Warner Nickerson, World Cup Ski RacerEnjoy some downtime with Warner Nickerson. Warner is currently ski racing on the world cup circuit after many years of hard work and calls Gilford, NH home.
Warner enroute to a 2010 Nor-Am victory at Waterville Valley
Q: Although you travel much of the year internationally training and racing, you still call Gilford, NH home. Give some background on how and where you started skiing.
A: I first stated skiing at Highlands Ski Area - which is now a mountain bike park - in North Field, NH. It was cheaper to send my brother and me to the mountain than to daycare so we both stated at a young age. When I was 5 we moved to Gilford, NH and Gunstock Ski Area became my home hill. In middle school, we used to train in the afternoons and stay at the mountain often till it closed at 10:00 PM. Night skiing was something my brother Guy, 2 years older, and I really enjoyed. In high school I transferred to New Hampton School in the middle of my sophomore year where we skied out of Loon Mountain. Ever since I graduated from high school, I love going back to Gunstock on the 23rd of December every year to meet up with all the old buddies from home for the holidays to terrorize the mountain in a big old school rat pack.
Q: Recently you scored your first world cup points at age 29. That is an unusual age to get your first points finish at the highest level of ski racing. Explain that feeling after all those years of chasing your goals?
A: The last decade I've wanted to cross the finish line in a World Cup race happy enough about my performance to celebrate with a bunch of fist pumps. To stand, all eyes on you look up into the sky and realize that you've finally accomplished a goal few people will ever accomplish. I cannot explain how psyched I was to stand in the finish in Beaver Creek. It's been a huge grind over the years to rarely reach any of my goals usually by just barely falling short. This was retribution for all those days. It was vengeance against all those that told me I wasn't good enough to keep ski racing. I stood in the finish fist pumping and smiling like I always dreamed of. I put together two very solid runs and finished 24th in the World Cup at Beaver Creek. I didn't win, but it was certainly a victory for me.
Q: It's fair to say that the criteria the US Ski Team uses has hindered your efforts to land a spot on the team and reach the top level of the sport. For those not familiar with the process give a quick synopsis of factors beyond actual results that go into the equation.
A: The ski team is very focused on cultivating young athletes. However, very few of them actually make it to the top level of competition. USSA has age-based criteria, which caters to their philosophy that at age 18 they know whether or not you'll ever make it as a skier. This has always been a serious problem for late-blooming athletes such as myself. Although it's painful to deal with the stigma of being old in the eyes of the US national teams, it's not about what they think. It's about the individual commitment, skill, and desire. And the trump card will always be results.
The biggest challenges of ski racing not being on the national team is:
2) Finding other people and teams to train with that push you
3) Being able to coach yourself
4) Being able to efficiently manage your schedule and plan
5) Not going crazy as your traveling around Europe alone for weeks on end
Q: What is your plan for the rest of the 2010-11 season?
A: My plan is to score more World Cup points and see where that leaves me. I decided not to have any big planned out goals this years or maybe ever. I just try to win every run I take.
Q: You hoped to get a starting spot in the 2010 Olympics and came up just short. Ironically you put together a string of incredible results following that. Talk about that pivotal period? Where there other notable junctures you have crossed?
A: In February last year at Kranjska Gora, I blew out half way down the World Cup GS track and knew that my dreams of going to the Olympics in Vancouver were over. It was really painful because that was a huge public goal of mine. I usually set my goals relatively high and often don't achieve them so when I came up short again I was angry, disappointed, and a little depressed. I spend the next month absolutely sucking. I wasn't happy skiing and I was ready to throw in the towel. However, the last month of the season was already planning out. I took some time off and then I did the FIS, Nor-Am, and Nationals tour with Dane Spencer my teammate on Team "Dreamin the Life" (TDL) and Jon Olsson. When Jon showed up it was TDL plus One. Being a skier and driving a Lamborghini means you're not dreaming the life; he's definitely living the dream. Also I switched to Dodge Ski Boots that gave me some renewed confidence and a new setup to be excited about. We spend that month traveling around the US in my 1995 Honda Accord Wagon having a great time. And at the end, the three of us were all in the top 6 at US Nationals in GS. I had some of the best results of my career during that tour.
Q: Through the years you've teamed with other athletes without national team support to share travel and training expenses. This year you had an unusual teammate in freestyle skiing superstar Jon Olsson. Any highlights of that experience and both getting a start in the same world cup race in Val D'Isere (How did he like the Honda wagon etc etc)?
A: So after working in with Jon in the spring last year, he called me up and told me to come to Norway and train for a month with a few other Norwegians at Leif Kristian Haugen's Norway Beach Camp. For the last two years, Leif has put together a camp in Juvass for the month of June. It's a bunch of guys that are just fired up to ski when the weathers good and drive to the coast to surf when the weather shuts down the glacier. Jon paid for my flight and housing, which sealed the deal. I didn't have much money or a reason to stay home so I hopped on a flight and was Jon's service man for the camp. I was tuning all of his skis in exchange for the flight and lodging. It was a great time. I'm not sure if I'd still be skiing if it wasn't for Jon and Leif. After Norway, Jon and I teamed up in New Zealand where I scored some great results that kept me skiing. In the World Cup GS in Val D'Isere, France, Leif, Jon, and I all raced for the first time together at Jon's first World Cup start. It was really cool to have all of us racing together. And for another couple days, I was Jon's service man. However, since in World Cup races everyone skis for his or her nation, we haven't been able to team up as much as we'd like. Right now, I'm working in with the US Team and the group we have right now is very supportive and lots of fun. But as for Team TNT (Team No Team), we hang out when we can. And will do some other tours together.
Q: What do you most love and hate about skiing here in New Hampshire?
A: I love the atmosphere of New Hampshire skiing. The hills aren't the steepest or the longest, but everyone is fired up to be outside skiing and persevering the cold with grins from ear to ear. I think the "Live Free or Die" state taught me to embrace life and smile through the good and bad. As for what I hate, I definitely don't like all the snow guns. Whenever I'm home - usually around Christmas - every mountain positions their snow guns pounding directly at the lifts as a nice way of saying welcome to skiing in the east.
Q: Without factoring in racing, what is your favorite ski area in the world?
A: That's a tough one. Each ski area or resort brings something else to the table. I will always have a place in my heart for Gunstock since it's the hill that I spent most of my childhood. As for the rest of the ski areas, all of them offer different things that are great. I love the pitches at Alta Badia, Italy. I love the town of Aspen, CO. I had my best powder day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I dig the après-ski life of Val D'Isere, France. I really like the people at Coronet Peak, New Zealand. And someday I'd like to ski Dolomiti Super Ski from one side to the other (it's 12 resorts and 1200 km of skiing) in Sudtirol, Italy.
Q: Growing up in the Lakes Region of NH what do you do for fun when you aren't on skis?
A: Mostly water sports. I really enjoy sailing, water skiing, wake boarding, pretty much anything on the water, but there isn't a single sport out there that I don't enjoy playing.
Q: You can take a vacation anywhere in the world other than New Hampshire and can bring one person along (including celebrities and athletes). Where are you headed and who's going with you?
A: Celebrities are overrated. I'd take Annette Caswell of Bangor, ME to tour Europe for a month or two.
Q: Pick one: snowblading, kneeboarding, or rollerblading?
A: Kneeboarding - I could use some summer fun right now.
Q: Anything you want to add?
A: I can't say how much I appreciate SkiNH. It's been a huge help making my ski racing career continue. I just want to say thanks to all of you guys. Hope all is well back home. Cheers from Hinterreit, Austria.