Leading the American squad with a career-best 19th-place result in the World Cup slalom standings last season, Crested Butte’s David Chodounsky is one of a handful of U.S. racers expected to lay claim to competing at a World Alpine Ski Championships in their home state of Colorado next February. While Chodounsky has yet to ski his best in a major event, the Dartmouth grad’s World Cup results have been on a steady rise in recent years, perhaps laying the groundwork for a breakout season in 2015. Ski Racing recently caught up with Chodounsky, living in Park City this summer, to talk offseason training, plans for the winter and goals for the World Championships in Beaver Creek.
Ski Racing: With the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships coming to your home country and home state, what’s on your mind and how does this offseason compare to others?
Chodounsky: It’s going to be really cool to have time to spend in our home country (during the middle of the season), which doesn’t happen very often. As for this offseason, I feel like it’s pretty normal. Everybody is working hard, like usual. It’s getting hot now, so everyone is starting to get the itch back for snow.
SR: As a guy who took a somewhat unconventional path to the U.S. Ski Team (graduating from college first), when did it first cross your mind that these championships on home snow could be within your reach?
Chodounsky: I’m not really sure. I didn’t really look this far ahead. The big thing in your mind is alway the Olympics, so I was really looking at that as my big goal last year. I made my first World Championships in Garmisch in 2011, and then in 2013 I went to Schladming. I started being consistently in the top 30, so from there I began looking ahead and thinking about where the next one would be. Beaver Creek definitely stuck in my mind. I’m definitely going for it. It’s a big deal to be able to do this at home. … I haven’t had the best track record at World Champs. I was pretty nervous in Garmisch, but I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with the big stage.
SR: With three DNFs in major events (Garmisch, Schladming and Sochi), do you feel like there is a little bit of a monkey on your back? How can you capitalize on your past experienced at major events?
Chodounsky: It does for sure (feel that way). I think the hardest thing for me at those races is you kind of break out of your rhythm. In January, you’re racing all the time. It’s like boom, boom, boom every weekend. You get into a rhythm. And the you stop, and then you have a month off from big races. I think that’s the biggest challenge for me.
SR: How do you think having the championships in North American will play for the Europeans? Obviously they’ve proved they can come over here and do well, but do you anticipate an advantage for the North Americans due to the logistics, the snow and, like you said, just being out of the usual rhythm?
Chodounsky: Absolutely. They have to travel to our home. It’s always us traveling there. I was talking to one of the Europeans, and I said, “Are you coming over for the end-of-the-year NorAms?” He said no, and I asked why not. “Because you Americans always ski better at home,” he said. So there is definitely a home field advantage, for sure, especially home continent.
SR: Tell me a little bit about the Beaver Creek hill from a tech standpoint. Obviously, the Birds of Prey is much talked about from a speed standpoint, but what are your thoughts as a tech racer?
Chodounsky: It’s a great hill. Like you said, the Birds of Prey speed courses are awesome. As a slalom skier, I’ve only raced there once, and that was due to a cancellation in Val d’Isere. So we hardly ever get to race there, so I don’t know the hill too well. But it’s a good hill. It’s long, it’s on the flatter side, but it’s got some rolls and some terrain. The GS I think is a very classic GS. You can carry your speed through the whole thing. It’s not like you need to hack it down one section; it’s flowy GS.
SR: What’s your plan heading into next season? Will you continue to focus on slalom or will you make a push in GS also?
Chodounsky: I’d love to ski some more GS, so yeah, maybe this summer and into the fall I can ski some more GS and get some good races in, hopefully drop my points and see where it goes from there. Obviously, slalom is my specialty and the discipline I really want to do well in, but I’d love to get another event in there.
SR: Would you say that’s a goal for you this season, to make the GS start at World Champs?
Chodounsky: Yeah, I’d say so for sure. It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s by no means easy to achieve for me, but I am going for it.
SR: What are you working on in your slalom skiing? Is there anything technically you have in mind as we approach the summer camps?
Chodounsky: Specifically, I’d say one of the big things for me is really getting on the outside ski early and getting a clean initiation on the outside ski at the top of the turn. If I do that, then I feel like I ski really well. If I pop up in the air, if I lean in or tip in, that’s when it goes wrong for me — and it goes wrong pretty quick.
SR: What kind of buzz have you been sensing with friends and family back home in Colorado?
Chodounsky: They are pretty excited. It took a little while for everyone to calm down from the Olympics, but I feel like energy is definitely picking back up.