The U.S. Ski Team’s Laurenne Ross is a key figure on the World Cup tour who made her debut on the circuit in 2009. She is not only a serious contender in the speed disciplines, but she’s also the one keeping it simple and fun throughout the season with her additional passions for music and photography. Learn more about the inspiring athlete in this FIS Q&A with the American speedster.

The 2015-16 season was the best in your career so far (eighth in the SG rankings, 10th in DH and 18th overall). What was your personal highlight?
My personal highlight was my fifth place in the downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had been struggling at the beginning of the season, only breaking into the top 10 once before Garmisch. I had some difficulties staying physically healthy when the season ensued, with low-back pain and a shoulder dislocation, and my confidence was not strong. But once I had a good run in the Garmisch downhill, I knew I could return to the confident skiing that I embodied in the 2014-2015 season. Tommy Ford, my boyfriend, was also there to watch and celebrate with me. I am particularly proud of my consistency throughout the remainder of the season, with many top-five finishes and dependable, stable skiing.

You claimed your second career podium in Soldeu-El Tarter in the SG. The conditions were pretty difficult (snow, many delays) and you drew an early start number. How did you handle this situation, and what made the difference in the end?
It was certainly beneficial to start at the front of the pack for the race in Soldeu, which was a fact that I didn’t know as I left the start gate. I simply tried to ski my fastest, handled the terrain well and carried my speed down the whole hill. Even with a few small mistakes, you can be on the podium if you are constantly searching for speed. I got lucky with my start number, but I took advantage of it. We are in an outdoor sport, in uncontrollable conditions, so it’s pretty rare for a race to be completely fair. I just ended up on the lucky side of the draw that day in Soldeu.

It must feel great to find your speed and be back on the podium. Did it change your goals for next season? Is the game plan more relying on the current shape or did it become a personal expectation to grab podium spots at every race?
Getting back on the podium unquestionably made me hungry for more great results, but in general, I am not really a “goal-setter.” I try to go into every race with no expectations, and keep it simple by just striving to ski my fastest: to find the fire, determination and calm that helps me to do so. Inevitably, that realization of my fastest skiing will land me back on the podium. It is the consistency that I will continue to pursue in the upcoming seasons.

Today I got to live in a postcard #stmoritz #claimtheanalogy ?: @theunicornphysio

A photo posted by Laurenne Ross (@lalalaurenne) on

Next season, we’ll have the Audi FIS World Ski Championships in St. Moritz. You earned your first World Cup points in the Swiss resort and were fifth in the SG at finals last season. Does it help to approach the event in a positive way? What are your goals in St. Moritz?
Heading back to St. Moritz for a big event is definitely exciting and calming. I somehow feel at home in St. Moritz, as I have been there for many races in the past and enjoy the atmosphere created by the World Cup races held there. It is not a scary hill per se, so it is comforting not to dread the event and instead look forward to it with eagerness and composure. I’m happy with the way I have skied there in the past and I know I can be one of the fastest girls on that hill, so I’m coming into the event with a positive outlook. As far as goals or expectations, I will solely try to ski my fastest and hope that the results will come.

What does summer mean to you, what are your doing between the finals and the start of a new season? 
I enjoy every season and all of the varying delights that come along with them: snow, skiing and hot tea in the winter time, flowers and learning during the spring (I attend university every spring), mountain and ocean adventure workouts in the summer, and the colors and calm in the fall. For me, every season comes with its pleasures that helps me to find my balance. I could not live in winter all year, nor could I live in summer. I need the time away from snow in order to learn to crave it again, and to really rejuvenate my motivation and hunger to race. I am currently in New Zealand, and am glad to be back in the snowy mountains after a short but hot and busy summer. Coming back to the mountains feels like home, but so often does heading to the ocean in summer, or exploring the desert. I love the change of pace that my lifestyle currently nurtures.

an update on my New Zealand travels — see my website (link in my profile) to catch up laurenneross.com

A photo posted by Laurenne Ross (@lalalaurenne) on

Back in 2010, you won the overall title in the NorAm Cup. How important was it as a young racer to start scoring on that tour? What would you recommend to athletes who are trying to make the step to the World Cup?
It was huge to win the NorAm Cup overall title, as it gave me a guaranteed spot in every World Cup event for the next race season. The gap between NorAms and World Cups is fairly substantial, which made it difficult to carry over my confidence. Europa Cups are definitely a step up from NorAms, but I found them to be extremely tough to score in, especially as an inconsistent contender (without many Europa Cup points). The European racers are fully committed to the Europa Cup circuit, and the field is extremely dense in those races. But they provided some really good experience for me to take the next step into the World Cup scene, and I think these European races are a really important stage in any racer’s career. I recommend gaining confidence from these smaller races, but being prepared for a challenge on the World Cup circuit while still remaining relaxed. The main things are to always keep it simple (which is something I still forget from time to time), and don’t compare yourself to others (be kind and know we’re all in the same battle). Sometimes the sense of community is lost in ski racing because of the individual components of the sport, and that is something I hope to help change.

On your website, you have some inspiring words about skiing (“I wanted to go fast to get that feeling of weightlessness, of flow, of contentment, of euphoria. I can recall a few times this year that I have found that pleasure, and it makes me yearn for more”), and you seem to be quite an artist in photography as well. How do you handle the balance between your artistic interests and your career as an athlete?
My artistic pursuits are essential for me to maintain a balanced mentality. Although I cannot dedicate the time and effort that my art needs to be distinctive and reputable, I enjoy it regardless. Taking photographs helps me to see things from a different, fresh perspective. So does writing and creating, and I love doing these things on the road. I am slowly working towards my bachelor in fine arts at the University of Oregon, but I’m not sure what I will do with that degree when I’m finished ski racing. Hopefully I can take it into an area of sustainable design or something similar, while maintaining the creativity that I strive for to keep me feeling gratified.

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Release courtesy of FIS