US Ski Team

Lisa Marie Mercer
ski racer

As the Winter Olympics approaches, you might be interested in information about the US Ski Team.

Benefits of Watching Olympic Skiers

Even if you have no interest in ski racing, observing Olympic ski racers is a great way to improve your ski technique. Be sure to watch the racer's alignment, as well as their economy of movement. Additionally, it's helpful to listen to the commentary, which is usually done by former ski racers. After years of Olympic racing, these men and women have a unique understanding of the nuances and subtleties of the sport.

United States Ski and Snowboard Association

While the US Ski Team is involved in the training of elite winter sport athletes, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association is the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding. It is also the parent organization for both the US Ski Team and the US Snowboard Team.

The United States Ski and Snowboard Association is governed by a 21-member board of directors, which works under the auspices of the US Olympic Committee. In order to understand the complex relationship between these organizations, it behooves you to look at their history.

The History of the US Ski Team

Although the first US Ski team was officially named in 1966, the team had been participating in the Winter Olympic Games since 1924. Today, it is comprised of the alpine, freestyle, jumping and adaptive ski teams.

The real history of the organization dates back to 1905, when the National Ski Association was formed. In 1962, it was renamed as the US Ski Association. Its headquarters were moved from Michigan to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As skiing gained popularity in the United States and Europe, a need for an international governing body became apparent. Thus, in 1910, the International Ski Commission was formed, with the purpose of monitoring the global development of skiing. 14 years later, the inaugural Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France. United States Olympic athletes participated in the 1924, 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympic games. The Lake Placid Olympics, held in 1932, were the first Olympic Games held in the United States.

Speaking of firsts, the first US Olympic alpine medal was won by a woman. In 1948, Gretchen Fraser won the alpine and slalom events in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Germany and Japan were banned from this event. US men would not win their first event until 1962. This occurred at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Billy Kidd of Stowe Vermont won a silver medal for slalom, and Jimmy Heuga of Tahoe City, California took the slalom bronze. Jean Saubert of Hillborough, Oregon tied for a silver in giant slalom, and won a silver in slalom.

In 1965, an official US Ski Team was formed. Bob Beattie became its full-time alpine coach. The team moved its headquarters to Park City in 1974, and were joined by the United States Ski and Snowboarding Association in 1988. The Park City Center of Excellence is scheduled to open in Spring of 2009. It will feature a climbing wall, a nutrition center, a gym and other ski fitness facilities.

Types of Olympic Races

Slalom, downhill, giant slalom; what does it all mean?

  • Slalom races are relatively short. The gates are close together, so athletes must have excellent short radius turns. The position of the gates is changed after each run. The top skiers of the first run will qualify to do a second run, which happens later on the same day. Whoever has the fastest combined times wins the race.
  • Giant slalom is similar to slalom. However, there are fewer gates, so competitors have to make wider turns.
  • Super giant slalom races are run on a shorter course than giant slalom, but shorter than downhill.
  • Downhill races are long, high-speed races. The skiers only make one run. The fastest is the winner.
  • Combined events consist of one downhill run, which is followed by two slalom runs.
US Ski Team