Vail's Next Skiing Superstar?

River Radamus, the first skier to win three gold medals at the Youth Olympic Games, contemplates his prospects for doing the same in Pyeongchang in 2018.

By Devon O'Neil Photography by Dominique Taylor November 22, 2016 Published in the Holiday 2016/2017 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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I was born in Steamboat Springs and grew up in Edwards. I started skiing when I was 1, before I could walk. The story my folks always tell is they were traveling around coaching with the national team, and when they took me to races, they had to put me on a pair of skis to carry me better, and it gave me a bit of stability.Going to school at Edwards Elementary, every year we’d go out and watch the Birds of Prey World Cup downhill from the stands. There were a couple years where we got to watch Bode [Miller] win it or Bode and Daron [Rahlves] go 1–2. That really inspired me from a young age. Because kids from Jackson Hole or Squaw Valley or any other elite program in the nation just don’t get to have that close-up view of World Cup stars like we do in the Vail Valley.

"Practice makes permanent . . . it’s not enough to go through the motions in anything you’re doing in life."

I started racing when I was 6 with Ski Club Vail. Having the sheer volume of skiing that I’ve had in my lifetime and being able to do what I love every day—go up on the mountain and rip with friends—has given me an advantage over a lot of my peers. When I was growing up, I was getting about 100 days on snow a year. That’s increased to probably 200 to 225 now.

It’s not easy to pursue skiing at this level. I’m on the U.S. development team, and with all of our expenses and travel costs and team fees, we’re looking at about $40,000 to $45,000 each year. We’re paying about $25,000 to be on the national team. That covers our coaching cost, our technicians, and physicians. It’s still a lot less than it would be if we were going out and hiring our own coaches and physicians. It’s always a bit of a struggle to find the money to pursue our sport, but I think it’s worth it.

This is my second year on the national team. I had made the national team young, and there were a lot of people questioning whether I deserved to be there. What I did in Norway last winter surprised a lot of people. Going into the event, I wasn’t even in the conversation for the super G or the combined overall. I’d been crashing a lot and just not skiing well. In Lillehammer, I just tried to focus on what I could do and not worry about how the results would end up. I knew it was possible, but I couldn’t have imagined I’d walk away with three golds.

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It was overwhelming joy for my parents. My mom was able to be there for the GS race. I’d won two previous to that, but the GS was the most emotional because she was in the crowd, and being able to stand on that podium and sing the national anthem with her there, I shed a few tears.

Both my folks try to hang back and not coach me too much; we like to keep that relationship at a distance. But if I’m really struggling, I’ll ask them for advice. My dad [longtime Ski & Snowboard Club Vail executive director Aldo Radamus] was there for me all last season. If we’d go freeskiing, he’d say he believed in me a lot and tell me how well I was skiing in general.

I’ve learned a lot from being able to travel and see different parts of the world, and I can’t express enough how fortunate I’ve been to live where I do, have such a beautiful mountain to ski every day, have such a wonderful town to hang out in, and have such a supportive community as a whole. I hope to never take for granted where I’ve grown up.

Someone once told me: Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. And perfect practice makes perfect. What that means to me is it’s not enough to go through the motions in anything you’re doing in life. You have to make sure you’re working on the things you need to work on, and eventually you’ll improve. That’s the guiding principle of what I’m doing on snow and something I think holds true in most facets of life.

When will I feel like I’ve made it? That’s a good question. My biggest dream is to compete at an elite level in the Olympics. If I can try to represent my country the way I did at the Youth Olympics last year, I’d be happy if I walked away from this sport without a dime to my name.

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