|(L-R) Nick Goepper, Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy pose for a photo at the 2014 Gold Medal Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Oct. 30, 2014.
With winter on its way, over two dozen of Team USA’s skiers and snowboarders — many of them Sochi Olympic medalists — gathered in New York City last week for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s annual Gold Medal Gala. Also known as the ski ball, it serves as the organization’s major fundraiser and a gathering of who’s who in the ski world, from five-time overall alpine skiing world cup champion of Luxembourg Marc Girardelli, who took a picture with two-time U.S. Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht, to rising U.S. alpine skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin.
Before the athletes gathered under the suspended giant blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History, they visited the Raika Studio on West 35th Street to get coiffed.
As stylists highlighted and snipped their hair, the athletes happily talked about what they did over the summer — and what they hope to accomplish in the coming season. No surprise that some of their favorite summer moments happened on snow.
Joss Christensen, Kaitlyn Farrington and Kelly Clark all listed trips to the southern hemisphere as their highlights.
Christensen, the gold medalist in slopestyle skiing’s Olympic debut, skied in Australia for three weeks with a good friend. They rented a room from some locals and hung out — “to be somewhere where we could relax more and hide and just have fun and ski,” he said, as his curly locks were trimmed.
Snowboarding’s halfpipe gold medalist, Farrington, went to Argentina with her best friend and fellow U.S. snowboarder, Maddy Schaffrick, for two weeks. “We went snowboarding looking for powder,” she said. “But we didn’t actually get any snow. But we still just had a fun time riding down there and freeriding for myself again.”
Clark’s trip to Chile this summer was for work; she was on a catalogue shoot for Burton Snowboards. But it was still a highlight.
“Any time you get to go to the snow in the summer is pretty fun,” she said. “We’d go out and snowmobile every day, and some days we were snowmobiling from Chile to Argentina, which I don’t know if it’s legal. But it was great.”
All three Olympic gold medalists — Christensen, Farrington and Clark — are competing again this year and are looking forward to a more mellow year than last, when making the U.S. Olympic team had them competing in more competitions than they usually do in one season. Farrington, in particular, wants to continue her quest for backcountry powder.
|Mikaela Shiffrin poses on the ESPYS red carpet on July 16, 2014 outside of Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles.|
When not training slalom or giant slalom, Mikaela Shiffrin said attending the ESPYS in July was a highlight. She was nominated for Best Female Athlete and Best Female U.S. Olympian.
For Devin Logan, not going skiing was the highlight of her summer. The slopestyle skiing silver medalist stayed in Park City, Utah, the whole summer and attended classes at Westminster College.
“It was nice to like get some vitamin D for once and be in a bathing suit and go swimming,” Logan said. “It was weird because I haven’t done that in a long time. But that was the nicest thing, not being in ski clothes.”
Logan is looking forward to competing in the Dew Tour, X Games and grand prix series but is disappointed that she will miss the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Austria, which are scheduled in January at the same time as X Games.
“They are huge competitions, and I want to be able to do both,” she said. “But if they’re scheduled at the same time, the X Games is an invite-only and it’s huge. It’s X Games.”
Gus Kenworthy was stumped when asked about his favorite summer moments.
“I wish I had some amazing answer,” said the Olympic silver medalist. “I feel like I had a pretty mellow summer hanging out in Denver.”
The slopestyle skier did not ski until late September, when he went to Switzerland for Freestyle.ch. After that event, he checked out four indoor ski domes in the United Kingdom.
Kenworthy’s slopestyle podium mate at the Sochi Games, Nick Goepper, did not hesitate when asked about his summer.
“The best thing I did this summer was move out of Indiana, like move away,” he said emphatically. “My life has been pretty crazy the last four years or so. So this year was like the first time I kind of like left home, quote unquote, and left the nest. That was a pretty big move for me.”
Goepper now calls Breckenridge, Colorado, home. He plans to compete again this winter and also hire a “personal filmer” to travel with him.
Sage Kotsenburg and Julia Mancuso both spent time surfing this summer. Kotsenburg, Olympic gold medalist in slopestyle snowboarding, rented a place with a friend in San Clemente, California, and surfed almost every day and skateboarded as well.
“Now I feel so energized to go back and snowboard because I took a lot of time off — more time than I wanted to actually,” he said. “But I enjoyed it a lot, surfing was amazing. It was really good to recharge the batteries.”
|Julia Mancuso posted a photo of herself on her Facebook page on Nov. 1, 2014, with the caption: "Back in da islands one last jump in the ocean before I head to the snow!"
Mancuso, who splits her time between Squaw Valley, California, and Hawaii, was invited to tow-surf in Fiji in late August. The 25-foot waves were the biggest that she had ever surfed, but she wasn’t scared.
“I was very focused and alert,” she said with a laugh. “I was definitely a little nervous, but once you’re doing it, you’re doing it, and you have to start focusing, get in that energy.”
David Wise’s best summer memories were more mellow. In July, the halfpipe skiing gold medalist went on an annual four-day boat camping trip to Bullards Bar Reservoir about two hours west of Reno, Nevada. He usually goes with a friend but this time, took his family as well. They set up slack lines and a rope swing and just chilled.
“It was a vacation, but you’re not going very far,” he said, “and it’s more rugged because you’re camping out. That’s my style of vacation.”
Wise plans on competing at the Dew Tour, X Games and grand prix. He will also do “a lot more filming” and spending time in the backcountry.
Before starting her final season competing on the moguls world cup tour, Hannah Kearney spent time hiking in Zion National Park, near Springdale, Utah. She hiked Angels Landing and the Narrows in May and enjoyed the change of scenery.
“The rocks, they’re unlike anything that I’ve seen in the world or our country,” she said. “Coming from Vermont, we’re still in the same country, but we might as well be on a different continent because it’s so different.”
Andrew Weibrecht, the surprise silver medalist in men’s super-G in Sochi, went on a USO trip to Hawaii to “hang out with the troops for a few days” in May.
“To me, that was one of the coolest experiences,” he said. “That was a direct result of (winning) the medal. That was awesome.”
Sophie Caldwell’s summer didn’t go exactly as planned. After a season where she scored the best finish by an American woman in an Olympic cross-country skiing race, she broke her right elbow while mountain biking in May. Then in early October, she broke her left elbow after she tripped on a cord, and had to have surgery.
Unable to use ski poles yet, she will miss the first cross-country world cup in late November. But she hopes to compete again in December.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.