Alpine Young Guns: Julia Ford
By Michael Mastarciyan
If you are a true fan of alpine ski racing and want to learn more about the real meaning of communal spirit, sportsmanship, hopes, dreams and love – then click on this link: www.juliaford.org and watch the video on the front page – BUT WAIT – WARNING-WARNING-WARNING – you may get choked up and misty-eyed by the end of it.
For those of you Bah-Humbug-types too jaded to click, I’ll give you a quick sketch of what you’re missing.
The video in question is a visual essay about a fundraising boat ride held in August 2011 to help American skier Julia Ford pursue her dream of racing on the World Cup tour.
Now this came as a shock to me, because, as an ignorant Canadian, I always imagined that Americans with the name Ford were either super-wealthy heirs to the Ford car-making fortune or filthy-rich relations of the late President Gerald Ford (who is a member of the Colorado Skiing Hall of Fame and was a true lover of the sport).
Apparently I was wrong – and not all Fords are swimming in money.
What I did learn from the video in question – and this was not shocking - is that while Ms. Ford may be lacking in funds, she’s loaded in support from family and friends.
Ms. Ford is also filthy rich in pure ski racing talent – but I’d known that prior to seeing the video.
Among the 22-year-old New Hampshire native’s accomplishments so far:
2012 Nor-Am Cup overall and downhill champion.
2011 Nor-Am Cup downhill, super-G and super combined champion.
2011 and 2012 U.S. national downhill champion.
22 Nor-Am Cup podiums (at least one in every event) – eight of them victories.
A pretty rich resume for such a young racer.
We caught up with Ms. Ford recently for a quick chat about her hopes, dreams and her undying love of speeding down icy, snowing mountain slopes….
MM: Alright Julia, the truth, did you cry the first time you saw the fundraising boat ride video?
JF: I definitely cried when my brother spoke at the actual event. It was very unlike him to get that emotional but it was a very emotional night and each time I watch the video, I still get teary eyed.
MM: I noticed the boat ride took place in Boston. Did the guests enjoy any “lobstah” or “clam chowdah” during the cruise?
JF: Nope, but we had a beautiful view of Boston
MM: Anybody get seasick?
JF: No one except maybe my Dad, ha-ha! It was a smooth cruise and a beautiful night in the Boston Harbor. An incredible person in our community had passed away that very day so it was as if he was watching over us.
MM: We know you’ve got great ski legs when you’re rockin’ and rollin’ down icy hills, but do you have good sea legs? How did you fare on the high seas that day?
JF: Honestly, I tend to get motion sickness but that night I was perfectly fine and was able to have a great time catching up with a lot of the great people in my life.
MM: Okay enough boat talk, I’m getting queasy – let’s talk ski racing. You tore it up in downhill last season on the Nor-Am Cup circuit and won the overall and DH titles – is DH your favourite event?
JF: I grew up skiing in the East and didn’t really discover my love of the speed events until I was older so I will always have GS and SL in my heart but I always look forward to DH.
MM: What is it about speed that you love so much?
JF: It’s like you’re breaking some sort of rule. Speed limits don’t allow cars to go as fast as we go and we’re doing it naturally. And it’s about the challenge. You challenge what the mountain gives you and, in return, the mountain challenges your abilities. It’s a dance between what your brain and survival instincts are telling you and what your adrenaline, heart, and goals are telling you. It’s a dance on the line of insanity and it’s fun!
MM: Some skiers are intimidated or even downright scared by the speed events – have you ever been intimidated or scared racing in a downhill or super-G?
JF: I always get butterflies in the start no matter what the speed or event is because I’m always trying to push myself to the edge of what I am capable of, and that is scary, but that is also where the fun is.
MM: What’s the fastest speed you’ve ever been clocked at and where was it?
JF: A couple of years ago, in Lake Louise, Canada, they injected the hill and I think we were pushing high 70’s, 80’s (mph, or more than 110km/h) down the headwall.
MM: Would you categorize yourself as an adrenaline junkie?
JF: I enjoy the adrenaline but I think what keeps me coming back is the challenge. There is always more speed to take and I love when something seems impossible and you overcome and do it anyway.
MM: How satisfying was winning the overall Nor-Am Cup title?
JF: It was an accomplishment I had been striving for, for a while so finally winning it was hugely satisfying.
MM: What was the celebration like afterward?
JF: Anna Goodman was retiring so we celebrated her career and accomplishments and the end of another Nor-Am season. It was fun. The weather was super nice and everyone was in good spirits.
MM: What does winning the Nor-Am Cup overall title do for your confidence?
