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Steven Nyman Tests Prowess on Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain as He Readies for Downhill Season
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Steven Nyman, dubbed “King of the Saslong” for his prowess racing that notorious course in the Dolomites, praised Sun Valley’s new Broadway lift: “It’s amazing.”
 
 
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

U.S. Ski Team Downhill Racer Steve Nyman nearly saw his ski racing season end before it got started this year when he injured his right Achilles tendon while training at Oregon’s Timberline in August.

But after spending the fall vigorously rehabbing at the U.S. Ski Team’s Center of Excellence in Park City, he’s banking on a week’s worth of training in Sun Valley to help him podium in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February 2021 in the Dolomites of Italy at Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Nyman was training on ice when he hit a patch of soft snow, skidded and became tangled up in the netting lining the course.

 
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Wally Rothgeb and Carl Rixon Jr. chat with Steven Nyman at the bottom of Sun Valley Resort’s Greyhawk.
 

“I couldn’t lift my foot off the ground,” he said.

Following surgery and rehabilitation, he made a few turns at Snow King ski area in Jackson, Wyo., where he and his wife Charlotte live with their daughter Nell.

Then he headed for Sun Valley, where his mother-in-law Louisa Moats lives, hitting the snow on Friday.

“Am I recovered for life? I’m not there at all,” said Nyman, who has three World Cup championships in downhill. “But the pressure I apply inside the ski boot is the same as what I do for rehab. I just have to ski clean so as not to rupture it. I’m here testing whether I can handle bumps, other variations in the snow.”

 
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Jack Smith, who will leave Dec. 31 for Europe, said it’s been tough training during COVID. “Normally, we would have spent August in New Zealand, but we couldn’t do that because of COVID.”
 

Sun Valley Resort officials have accommodated Nyman’s high-speed training, allowing him to get on the mountain early with members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation race team as he pushes speeds of 55 miles per hour on Greyhawk exhibiting some of his familiar tuck.

“The mountain provides a continuous pitch, good snow and we let them up early,” said Wally Rothgeb, who oversees the Race Department at Sun Valley.

This, of course, is not Nyman’s first go-around at Sun Valley.

Now 38, he grew up in Sundance, Utah, where his father was the ski school director. The grandson of a pro baseball player, he began skiing at 2 and trained for racing during summer by pushing the lawnmower up and down the hills on Robert Redford’s expansive lawn.

He skied for the Park City and Sundance ski teams.

“These are the runs I grew up racing on,” he said. “I remember the camaraderie of the other racers. Carl Rixon Jr. and I met at 13—he pushed me to become a better skier.  As a kid, I hated Greyhawk with all its terrain changes because I was not good at the different tempos. But I’m older, smarter now. I have a better understanding of what I’m skiing.”

In 2014 Nyman won Val Gardena for the third time by .31 seconds—an eternity in downhill--over Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud. And in 2016 he did something no other American downhill racer has done, taking the podium four times in a row starting with a PyeongChang Olympic test in Jeongseon and following it up with two silver and one bronze medal at Chamonix, Kvitfjell and St. Moritz.

He’s competed in three Olympics at Torino, Italy; Vancouver and Sochi, Russia. And he would have competed at PyeongChang, South Korea, had he not torn his ACL at Garmisch.

Nyman started out his time here at Sun Valley making long Super G turns down Warm Springs, which gave him a chance to test his endurance over the course of the 2 and a half minutes it took him to get to the bottom.

He had failed to medal on a tough technical course that started on Warm Springs and ended at the bottom of Greyhawk in the 2016 and 2018 National Alpine Championships. But, then, that course spit out more than half the racers.

On Tuesday it just made him smile.

“I love the dry grippy snow here. The dry weather and cold temperatures make for perfect snow. And I love the long runs. I had been averaging 25-second runs elsewhere.”

Among those taking part in the early morning trainings which stretched just past 10 a.m. was Jack Smith, a former Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation racer. Nyman has been mentoring Smith since Smith made the U.S. Ski Team a year ago.

“We have similar bodies—we’re tall,” said Smith. “And we have similar skiing techniques. He’s full of knowledge and he’s very inspirational as he shares his stories, talks about his challenges. He helped teach me understand the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek, Colo., which is considered one of the toughest downhill courses in the world. That’s where he made his first World Cup podium in 2006.”

“Steven is amazing as an athlete and a person,” Rixon added. “He’s a good guy always lifting up his team, even when he’s hurting.”

Nyman will head to Europe on Dec. 27 where he’ll test the snow there.

“It’ll be my first time to race during COVID—my technician says it’s kind of nice because no one’s at the ski resorts,” he said. “But I’m glad American resorts have found a way to be open. It’s nice that they can have people here, experiencing this mountain.”

 

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