad, long-held suspicion that Shiffrin would one day grow to dominate on the world stage, few could have expected it would happen quite so soon. The gold medal at the World Championships — a one-off event, like the Olympics — was just one of the highlights for Shiffrin in 2013. The young phenom, who the previous year barely cracked the World Cup podium,

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entered the season as something short of a favorite in slalom, her best discipline. Conventional wisdom pointed to a breakout year for Shiffrin, but a World Championship gold medal and an overall slalom title? There is at least a handful other more seasoned competitors who might have something to say about that. “Somehow, she has the ability to arc the skis like nobody else,” said U.S. Women’s Head Technical Coach Roland Pfeifer, who works most closely with Shiffrin. “Then, when it comes to racing, she is so well prepared and focused on her goals — and her goals are big. Last year, she was telling me in September, ‘I want to win the overall slalom title.’” Shiffrin certainly didn’t reveal that goal to the public. At the time, it likely would have been received by many as unrealistic and cocky. In fact, at every step along the way, even when it did appear she

might actually make a run at the title, Shiffrin epitomized genuine humility and gracious appreciation to the senior members of the tour. She was on a roll and impossible to dislike. By March, just 20 World Cup slalom starts into her young career, Shiffrin had established herself as much more than a hot, young, emerging talent. Achieving her season-long goal in the final race by taking down world No. 1 Tina Maze, she became the best slalom skier in the world. The impressive statistics were aplenty. Shiffrin became the third-youngest ladies slalom World Championship gold medalist in history. She became the first American woman, of any age, to win slalom gold in either a World Championships or an Olympics since Barbara Cochran in 1972. She became the fourth-youngest woman to win a globe and the PAGE 95, ASSOCIATED PRESS | ABOVE, ASSOCIATED PRESS


INSIDE STORY ( LEFT ) Shiffrin sealed her

World Cup slalom title with a win at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in March 2013. ( BELOW ) Shiffrin races as an 8-year-old in New Hampshire.

first American, of any age, to win a season-long slalom title since Tamara McKinney in 1984. Furthermore, Shiffrin became the first-ever nonEuropean to win four World Cup slalom races in a single season. These stats, however impressive, are made all the more extraordinary with an understanding of how dramatically sophisticated, specialized and competitive the sport of ski racing — women’s especially — has become in recent decades. Shiffrin’s accomplishments relative to her age are historic on paper, but we probably shouldn’t even measure them that way.

HOW DOES SHE DO IT?

With success at such a young age comes attention from fans, sponsors and the media, which since her emergence has been on a quest to identify what makes her tick. What’s her secret? The answer is quite a bit simpler than the inquisitors expect: She just loves to go fast. In Shiffrin’s mind, it’s just that simple. Her coach, a former Austrian World Cup ski racer and program director for Vorarlberg Ski Team (a prominent feeder program into the Austrian Ski Team), believes Shiffrin is gifted with something special, ABOVE, COURTESY EILEEN SHIFFRIN | ABOVE RIGHT, ASSOCIATED PRESS

something difficult to put into words. “When she’s lying in bed, she thinks about skiing. She’s skiing all the time,” said Pfeifer. “When I talk to her about skiing, it feels like I’m talking to another Austrian coach, a guy who has been around 20 years of coaching. … She uses the same technique as the other girls, but the feeling is different. And when she gets to the start and she needs to put on a performance, she just does it. With 20 years in this business, coaching people 16-20, I have never seen this before.” One particular characteristic of Shiffrin’s performances on race day is either thrilling or gutwrenching depending on how you look at it. Somehow, in the second run, she always manages to put the hammer down exponentially on the homestretch, to come from behind in dramatic fashion for the win. She did this at World Championships, and she did this at World Cup Finals. We, the viewer, are able to watch the drama unfold, as split times are posted periodically throughout the run. Shiffrin, in fact, is the only person who doesn’t know exactly where she stands or how much time needs to be made up. “It is partly right that she is starting off a little slow and then accelerating,” said Pfeifer. “It’s not only that she is accelerating; it’s that her opponents are slowing down. … We want her to find her rhythm the first couple gates, and then slowly step on it.” Shiffrin, often one to think of others first, half-jokingly apologizes for any unnecessary stress and anxiety she may have caused during the last season. “It’s not the plan to get it done in the last 10 gates. It’s such an awful experience for everyone watching. I know it’s going to work but it’s such a stupid thing to have to rely on,” Shiffrin said with a laugh. “I would much rather be able to hammer the entire course. The last 10 gates always feel so great.”

THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRL

Shiffrin has lived in the Vail Valley on and off most of her life. For a time, her family lived outside Hanover, N.H., while her father, an

WHICH WAS A BIGGER THRILL, WINNING THE GOLD MEDAL AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS OR WINNING THE SLALOM GLOBE (SEASON TITLE)?

Probably winning the globe because it was the whole season in the making, and it came down to that last run. I just didn’t think I had it in me to win it. Winning the globe was my goal, but it was kind of like, who knows if I’ll be able to? When I started on that path and got the red bib, and I was holding onto it, I started thinking, maybe I can do this. And then I did, and it was amazing.

YOU’VE BEEN TO

SOCHI TO TRAIN, SO WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE HILL? DOES IT SUIT YOU?

The snow is kind of like spring snow. When we were there we actually had some pretty awesome conditions, but we used a lot of salt (to firm it up). It will be interesting to see how they can keep the conditions good for the entire two weeks of racing. I like the slalom hill a lot. It’s pretty steep at the top and then rolls into another little flat section then gets steep again into the finish. It’s pretty straightforward but kind of misleading because it has some challenge to it, as well. The GS hill is really fun. It’s pretty flat and then breaks over onto a really steep pitch and then flat again. It’s going to be a worker. You find the flow and hammer it.


COV ER S TO RY

The Shiffrin family in Vail: Mikaela with father Jeff, mom Eileen and older brother Taylor. “Family is really important to me,” Mikaela Shiffrin said.

anesthesiologist, was working at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center there. That’s how the family developed a connection to the Eastern race scene and to Burke Mountain Academy, one of the top ski academies in the country from which Shiffrin graduated last spring. Not long after, the Shiffrins missed the Rocky Mountain lifestyle and decided to move back. Her father, Jeff, got a job back in Colorado; her older brother, Taylor, attends school and races for the University of Denver; and her mother, Eileen, when not on the road with Mikaela, resides in the Vail Valley. Her daughter’s early development and stardom as an international ski racer presented an unusual challenge for the family. How do you send a 16-year-old girl off to Europe, traveling to different foreign locations every weekend while managing aggressive media demands and, of course, schoolwork? Eileen Shiffrin took on the assignment of manager, travel 98

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MY MOM KNOWS HOW I WORK. SHE KNOWS WHEN I’M TIRED, WHEN I CAN’T DO ANY MORE AND WHEN I CAN PUSH IT A LITTLE HARDER. IT’S A LONG WINTER AND HAVING HER AROUND IS A PIECE OF HOME. partner and best friend. It’s a job that has become all the more demanding as a result of the season Mikaela had last year — more media, more sponsor obligations, more travel time. Part of those schedule demands have included learning a new language, the language of ski racing, German, which is a gesture Lindsey Vonn,

for one, has used to win over the European fans and media. “There’s definitely been a lot of attention lately,” said Eileen Shiffrin. “It’s so awesome and exciting, but for somebody Mikeala’s age and also even for our own family, we’re still reeling from it because it all happened so quickly.” “Family is really important to me,” said the young racer. “When I started on this World Cup journey, I knew I wanted my mom to come with me because we’re really close. She gets me. She knows how I work. She knows when I’m tired, when I can’t do any more and when I can push it a little harder. … It’s a long winter and having her around is a piece of home.” Whether or not Shiffrin’s parents will be in Sochi when their daughter makes her Olympic debut, presumably, this February is still up in the air due to the logistical challenges made more complicated by politics of the event. But asked how she feels about likely having a future Olympian in the family, Eileen Shiffrin said, “We’re still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that she’s on the World Cup.” For the racer Shiffrin, it would be convenient if we could write the storyline that she grew up dreaming of one day winning the gold medal at the Olympics (see Lindsey Vonn), but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. As a little girl, Shiffrin dreamed of winning on the World Cup, where the sport has its roots, idolizing a bunch of European racers most Americans have never heard of — this would include many of the women she’s currently beating. If Shiffrin does come home from Sochi with a gold medal, it will be in part because of something innately authentic and timeless about her approach to ski racing, something her competitors will likely envy for years to come. COURTESY EILEEN SHIFFRIN


Hosting the World’s fastest skiers… again!

