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.
After the powder day skiing "El Chimenea", we all had our fix of the soft stuff. There is no new snow in the forecast, so as I hit the sack and set the alarm for 5:30 a.m., I know that we will be training Super G in the morning. Every summer, the U.S. Ski Team makes sure that we get 35 to 45 days on snow, so that come winter, we are already in “mid-winter” ski shape, and ready to compete. These early morning training sessions in Chile are very important.
The next morning, we hop on the shuttle at 6:30 a.m., boots on, and ride up the switchbacks of La Parva to the second T-bar. My ski technician spent hours the day and night before waxing, tuning and scraping the four pairs of Super G skis that I will use. He is waiting by the T-bar, skis laid out, ready for me to slog them up to the Super G course. The coaches took an earlier 6 a.m. shuttle to start setting up the gates, the protective B-net on the hillsides, the timing and to mark the course with dye. It is amazing all the work that goes into one of our training days.
I take one warm-up run, followed by an inspection run and then get all fired up for the session to start! We are all at the start getting ready, when through the early morning light we see a skier appear from the Valle Nevado side of La Parva. Low and behold, it’s Daron Rahlves, the ex-U.S. Ski teamer who just happens to be the most-winning American Downhiller of all time, a badass freeskier, a fellow Tahoe local and my hero! He came over for the morning to watch us train, give us some advice, take some photos of us ripping and take part in an awesome Super G session.
With my hero watching, I push out of the starting gate on my first run. I quickly gain speed as I head for the first jump. That first real run in the morning is so much fun. Once I land off the jump, my blood is pumping and I gain even more speed into a compression and onto the flat. I take a quick breather before heading into the banked S-turn gully where there are some technical turns. Then the gully shoots me out onto a steep pitch where the hardest turns of the course are, and after ripping through those, I hit another compression into a short uphill, blind roll. Trusting my inspection, I send it off the blind roll and hope I am in the right spot to make the next gate. Landing off the roll and onto a steep pitch, I have picked the right line and gain speed again, ripping down the bottom pitch and towards the finish. I navigate the last few rolls and turns and cross the finish line. One run down, five to go and 80 more days until the start of the World Cup Ski season! I can’t wait to race.
Riding back up the chair for run number two, we all talk about our runs and Daron reminisces of the days when he used to do this. Our times from run one are sent to us over the radios and we discus how the skiing was and where we can make improvements to be even faster. We enjoy the sunrise from the chair with no one else around… just another perfect training day with the U.S. Ski Team’s World Cup speed squad.