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Aspen Peak - 2017 - Issue 1 - Summer

Aspen Peak - Niche Media - Aspen living at its peak

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ASPENPEAK-MAGAZINE.COM  93 GOLDEN GIRL With her overall World Cup win in Aspen, Colorado native Mikaela Shiffrin is officially alpine skiing's queen—and she's just getting started. S ki racer Mikaela Shiffrin won the overall title in the 2017 FIS Ski World Cup Finals, which took place in Aspen this March, while she was taking a nap. "It was sort of anticlimactic because you think you will have some super-epic, miraculous race and then win it," she says. "And all of that emotion comes to a climax at the finish line, and the crowd's cheering…" As it happened, the Vail native won competitive alpine skiing's top prize on points, four days after her 22nd birthday, when her biggest competitor, 26-year-old Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, pulled out of her final race. "My mom came into my room and said, 'Hey, you won the overall, congrats!'" says Shiffrin. "I was totally disoriented, thinking, What are you talking about?" "But that's sort of how it happens with me," she adds. "My life is centered around rest and napping and sleeping, and anything that's not is focused around skiing and food and working out and family. So I feel that was the best way for it to happen. I found out, and then I was like, all right, let's move on, because I have two more races left this season." Still, she agrees, anticlimactic or no, there are worse ways to wake up. Seen as a metaphor—"she can do it in her sleep"—her win reveals two truths about Shiffrin's career. At only 22 years old, in a sport where athletes tend to peak in their late 20s, she is considered the best female racer in the world. Even before her overall win in March, Shiffrin became the youngest-ever Olympic slalom cham- pion, at 18, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She won slalom gold in the past three World Championships, added a silver in giant slalom this year, and was the four-time World Cup slalom champion from 2013 to 2016 after breaking onto the circuit at the age of 15. (She came in second this year, beat out by 0.24 seconds by Slovakian Petra Vlhova.) While it took Lindsey Vonn, one of Shiffrin's idols and the most decorated women's skier in history, 44 races to place a top- three finish, it took Shiffrin just eight. And although Shiffrin holds 31 World Cup victories to Vonn's record 77, Vonn had only four when she was Shiffrin's age. She can do it in her sleep because she is a phenom with preternatural talent. But what makes her the world's best is how she has honed that talent with what even the most seasoned skiers and commentators can't believe she possesses at her age: flawless technique. It is a prod- uct of an extraordinary work ethic, her preparation-to-performance mindset, her grueling training schedule and, in between, when and how she rests—meaning she can do it in her sleep because her sleep, like every other aspect of training, is crucial to her performance. All together, it's that preparation and discipline that has allowed her to dominate in slalom, winning by two or three seconds in races whose margins are typically decided by a tenth or a hundredth. It's also allowed her to continue to improve in giant slalom, as well as the speed disciplines, super-G and downhill, and become the youngest overall World Cup winner since 2003, cementing her transition into an all-around skier. She doesn't naturally have a "killer instinct," she says. Rather, her competitiveness manifests itself in a fidelity to constant improvement. It's almost always what she's thinking about. Even after her greatest achievement to date, she says, "the biggest feeling I'm having right now is to not rest on my laurels." S hiffrin first acquired her slalom form learning to ski through the trees in Vail, where she was born and where her father, a doctor, and her mother, a nurse, introduced her and her older brother to the slopes. The inception of her racing mentality may well have started the first day she remembers on the mountain, a powder day following the biggest storm of the season. "I was 5 years old. I got stuck in the snow because I was used to sitting for- ward on my skis and on my edges. [In the powder] that just dug me deeper," she says. "I was just drowning in snow. My dad had to pull me out by my feet. He said, 'In powder you have to be more cen- tered, you can't be so forward. And not so much edge.' What I got out of that was, 'Sit [back] and don't turn.' So I just went straight down the mountain, so fast. It took the rest of the group 15 minutes to get down. I was like, 'What took you guys so long?'" She entered her first race the following year. by MURAT OZTASKIN

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