Please be our guest in February 2015!

Photo courtesy of Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts.


FA S T F O R WA R D

The men’s Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek is considered one of the most difficult on the World Cup circuit. The women’s course is quickly gaining the same reputation.

ROAD TO 2015 AFTER SOCHI, THE ALPINE SKIING WORLD’S EYES WILL TURN TO THE VAIL VALLEY.

O

ONE PERFECT RUN, and you are a legend. One tiny error, and you’re irrelevant. The 2014 Olympics will prove which athletes can perform on the biggest stage. Everyone else will be looking for redemption. Their next chance will be here on Birds of Prey, at the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships in the Vail Valley. About 70 nations and 700 athletes will be competing in 11 races from Feb. 2-15, 2015. Take the alpine skiing disciplines from the Olympics and make them their own event — that’s the simple description of the World Championships, which occur every two years.

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“I can’t speak for all alpine competitors, but I know in my time, and the current ones I know would say, to them, athletically it’s as big as the Olympics,” said Tiger Shaw, the incoming CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and a former racer who competed in the 1989 Worlds in Vail. Those championships piggybacked the Calgary Games. Twenty-five years later, the road to Vail/Beaver Creek 2015 runs through Sochi. Vail 2015 organizers will travel to Sochi for the Games to learn about logistics, security and transportation — lessons they can apply to their own event. For athletes, winning at Birds of Prey, one of the most fearsome tracks in the world, would be an impressive feat. The new women’s course, called Raptor, drops 2,500 feet with an average gradient of 27 percent, increasing to 45 percent in the middle. American downhiller Stacey Cook, 29, who tested the course last spring, said it is perhaps the most intense track she will ski in her career. “I’m excited about it but nervous at the same time because there is a lot of fear,” she said. “I guess that comes along with the speed and the forces it’s going to create. You just have to stay really focused and know that the job has to get done there.” Speed specialist Travis Ganong, 25, is eyeing his first Olympics, but knows that beyond Sochi, the 2015 Worlds at Birds of Prey — where he won a training run in 2012 — will be a huge opportunity. “We always perform really well on home soil. We get to sleep in comfortable beds, eat the food we’re used to. Our friends and family are there. It’s going to be really special,” Ganong said. — ED STONER

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K N OW YO U R AT H L E T ES

LOCAL CONTENDERS

WHETHER LIFELONG RESIDENTS OR TRANSPLANTS, THESE TEN ATHLETES COMPRISE A STRONG VALLEY CONTINGENT FOR THE SOCHI GAMES.

GA RTH HAGER , U.S. SKI TEA M | U.S. SKI TE AM

HEIDI KLOSER

VAIL NATIVE HEIDI KLOSER, who made her first World Cup podium last season, is seeking to take her competition to the next level by making the Sochi Olympics as a moguls skier. The 21-year-old follows in the footsteps of her father, Mike, a multi-faceted athlete who competed as a pro moguls skier, mountain biker and adventure racer. Heidi was first on skis at the age of 1. By the time she was 3 or 4, she was seeking out the bumps on Arrowhead Mountain. “Heidi would just naturally migrate toward the moguls with Mom and Dad in tow on the harness,” Mike said. By the age of 18, she was competing on the World Cup tour. Last year in Kreischberg, Austria, she finished in second place, her first podium. Disappointment followed when a timing error in Inawashiro, Japan, prevented her from making the World Championships team. The disappointment is fuel for her Olympic year. “I think things will go pretty well this year,” she said. However, earning a spot on the Olympic team will not be easy — World Cup stars Hannah Kearney, Heather McPhie and Eliza Outtrim anchor a stellar team of U.S. women’s moguls skiers. — ED STONER

