Travis Ganong is an up-and-coming U.S. Ski Team Alpine racer. Ganong hails from Lake Tahoe, Calif. where he grew up skiing at Squaw Valley. In 2012, he finished 12th, a career best, on the famed Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. When he’s not racing, Ganong spends his time free skiing and even did some big mountain skiing this past summer in Alaska for Warren Miller’s latest film: Flow State. Ganong will be blogging for OnTheSnow throughout this World Cup season as he prepares for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The life of a ski racer isn’t all glitz and glamour. It takes a lot of work to compete at the top level, and endless hours of training goes into each race day. Almost every training day starts before the sun even hints at rising, which has its benefits and its negatives. This is normal for a ski racer. The negatives are pretty obvious: lack of sleep, blistering cold, no time to enjoy the morning, but the positives are many!
The plan is to ski full length Super G in the morning, so we go to sleep setting our alarms for a 5:30 a.m. wake up call. On this particular morning in La Parva, Chile, we woke up to 15-degree weather and a full on blizzard that left us with a nice foot-and-a-half of cold smoke powder. “Cold Smoke” equals the driest, lightest snow you can imagine because when you ski through it the snow billows up into the air behind you and looks like a smoke trail of snow following your tracks down the mountain.
Now, being a ski racer, and waking up at 5:30 a.m. to go skiing, means that we have access to the mountain before the public… way before in fact, and there are about 10 days a year where these days coincide with a powder day. So waking up at 5:30 a.m., I see what’s going on outside, and even though the coaches are going to try as hard as they can to pull training off, I know better and trade in my Atomic Super G warm up skis for my powder boards.
The faint glow of the sun starts to appear on the horizon as I ride up the first long T-Bar. While all the other coaches and athletes are waiting around at the top to figure out what to do, I slip through the early morning light and decide to take a hot lap back down to the bottom. No one is around as I plow through the knee deep cold smoke laughing to myself and enjoying the moment.
Sure, being a ski racer means that I have to skip a few powder days here and there, and I have to spend a lot of time training in the gates, but then there are the days like these when the entire mountain of La Parva opens for just a handful of skiers at 6 a.m. with a foot and a half of powder to be shred. I’m not complaining one bit! Along with a few teammates, we spend the rest of the early morning all alone taking run after run enjoying the storm and enjoying our private mountain of powder. I kind of feel bad about tracking out all of the good lines before the public gets out there, but then again I did wake up before dawn, and I have dedicated my entire life to ski racing, so whatever… I’ll take another lap.
After lunch and a nap, Steve Nymen and I decided to go back out and hike up behind La Parva into this zone called McConkey’s and ski “El Chimeny”… it was good, really good, with waist deep powder turns down the couloir. We brought the GoPros along to share the adventure… enjoy!