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Steven Nyman Will Say Goodbye To Competitive Ski Racing In Aspen

By Brian Pinelli | March 03, 2023, 11:58 a.m. (ET)

Steven Nyman competes during the men's downhill at the 2022 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Dec. 3, 2022 in Beaver Creek, Colo.


For nearly two decades, Steven Nyman has traveled the globe taking on the world’s toughest downhill courses as a fixture on the U.S. Ski Team. This Saturday in Aspen, Colorado, Nyman will bid an emotional farewell to world cup ski racing.

The 41-year-old Utah ski racer – who made his FIS World Cup debut in March 2002 at the age of 20 – will ski down a world cup race course for the final time as an athlete. It will be a career “victory lap” of sorts. 

Split times and aerodynamics will be insignificant. Nyman will make his final descent wearing a pair of jeans, sleeveless denim vest and perhaps a cowboy hat, as opposed to his usual speed suit. The attire will honor the close-knit “American Downhillers” fraternity of ski racers.

Nyman will ski leisurely, stopping often to say goodbye to coaches, friends and officials along the 1.7-mile America’s Downhill race slope. He has a few other tricks in mind.

“I want to go at the end of the pack and livestream it with a GoPro on my chest, so people who can’t make it there can take that run with me,” Nyman reveals. “It should all be pretty fun.”

His wife, Charlotte, and two young daughters, Nell and Ayla, will be among teammates, competitors and others celebrating his career in the Aspen finish area. 

“I’ll cry for sure – I’ll for sure break down,” Nyman says about his weekend retirement party in the Colorado Rockies.

A Love Affair With Val Gardena

Nyman announced his retirement earlier this week, but the writing has been on the wall ever since persistent back pain and a broken hand prevented him from competing on his favorite downhill track in Val Gardena, Italy, in mid-December.

The Saslong course has been the scene of all three of Nyman’s world cup downhill victories – in 2006, 2012 and 2014. It is said that it is true ‘amore’ between the passionate skier and the classic Italian Dolomites piste.

“I loved that hill – it treated me very well, but it also beat me up a few times,” Nyman says of Val Gardena’s Saslong. 

“I got to dance with it one more time and that was enough for me to say goodbye,” Nyman says, about making one final training run at the Italian ski resort before realizing he couldn’t race. 

When his hand didn’t heel as quickly as anticipated and the back pain lingered well into January, both hindering quality training, retirement was imminent.

Steven Nyman inspects the men's downhill course at the 2022 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Dec. 13, 2022 in Val Gardena, Italy.


Career Achievements & the Passion Within

In addition to his three triumphs in Val Gardena, Nyman attained 11 podiums and in early 2016 reeled off a hot streak of four consecutive top-three downhill finishes. Twice he has finished sixth in the season-long world cup downhill standings (2015 & 2016).

Nyman burst on the international scene winning a slalom gold medal at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Tarvisio, Italy. Despite the achievement, he transitioned into becoming a bonafide downhiller and one of the best gliders on tour. His passion, focus and determination has been fixated on achieving top speed in the sport’s most daring discipline.

“I absolutely love it – love the sport, I love the challenges, I love exposing yourself on the mountain and seeing what you’re really capable of,” Nyman says about ski racing. “Continually striving to be better is such a fun endeavor and being in the arena of the best in the world is a special place.”

Team Player 

Despite Nyman’s 6-foot-4 frame, imposing figure and often scruffy, tough-guy looks, he earned the reputation as one of the friendliest guys on tour. The burly ski racer has also been a consummate teammate, leading his fellow U.S. racers with passion, enthusiasm and selflessness. 

“As Americans we move as a family, traveling together in Europe – we don’t have that ability to just go home for a couple of days, so we have to function as a team,” Nyman said. 

“When I made the team, Daron (Rahlves) opened his arms to me as an amazing teammate and that inspired me to do the same. Marco (Sullivan) was an incredible teammate also. 

“Marco and I were in that transition period and then I bled into the new generation of Bryce (Bennett), Travis (Ganong) and Ryan (Cochran-Siegle),” Nyman says, noting his current teammates.

“Just passing on our tradition to the younger crew is so important and keeping the sport going, inspiring the youth is critical,” he added.

Slowed Down by Injuries

Nyman has often been sidelined from races battling to recover from a slew of debilitating injuries including two Achilles tears, two major knee injuries and breaks in both legs. He has also grappled with disappointing results, occasionally puzzled as to what went wrong at races holding great promise.

“It’s hard to win – ski racing isn’t always a fair sport,” Nyman said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and had some races taken away from me. It’s a risky sport and that’s part of the game.”

Dedicating himself to a bone-jarring sport in which impending danger and frequent knee injuries often dictate the lifeblood of athletes, it might seem that injuries have gotten the best of Nyman. However, having stuck around the “brotherhood of ski racers” into his early 40s, he is to be commended for his ability to overcome adversity and longevity in the sport.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished and the way that I’ve done it,” Nyman said.

Nyman has suited up for Team USA at three Olympic Winter Games, and it would have been four if not for another untimely crash and injuries sustained in Germany, less than two weeks before the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. His dream of an Olympic medal – excited to race on a course at which he finished third at a test event – ended abruptly.

“I fought so hard to come back from an ACL (injury) and then blew my knee in Garmisch and didn’t get to go,” Nyman said. “I really loved that hill in PyeongChang and wish I could have challenged it again. That was tough.”

Steven Nyman skis during training for the men's downhill ahead of the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.


Ski Racing on the Olympic Stage

The grizzled Utah ski racer competed at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006, Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 and Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. His best Olympic downhill result was 19th in Torino. 

Nyman said he was inspired by his elder U.S. Olympians including 1994 Olympic downhill champion Tommy Moe, world cup winner A.J. Kitt and six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller. His desire to ski as an Olympian burned stronger after he witnessed the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 in his own backyard.

“I was so inspired watching the 2002 Olympics and seeing Bode’s (Alpine) combined run and then I took off to World Juniors and won there,” Nyman recalled.  

“It’s kind of cool that my heroes who inspired me are now my friends.”

Saying goodbye at a race on American snow in Colorado, which along with California’s Palisades Tahoe, were only recently added to the World Cup calendar, Nyman believes he is leaving the sport and U.S. ski racing in a promising place.

“Holding events here is critical to the sport and the nation,” Nyman says, referring to this season’s schedule with four U.S. World Cup racing venues, the most since 1997. “Getting the exposure to the kids with a lot more races here hopefully will keep bringing out great young talent.”

Decisions Ahead and a Little Help From the USOPC

What lies around the bend for the soon-to-be retired racer?

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see me as a coach in some fashion – I love this sport too much,” Nyman says.

However, Nyman is keeping his future career options open. He might even rely upon some assistance from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

“Through the USOPC grants, I’d like to transition into business programs at Dartmouth or Harvard,” Nyman said. “They’ll help me to figure out what my skill sets are, what I’ve learned through skiing and how that can help me in the business world.”

Brian Pinelli

Follow Brian on Twitter – @Brian_Pinelli.

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