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K N OW YO U R AT H L E T ES

LOCAL CONTENDERS

CHRIS DEL BOSCO

EAGLE-VAIL NATIVE and skicross star Chris Del Bosco, 31, is known as a risk-taker in a sport where one small mistake can mean the difference between first and last. That quality was never more apparent than during the 2010 Olympic event at Cypress Mountain, when Del Bosco, sitting in third place in the finals, made a daring pass attempt. He fell and ended up fourth. Del Bosco grew up in the Vail Valley as a talented ski racer, but his stint with the U.S. Ski Team was cut short amid drug and alcohol problems. Once clean, he was given a second chance, competing in skicross for Canada — his father grew up there — and he has made the most of it. After sitting out much of last season due to a shoulder injury, he came in second in the test event in Sochi last February. — ED STONER

Vail skier Aaron Blunck flies farther out of the halfpipe in feet than his age in years. At 16, the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy junior made finals in X Games in between studying for finals at school. Now 17 and a junior, his focus has shifted from one pinnacle of the sport to another. “Last year, all I was thinking about was making it to X Games,” he said. “This year, it’s the Olympics.” Blunck begins this season ranked third in the U.S., with four athletes earning Olympic bids. But perforating the season’s start and the trip to Sochi are several qualifying events. “Anything can happen,” he said. — JOHN LACONTE

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RALPH GREEN A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Paralympic Team, Ralph Green, of Vail, is used to overcoming obstacles and breaking barriers. At 16, he lost his leg after being caught in the crossfire of a random street shooting in his native Brooklyn, N.Y. He became the first black member of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team. Now, he’s ranked in the top 20 in the world for downhill and super-G. Sochi will be his third Paralympics, and he is aiming for his first medal. “Representing your country at the Paralympics is like no other feeling,” said Green, 36. “We’re talking about the biggest platform in sports — the Olympics and Paralympics.” — ED STONER

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AARON BLUNCK


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LOCAL CONTENDERS FAYE GULINI

DYLAN WALCZYK Ski and Snowboard Club Vail moguls skier Dylan Walczyk, 20, wasn’t even supposed to compete in World Cup last season, but a teammate’s injury gave him a surprise start at the Lake Placid, N.Y., event. Capitalizing on the opportunity, he landed on the podium. The Rochester, N.Y., native went on to achieve six top-10 finishes, ending up eighth in the overall standings. “When he saw the opportunity, he went hard,” said his coach, John Dowling, of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. — ED STONER

Faye Gulini is riding better than ever, and she’s already made it to the Olympics once. The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy 2011 graduate was the youngest athlete in the snowboard cross competition at the Vancouver Games, and she’s been steadily improving since. Gulini finished 10th or better in the final seven World Cup boardercross comps of 2013, and won the Grand Prix at Park City, claiming a national championship. “I’ve progressively been getting better since 2010,” Gulini said. “And I know there’s still a lot more I can learn.” The upcoming World Cup season will determine which, and how many, cross athletes join the U.S. Snowboard Team in Sochi. “We might not find out until a few weeks before the Olympics,” she said. — JOHN LACONTE

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SYLVAN ELLEFSON LIFELONG VAIL LOCAL Sylvan Ellefson, 26, only picked up Nordic skiing when he was a sophomore at Vail Mountain School, but has blossomed to an elite-level athlete. Despite not being a member of the U.S. Ski Team, he is still considered one of the best distance skiers in the nation and has a legitimate shot at making the Sochi Olympics. His performance early this winter in the national tour series will determine whether he gets the nod to go to Russia. “The actual town of Vail and the community have supported me so much growing up, it’s one of those things where I’d like to give back by going to the Olympics,” Ellefson said. “I know I’m not expected to go, but it’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. It’d be a treat to go.” — ED STONER

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KAITLYN FARRINGTON

SKI AND SNOWBOARD Club Vail snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington, 24, has been a regular on the podium at the X Games, the Dew Tour and the World Cup. Farrington, a halfpipe specialist from Sun Valley, Idaho, was the first women’s rider to pull off a backside 900. She spends early seasons training in Vail, is coached by Ski Club Vail staffers Ben Boyd and Elijah Teter, and returns to Vail as often as she can to work with coaches and trainers. “They’ve really supported me at Vail,” she said. She is gunning for her first Olympics. “The Olympic dream is every kid’s dream when you’re growing up,” she said. — ED STONER