JF: It gives me confidence with where I’m at and for how I set myself up for this coming season.
MM: You’ve had Nor-Am Cup podiums in every event…do you consider yourself and all-rounder, can you see yourself skiing all the events when you get up to the World Cup level full-time?
JF: My passion lies in skiing everything. I came onto the scene a slalom skier but found out I had strengths in speed as well so in the past couple of years I have gone more that way but I love tech and want to keep that in my repertoire. I want to be able to ski everything.
MM: You crisscrossed the globe last year racing Nor-Am Cup, Europa Cup and World Cup races – with little or no break time, was it very tiring?
JF: It definitely was tiring but I was traveling with great people who kept life on the road fun, which was huge.
MM: You scored your first WC points in downhill at Bad Kleinkircheim, Austria on a very blustery day last January. What was that experience like?
JF: It was one of the coolest experiences so far. The first people I saw in the finish were my teammates going crazy which got me even more amped. It was just a really exciting day.
MM: What’s on schedule for the upcoming season? A mix of all three Cups again or full-time on the WC as a result of your Nor-Am Cup overall title?
JF: More time in Europe but skiing is unpredictable so I try to take it day by day, race by race.
MM: What’s your main goal for the upcoming season?
JF: My goal is to establish myself more on the World Cup scene. I got a taste of it last year but I want more.
MM: What’s the most important thing you learned last season?
JF: Every day is a new one. We can’t predict what’s going to happen and, in an instant, things can change but if you keep your head up and stay positive, it tends to go more in your favor.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you about ski racing?
JF: I have had a lot of great advice over the years but I always remember to smile because, no matter what, I’m doing what I love, and with that to not get too caught up in the results. I ski my fastest when I’m enjoying skiing not worrying about the outcome.
MM: Do you have any advice for young ski racers trying to climb up the ranks?
JF: The same advice I was given as a kid: love skiing more than just winning because results are up and down but your passion for skiing is what will get you through. Don’t dwell on the bad results, learn from them and let them go, and always smile.
MM: What’s your biggest strength as a ski racer?
JF: My biggest strength is probably my athletic ability. I grew up playing every sport imaginable so I think that has really helped me with my coordination down the hill.
MM: What’s your biggest strength as a person?
JF: I’m a really happy person. I love to laugh and smile. I think this is my greatest strength because it allows me to let the tough stuff roll by, and I was always told a smile is contagious.
MM: Did you have any ski racing idols growing up?
JF: I really looked up to the Kostelic’s. I thought it was so cool how siblings were crushing it. I think I even did a project on Croatia in middle school.
MM: Gerald Ford, an avid skier, was the 38th President of the United States. Coincidentally you were president of your high school’s student government. Did you enjoy political life? Can you see yourself as a politician when you retire from ski racing some day?
JF: Political life was really challenging because I missed a lot of school for skiing. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t juggling it with so many other commitments. As far as politics in the future, it is not exactly the direction I see my life going but you never know.
MM: Are you related to any famous Fords?
JF: Not that I know of!
MM: You were captain of your high school lacrosse and soccer teams – what are the keys to being a good leader?
JF: Good energy in the right direction meaning creating a positive atmosphere with a good attitude and leading by example. Good leadership allows people to believe in what they are doing and enjoy it at the same time no matter what the job or activity is. I was noon pantry leader of my high school job program - try getting people to enjoy that!
MM: Did you score a lot of goals during your high school lacrosse and soccer careers?
JF: More so in lacrosse. In soccer I was more the work horse, getting the ball into the offense zone than scoring all the goals. I would say I had more assists.
MM: Do you still follow soccer? Have any favourite teams or players?
JF: I don’t follow soccer that much. I enjoy watching the major events like the World Cup and Olympics but any Boston team I am a huge fan of: Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics!
MM: Do you have any other hidden talents or hobbies you want to tell us about?
JF: I can tell you I am very musically challenged. I cannot carry a tune but I like to sing anyway. Hobbies… I’ve gotten into waterskiing and hiking. Hiking mainly to run down the mountains afterwards. It’s fun to see how fast you can move your feet.
MM: What do you like to do to relax when you’re not skiing?
JF: I’ve never been very good at relaxing. I love playing games, any type of activity like volleyball or soccer. This spring, I helped coach the Junior Varity Lacrosse team at Holderness School but I have really enjoyed being on the water this summer, boating and waterskiing.
MM: Have you taken any holidays during the off-season? Hit any beaches?
JF: I went down to the Outer banks in North Carolina, in May, for a little sun, ocean, and stand up paddle boarding.
MM: How’s off-season training been coming along?
JF: Great! I’m ready to ski and race!