Alpine Young Guns: Travis Ganong
By Michael Mastarciyan
Ask American speed specialist Travis Ganong if he considers himself a skier or a racer first - he’ll tell you straight up – he’s a skier first and racer second.
But that doesn’t mean the 22-year-old Californian isn’t crazy about racing – because he definitely is – it’s just that Ganong, like other World Cup stars from Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley area tend to be weaned on deep powder and steep cliffs before they set their sights on a life chasing speed on the alpine world’s White Circus.
Born and raised near Squaw Valley, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Ganong is coming off a very solid World Cup rookie speed season having scored points for top-30 finishes in Lake Louise, Bormio, Wengen and Kitzbuehel as well as 18th and 24th place finishes in Super-G and downhill respectively at the World Championships held at Garmisch-Partenkirchen last February.
Extremely passionate about alpine skiing in general, Ganong freely admits that when he’s ski racing he’s dreaming about freeskiing and when he’s freeskiing he’s dreaming about ski racing – and when not doing either he’s usually writing or editing video about one or the other for his blog – which is aptly called Just Ski It (www.travisganong.com).
This spring, Ganong has been spending his time shuttling between the US and Canada – training on-snow with his US Ski Team brethren south of the 49th parallel, while doing most of his off-snow dry-land training in Alberta where he’s spending the summer with girlfriend Marie-Michele Gagnon who races for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team.
I caught up with Ganong recently and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his life both on and off the slopes…
MM: Okay Travis, here’s your chance to set the record straight, you are extremely passionate about freeskiing when you are not racing and are a well-known powder-hound - would you call yourself a skier first and a racer second?
TG: I’m a skier! I love it all, so yeah I am a skier first!!! Racing is the most challenging and rewarding way to compete on skis so I love racing too! I grew up at Squaw Valley, a freeskiing/pro skier Mecca so powder skiing is in my blood. That was the way we all skied growing up there (Marco Sullivan, Julia Mancuso, Daron Rahlves and me)!! I absolutely love it!
MM: The Tahoe area where you grew up is a hotbed of ski racing talent. What was it like growing up there with locals like Daron Rahlves dominating the racing world? Were you a big Rahlves fan growing up? TG: Rahlves was then and still is my biggest idol! He was a great ski racer, but now look at him, he slays big mountain lines, and was one of the fastest skier cross athletes. I really want to follow his "skiing" path.
MM: I know you and Daron are friends and he recently told you he wanted to talk to you about The Hahnenkamm, have you guys talked about it yet?
TG: We have talked a bit over the years about this and that. He is always fired up to talk about the big races! This next season we are going to try and stay in touch and talk a little bit before each race. Learn his tricks!
MM: You finished in the top-30 at The Hahnenkamm, tell us about that experience, was it fun or scary or both?
TG: It was super scary during inspection. Then that turned into complete adrenaline pushing out of the start, and then after I landed off the first jump I just enjoyed it. It was so much fun. I just let my body and skis take over from there!
MM: What were some of the best moments of this past season for you?
TG: The best moment for me last season was to be exactly where I was! Standing in the starting gate at a new world cup downhill race every weekend with a smile one my face and the adrenaline pumping - that, and scoring my first DH WC points and racing in the World Champs!
MM: What were some of the worst moments of this past season?
TG: Breaking my hand (at Worlds) was a bummer for sure. 8 screws, a bone graft and a metal plate later and now I have robot hands!!!!
MM: What's the biggest thing you learned this year?
TG: I learned that to succeed on the World Cup you need to ski with your brain - you have to be smart and work that into going for it!
MM: Who was your roommate this season and did you learn anything from him?
TG: Steve Nyman a lot of the time, and earplugs! Haha, but really it is great to be with one of the guys who has been on tour for a while. If I had any questions or doubts Steve helped me out a lot.
MM: Bode Miller re-joined the team last season, did you get any advice from him? Did you pick anything up from watching him?
TG: It was great having Bode around last winter. He is a legend and it is always great to learn the tricks of the trade from someone like that. He was around a lot and was a great teammate.
MM: You collected some very respectable top-30s and top-20s at some of the top races on the World Cup circuit last season; does this build up your confidence for next season?
TG: This last season was a great year for building some experience! It was my first time and Val Gardena, Kitzbuehel, Bormio, Chamonix, and Garmisch, and so I was stoked to score World Cup points on my first try. But now I know all about those hills. I am hungry already for next season. My confidence is high!!!
MM: You had two top-20s at World Championships, what did that feel like?
TG: The first one was a whole lot of fun. It was a great Super-G hill, and the course was awesome and to do it representing the United States in front of our troops at the Army base in Garmisch was special. The second one hurt a little more as I broke my hand 30 seconds into that 2:00 run and was pretty numb/rattled the rest of the run! But I finished!!!
MM: You are spending your summer training dry-land in Canada – what’s that been like?
TG: I’m changing it up from previous summers spent in Park City and Lake Tahoe. My girlfriend, Marie-Michele Gagnon (Canadian Ski Team member) is training up here with her team, so I decided to move up as well. The Canadian Rockies are amazing in the spring/summer. I just got back from a camping trip near the Columbia Icefields!! Super cool!
MM: What else have you been doing for fun this off-season?
TG: Surfing in Costa Rica! Backcountry skiing around Tahoe and the Eastern Sierra! A hut/skiing trip in Truckee! Moving to Canmore! Doing some video editing! Surgery on my groin/hip in Philadelphia (not so fun)! And just spending time with my girlfriend enjoying mountains, and bikes and life!!!!
MM: I know you also tried your hand at making maple syrup in Quebec earlier this spring - can you tell us more?
TG: Yeah it is a simple, pure activity and it is fun doing it the old fashion way where you just walk in the woods on some snow shoes and collect the delicious tree sap! I love it!MM: Your girlfriend Marie-Michele Gagnon is also a very talented young ski racer, are you guys training dry-land together? Do you guys ever give each other racing tips?
TG: We don't really do dry-land training together aside from mountain biking and cardio stuff. She did drag me to hot yoga the other day, but I have my own program and she has hers. As for racing, yeah I help her out in the speed events and she helps me in the technical events. It is good to talk to another racer and have someone like her!