His name’s Peter Adam Crook, but his friends call him Earl. After living in the Caribbean, Wisconsin and Crested Butte, Crook made his way to Vail for high school and joined Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy 2011 graduate was one of the first from the stacked list of alum hopefuls to know he officially qualified for the Olympics — as a native of the British Virgin Islands, the competition getting to Sochi wasn’t nearly as stiff. “I could not be more thrilled,” said Crook. “It has been one of my biggest goals for about six years now and is a dream come true.” — JOHN LACONTE

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AYUMU HIRANO For now, he’s known to many as “that 14-year-old Japanese snowboarder kid,” but make no mistake, Ayumu Hirano is well on his way to becoming a household name here in the U.S. He’s been competing against adults and reaching the podium in big comps for a while now, but he really caught the attention of Americans in January when he finished runner-up to Shaun White at the X Games superpipe, a marquee event in the sport of halfpipe snowboarding. “Their skills are similar,” says Hirano’s coach here in the U.S., Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Elijah Teter. “He likes to go big.” Barring catastrophy, Hirano is a shoo-in for his native Japan at the Olympics, where many expect him to be on the podium. He turns 15 on Nov. 29. — JOHN LACONTE

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LEGACY

DAVID AND RENIE GORSUCH DIDN’T WIN OLYMPIC MEDALS. THEY CARRIED FORWARD LESSONS LEARNED TO A WELL-ROUNDED LIFE. FIFTY-FOUR YEARS AGO, DAVID AND RENIE GORSUCH REPRESENTED THE U.S. AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS — THE PINNACLE OF THEIR SPORT. THEY NEVER RETURNED TO THE OLYMPICS, BUT IN MANY WAYS, IT WAS JUST A BEGINNING. “REALLY, SKIING’S GIVEN US EVERYTHING WE HAVE IN LIFE,” RENIE SAID. in Kitzbuehel, Austria, Skiing let them see as they trained the world. David grew on the legendary up in the tiny mining Hahnenkamm. town of Climax near At the 1960 Olympics Fremont Pass, skiing in Squaw Valley, David at the small ski area finished 14th in the his father helped build downhill and GS; Renie there, long before was ninth in the slalom. there was a Vail. “I skied the very best Renie Cox grew up in I could and came in the Western New York 14th,” David said. “But town of Port Leyden. I have no regrets. It The little blond girl was a great time.” would stand beside David raced for a legendary skier Otto DAVID AND RENIE GORSUCH RELAX IN ZURS, AUSTRIA, few more years. Renie Von Allmen while WITH THE OLYMPIC TEAM IN 1960. never competed again. he taught lessons at “Maybe if I had kept the tiny ski resort doing it, it would have been the dream of my lifetime of Snow Ridge and emulate what he taught. to be a gold medalist, but I was just delighted to be Skiing gave them work ethic. The hours of practice there and to be part of it,” Renie said. “The whole on wooden skis with leather boots, taking rope tows thing was great. But I also knew that would be the back to the top. Years later, they started a modest end for me. That I was going to go on and finish my ski shop, and it turned into a luxury brand. “I always education. I had a mother who said, ‘So, you’re a say we haven’t outsmarted anyone in our business, good skier. What else are you going to do in life?’” but we’ve outworked them,” Renie said. “I think that It turned out that the 1960 Olympics were just the came from being athletes — you have to work hard.” start of a rich life. They now have a large family, with Skiing gave them Vail. They moved their children and grandchildren living in the valley and ski shop here in 1966, and became pioneers helping run the business. “We always strived to go to in the fledging ski resort community that the Olympics, and we got to go, and it was wonderful,” would soon become world famous. Renie Gorsuch said as she sat in the famed Vail And of course, skiing gave them each other. They Clock Tower at her store. “But look at the wonderful met as junior ski racers at the 1954 Junior Nationals things we’ve gotten to do after that.” — ED STONER at Jackson Hole. They bought their wedding bands

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COURTESY DAVID & RENIE GORSUCH


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