River Radamus competes at the Audi FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup on March 16, 2019 in Soldeu, Andorra.
A native of Edwards, Colorado, River Radamus has been around ski racing for all of his 21 years.
His father Aldo has served in various capacities for the U.S. Ski Team in addition to 14 years as executive director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, and his mother Sara has coached since the 1980s. Growing up skiing at nearby Vail, River has just always been around the sport. It was almost predestined that he would become a ski racer, too.
“I was afforded a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I was presented with the sport from a very early age, but I was never pushed into ski racing, or told it was the thing to do. I just had a natural connection with the sport. I kept pursuing it and following my passion.”
Following his passion led Radamus to the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016 in Norway, where he won three gold medals. He’s still the most decorated U.S. Youth Olympian, though his progression in the sport was only just beginning.
Radamus made his world cup debut in December 2017, and one year later finished first overall in the Nor-Am Cup, which is a developmental series. Perhaps his biggest breakthrough, however, came last month, when he won the giant slalom and super-G at the junior world championships in Val di Fassa, Italy. That made him the first American to win two junior world titles in one season since Ryan Cochran-Siegle did so in 2012.
“Coming into this season, I really wanted to make the jump and get a gold medal at this world juniors,” said Radamus, who had previously won two silver medals at junior worlds, one in 2017 and one in 2018. “That was the target goal coming into this season, trying to prove myself to the world junior stage and show I belong there. I was able to do that.”
The next step for Radamus will be translating that success onto the top level, where there is an opening for a new face of the U.S. team with longtime stalwarts such as Bode Miller having retired, while Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman are on the tail ends of their careers.
Radamus has made strides on that front, too, having competed in his first full season on the world cup circuit this past season, where he ended up finishing three races in either super-G or giant slalom. His best result was 19th in the super-G final this past week in Soldeu, Andorra.
“I’m mixed about it. I’ve had some really strong points, and some low points as well,” said Radamus, who also notched a giant slalom win on the Nor-Am Cup circuit this season. “I accomplished everything I wanted to this year. As the season went on, my goals shifted. I still have a lot of unfinished business.”
As much was Radamus is focused on taking the next step in his individual skiing this past season, one of the accomplishments he’s most proud of is Team USA’s third-place finish in the race for the Marc Hodler Trophy. The award is based on a team’s overall performance throughout the junior world championships.
“Since it’s my last year at world juniors, I took a lot of pride in being able to lead that team,” he said. “I really wanted to put in a good performance, and I was shooting for a podium for us. That was something we all had in the back of our heads. It gave us something to cheer for each other and have a really great team spirit connection. We ended up in third place, on the podium for the first time since 2006.”
Skiing is an individual sport, but Radamus likes the team spirit that can develop at events like world championships.
"It is an individual sport, but there’s no way you can reach your goals unless you have a team behind you that is helping you accomplish that,” he said. “We try to cheer for each other, hold each other accountable to what we think they can accomplish. We’ve started to cultivate that the last few years in the U.S., and I hope to bring that forward as I go into the seniors.”
Training with the senior-level skiers this past season gave Radamus a valuable dose of experience as he continues his ski racing career, he said. Posters of Ligety adorned his wall at home, and now Radamus was training next to the Olympic gold medalist.
“Getting to race against the big boys is a totally different world,” he said. “Seeing the competition that’s out there, and the level of competition I have to have to be among the world’s best, it’s eye-opening and it’s inspiring.”
One thing he has learned over the course of the season is what he loves so much about skiing.
“Ski racing is intense on the one hand, where you’re trying to hunt for every hundredth of a second you can find, at the same time it’s very freeing and it’s very fun,” he said. “Feeling a pure curve on a ski is the closest thing I can feel to flying. When you’re really skiing well, and you’re really in the zone, everything’s working right, it almost feels like weightlessness.”
Maggie Hendricks is based in Chicago and has covered Olympic sports for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.