It's pretty crazy how quickly a string of DNF's can pile up. It feels like it was just yesterday when I switched over my primary focus to slalom, yet it took me 16 World Cup slaloms to finally break into a second run. I entered last season with two career World Cup slalom starts, both of which resulted in a hike or two or three. After starting off last season with a win on the ANC circuit and a podium in the Europa Cup opener, I was given starts in all nine regular season World Cup slaloms. It was a great learning experience for me. I ended up DNFing or hiking in all but one of the World Cups I entered. I realized there were some major adjustments I needed to make to be a threat on the World Cup.
After a switch to Blizzard/Tecnica and a really focused summer prep period in France, New Zealand, Australia, and Norway I felt like I was finally feeling consistent and fast, a combination that had eluded me throughout my career. I went into the start of the World Cup season with a lot of confidence, yet still started off the season with a hike and a DNF in the first two races. After 13 tough and disappointing races to start my World Cup career I began to question if my skiing was good enough for the difficult World Cup tracks or if maybe someone put some kind of DNF voodoo on me. I decided I wasn't cursed and got back to training to keep making adjustments to get myself prepared for the more challenging World Cup courses.. After an awesome 10 days of training and racing on steep gnarly icy stuff between my DNF in Val d'Isere, France and the third World Cup of the year in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, I became much more comfortable on the tougher tracks. In Madonna things went a lot better than my previous 13 World Cup slaloms, while I didn't qualify, I made it to the finish line with minimal mistakes for the first time in my career. I definitely didn't push it to the limits by any means, but I was very happy to know that it was possible for me to make it down a World Cup slalom.
I brought a lot of confidence out of that into the start of 2017. The first race of the new year was in Zagreb, Croatia on January 5th and I had a couple little mistakes but a really fast middle section and ended up just .04 seconds from qualifying for the first time. I was definitely disappointed but at the same time happy with the direction my skiing and my results were going in. After a disappointing race battling through the fog in Adelboden, Switzerland, we moved across the valley to the Wengen, the site of the first World Cup ever, and the site of my brother Tim's first career points last season. On the day of the slalom race the snow was hard, the weather was great, the course set was tight and quick and I knew it was perfect for me. It was definitely the most confident I've ever been kicking out of a World Cup starting gate. I skied well up top, ripped the pitch, having the 4th fastest time in the difficult middle section, then had a couple little bobbles on the bottom but it was good enough to put me into 19th place after the first run, my best ever first run on World Cup. I was super excited to finally qualify for my first slalom second run and my first second run since the Adelboden GS in 2014. The second run didn't go quite as I had hoped, I had some major mistakes but managed to finish and get my first slalom points with a 25th place.
Next we traveled to Austria for the two biggest slaloms of the year, Kitzbuehel and Schladming. I skied pretty well in Kitzbuehel but as I saw the finish line in sight I backed off to make it to the finish and had a horribly slow bottom split and ended up just missing out on a second run. Schladming was two days later and going into that race all I was thinking about was pushing it all the way to the bottom of the course, no letting up. In the fist run I had a hard time getting into the rhythm the whole way and had a couple little bobbles that put me in 35th position after the last interval, I ended up doing exactly what I had worked on, pushed it to the finish, had the seventh fastest final interval and ended up in 26th place, qualifying for the second time in three races. Unfortunately, the focus of trying to push it to the finish got the better of me on the second run, and I ended up wiping out a few gates from the finish...and then hiked up and got the greatest ovation of my life. That was pretty cool.
I'm psyched to say that those two results were good enough to qualify me for my second career World Championships team and I'll be heading to St. Moritz next week to race the slalom on February 19th! I'll be traveling over with my mom, Lindy, who raced in the St. Moritz World Championships in 1974, so that's pretty cool! My cousin Ryan Cochran-Siegle is also on the World Champs team and his mom, my Aunt Barbara Ann, who also raced in the 1974 World Champs is heading over as well! I'm really happy with the progress I've made on the World Cup this year but I'm still working hard to keep getting faster and more consistent with my fast skiing so I can become a real podium threat on the World Cup! I'm extremely inspired by guys like Dave Ryding and Alexander Khoroshilov who kept chipping away, slowly but surely improving each year until all of a sudden they found themselves in the top group of the World for the first time in their 30s.
I'm home for a few more days before flying to St. Moritz on Monday. Looking forward to getting a few more awesome days of training at Stowe and Cochran's to get ready for next weekend! Thanks for reading and here are a few more pictures from the past couple months!