Paula Moltzan poses for a portrait during the Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.
Less than a year ago, SKI magazine ran a feature on Paula Moltzan calling her the dark horse of the U.S. Ski Team and the one to watch who isn’t Mikaela Shiffrin.
Today, Moltzan stands ready to make her Olympic debut.
How did she get to this point?
Her road to Beijing certainly hasn’t been without its bumps.
Though born in Minnesota, a state not exactly known for its towering ski slopes, Moltzan nonetheless had some advantages. Her parents were both ski instructors, for one, and her coach at Bull Hill — the same local ski area where Lindsey Vonn got her start — was Erich Sailer, a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Famer with a record of producing Olympians.
Moltzan joined the racing team at 11 and started making progress. But while a sophomore in high school, she recalled in the SKI magazine article, she was told she was missing too much school and might fail a grade.
Instead, she moved to Vail, Colorado, to attend the public Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.
It looked like the right decision when she made the national team heading into her senior year and rose through the ranks for the next five seasons, winning a junior world title in slalom in 2015. Then, in 2016, she was dropped from the team.
Thinking her national team career was over, Moltzan enrolled at the University of Vermont and started climbing again.
She won the NCAA slalom title her freshman year, becoming only the fifth woman from Vermont to win that race and the first freshman to do it since 1986.
From that point on it was clear that her career was anything but finished.
She was 17th in a November 2018 slalom race at Killington, Vermont, her best finish ever in a world cup event. She earned more world cup starts and more top-20 finishes over the course of that season, and was once again named to the U.S. team.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.