INTRODUCING SOPHIE CALDWELL
The races in Kuusamo this past weekend were the first World Cup races of the season. I plan on staying in Europe and racing the World Cup circuit for the season, which means I will be spending Christmas in Europe. I'm planning to start the Tour de Ski, but I will drop out of it after the first four races. If I make the Olympics, I will be in Europe until March and if I don't, I will probably head back to the states for the month of February. I will wrap up the season at Spring Series in Alaska.
2. This being an Olympic year and there are a lot of speedy women on the scene, what are your goals and expectations around that event? How do you deal with that pressure (if you feel it at all)?
Going to the Olympics has always been a dream of mine. I would be extremely excited to make the olympics, but I also realize there are a lot of speedy women competing for a handful of spots. I believe the US is going to be really strong this year at the Olympics and it would be a dream come true to be a part of that team, but whether I'm on the team or not doesn't change how psyched I am to see the US kick some butt.
3. You come from a very skiing focused family. How does that affect you? What strengths do you draw from it?
I come from a very skiing focused family, but I'm lucky that that doesn't come hand-in-hand with coming from a high-pressure family. Both of my parents are skiers, so I think I went for my first ski when I was ten months old, but it wasn't like I was permanently strapped into that pair of skis for the rest of my life. I've always enjoyed skiing, but there was definitely a period of my life where being the next Mia Hamm was more appealing to me than being on the US Ski Team. I grew up being active and trying all kinds of sports without pressure from my family to be a skier, and I think that's a big reason why I was able to learn to love the sport and still do today. I am able to draw a lot from my family. My dad was my coach in high school and I think he's one of the best guys in the world, so I'll take any advice from him I can get, whether it's related to skiing or not! My mom was a ski racer and both of my siblings are ski racing in college right now, so it's definitely nice to be able to relate to each other. My grandfather was an Olympics skier and both loves the sport of skiing and knows more about it than anyone else I know (or at least he thinks he does). His stories are a constant source of entertainment and I always get a good laugh from his emails. For example, the last one said, "I think you gotta get pissed and go for it", and then he followed it up with a story about my Uncle Tim answering a question about what he thought about while racing with, "kicking the shit outta guys like you." So there's really no lack of inspiration.
4. Who are your skiing heroes? Why?
I have a lot of ski heroes and I'm always adding new ones. I really look up to people like Bill Koch and my uncle, Tim Caldwell, because of what they did for US skiing and it makes it even more special to know them as people outside of skiing today. Andy Newell was always my skiing hero growing up. He's from the same area that I'm from and we both went to Stratton Mountain School. He is definitely still one of my ski heroes and I think he is technically one of the best skiers in the world, so whenever I'm working on technique, I try to picture skiing like Andy. Each girl on my team is also one of my ski heroes. It's been so cool watching their success over the past several years and it still hasn't quite hit me that I'm lucky enough to now be a part of that.
5. What creature comforts do you bring along the circuit with? Are there any stops that you particularly look forward to for the food / travel/ culture?
I bring along my stuffed animal, Sleepy Bunny. I didn't travel with a stuffed animal last year, but saw that all the other girls did, so there was no way I was leaving him behind this year. I also made a little photo album of pictures of my friends and family that I leave next to my bed and flip through every few days. I love most of the places we go, but my favorites are probably Scandinavia, Italy, and Davos, Switzerland. I really enjoy the culture in Scandinavia and the sun in Switzerland and Italy. The food is also very good in all of those places.
6. In addition to Fischer, what other brands are supporting you and hence should be supported by skiers?
Other brands that support me include Salomon, Swix, T2 Foundation, Stratton Mountain School, The National Nordic Foundation, Rudy Project, R.K. Miles, Caldwell Sport, NENSA, and Polar watches. I am extremely grateful for all the support I have received.
7. You’re renown for being an amazing technical skier. What are some of the cues that you could lend to folks trying to be better technically? What’s the secret to clean skiing?
I didn't realize that, but thanks! Technique is a tricky topic because we all strive toward this "perfect" technique that is A. constantly evolving and B. is going to be different for each person. I think the most important part of technique is finding what works for you. That's going to depend on your strength, power, size, flexibility, and a number of other things. That said, I think I learn the most from following other people. Everyone has different strengths and I think following each other and trying to adopt the strengths of others is the best way to develop your technique. I don't like to overanalyze technique, I prefer to practice it until it feels right. I also think agility and general comfort on skis can go a long way with technique.
8. What are your favorite conditions to race in?
I'm not sure what the best conditions for me are, but I really like fast snow and technical courses!
9. Favorite spot to ski?
My favorite spot to ski is at Wild Wings, the nordic center right next to my house in Vermont. It is a small, classic only, nordic center and the trails are all narrow and twisting through the woods. I think skiing on big World Cup "highway" courses can be really exciting, but my favorite skiing is on narrow, winding, and quiet trails in the woods.
10. What advice do you wish you were given as a junior? What would you tell up-and-coming racers?
As cliche as it sounds, I race the fastest when I'm happy. I've had years where I've been sick all fall, but come winter I've been in a really good place mentally and skied faster than ever. Find a relationship with skiing that makes you happy whether that's being a racer, a coach, or skiing recreationally and run with it. That's not to say you should discount training and it's also important to remember that everyone has bad races, even when they are happy. But in general, I think being happy is a broad, but healthy goal and it's a lot more fun to focus on that than on all the other things that could potentially go wrong in a ski season!
Thanks, Sophie! Best of luck for the season!