Nina O’Brien is going into her sixth year on the U.S. Ski Team. The former Burke Mountain Academy athlete has progressed from the D team and currently focuses on GS and slalom as a member of the U.S. B team.
O’Brien makes her season debut Saturday in Soelden, Austria, where she finished 21st a year ago. Her favorite event is giant slalom, and she’s particularly looking forward to the snow pack and race hill conditions for the race on Saturday.
“I am excited,” said O’Brien. “Last year I scored here and I am feeling good about Soelden. It’s always hard to say with the first race of the year.”
Following the race on Saturday, O’Brien will fly back to Denver for 10 days, prior to returning to Europe for the season with a flight itinerary that keeps her across the pond until March 22.
“It’s a little bit daunting,” said O’Brien. “But we are all on the same page and embrace it so I’ll just pack an extra duffle bag of clothes.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will confine the alpine World Cup to Europe this season, O’Brien and the rest of the women’s tech team will miss out on Killington — her favorite stop and site of her World Cup debut. In the meantime, O’Brien is also looking forward to Courchevel as one of her favorite venues for the “beauty, hotel, and amazing food.”
This summer has been an exciting change for O’Brien who typically spends her spring and summer at Dartmouth studying toward a degree in economics. When classes transferred online, O’Brien headed back to Park City for a summer of strength training at the Center of Excellence.
“The workouts were tough,” said O’Brien. “I would wake up, workout, stare at my computer, do school, workout again, go to sleep, and repeat. Our trainer did a really good job writing the programs. I feel all the work is paying off and feel pretty strong on my skis right now.”
O’Brien has spent the last few weeks in Europe preparing for the season opener. She calls it a “lucky training block” that has been granted with great weather and good snow for productive time on snow. While there have been few 10-hour car rides between training venues, O’Brien has utilized the snow time to modify her equipment setup and gain confidence on her skis before going into the World Cup season.
“There are always things to clean up in my skiing,” said O’Brien. “I am just trying to make everything really solid and then when I feel stable on my skis that’s when I feel confident going into a race.”
In terms of goals for the season, O’Brien is focused on “throwing down” strong second runs that move her rankings up in the top 30.