When Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s World Cup overall title in March, she was the first American to conquer skiing’s most coveted title since 2012 — coincidentally, the year she won her first World Cup event at 17.
Shiffrin, who lives in Vail, Colorado, spends most of the year circling the globe. In summer, she trains in New Zealand and Chile; from October to March, she races across Europe, with occasional jaunts to North America. The World Cup opener in Sölden, Austria, is Oct. 28, and this season will add a big detour in February when she competes in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The following are edited excerpts from conversations with Shiffrin.
Q. Do you have favorite resorts on the racing circuit?
A. In Zagreb, Croatia, we stayed right near the biggest shopping street. We were there when the Christmas markets were still up. It’s one of the few times I make a point to get out and walk around a bit because there’s so much history. With Zagreb and Maribor, Slovenia, the hills are right on the outskirts. You’re driving through a city for 45 minutes, thinking, “There’s no way we’re going skiing anywhere near here.” Then all of a sudden you’re at a ski hill.
Q. Are there any differences between the ski cultures in the United States and Europe?
A. Yes, but then there are also different approaches to skiing within the U.S. The East Coast is generally a lot more about racing. The West has a huge all-mountain culture, with powder skiing, heli-skiing and freeskiing. The crowd at the Killington races in Vermont was incredible. It was this moment for the U.S. to show all these Europeans who think they own ski racing that we can hold our own.
Q. What is it like to be a bona fide star in the Alps?
A. In the U.S., people might recognize me at home or if I’m at a ski event; otherwise, they don’t know what’s going on. But in Austria or Italy, I can count on somebody stopping me in the street. When I go to Europe, I have to start thinking about trying to be incognito if I have to get somewhere on time.
Q. You’re on the road for months at a time. What’s always in your bag?
A. I travel with a blanket that I received as a Christmas present and my own pillow, because the pillows in a lot of the hotels are really thin and I feel like my head is falling off a cliff while I’m sleeping.
Q. How do you deal with travel fatigue and jet lag?
A. If we have to ski the next day, it’s important to get your muscles going again, so you must do something active, like go for a walk or a jog, and get some fresh air. For athletes, nutrition is always important, but especially with travel you want to make sure you get the right kinds of fats and protein and bring healthy snacks so you won’t go to the candy shop at the airport. I like dried mangoes, also cheese and crackers. There’s probably no study that shows that’s the greatest thing to be eating for jet lag, but as far as snacks go, it’s not terrible.
Q. What do you look forward to the most when you go back home?
A. My bed and my shower! In the springtime, the snow can be really good in Colorado, so I try to take advantage of that and have some fun with my freeskiing. There’s also a really great movie theater called CineBistro in Vail, a sort of extravagant in-theater dining situation with a burger bar.