Over the past two decades, Utah native Ted Ligety has hopscotched across five continents every year, collecting World Cup crystal globes and Olympic gold medals. This winter, he's back home in Utah! Last Chair kicks off season three with an in-depth interview with Utah's own Olympic champion.
Check out these stats: 25 World Cup wins, five crystal globes, five World Championship titles and two Olympic gold medals. Not a bad career for the Utah native.
With a growing family (wife Mia and three sons) back home and his Utah-based global business, Shred, Ligety decided to retire last February. And he's anxious to make a few fun runs of his own on the slopes of Utah's Deer Valley Resort this winter.
This blockbuster season three opening episode of Last Chair will introduce you to the Park City native and take you inside his view of skiing. Here's some of what's in store on Last Chair.
How old were you when mom and dad trusted you to be on your own at the resort?
I think it was pretty young, probably like five or six years old. So I tell that to my wife, Mia, and she's like, 'No way! We're not leaving Jax to the mountain like next year or the year after. But yeah, like, I think when I was seven, maybe eight, I would take my younger brother - so pretty young age ripping around the mountains. And it was fun. I mean, it's such an awesome way to grow up and explore.
Ted, you weren't viewed as a future star as a junior racer. Did hard work make the difference?
One hundred percent! What was good about not being dominant at a young age was that I had to work harder. I had that work ethic instilled, had that hunger instilled in me. I was forced to take risks and explore and ask different questions than guys that were good.
You're now a ski ambassador for Deer Valley, a role Stein Eriksen held for many years. What do you remember of him from growing up here?
I grew up skiing in Deer Valley and watching Stein ski, and it was funny. As a kid you would kind of make fun of Stein's style - he had a very distinct style. I skied with him on the NASTAR course once when I was probably like 14 years old. all of a sudden he was like, wham, right into a modern race stance and like beating all of us 13, 14 year olds. And he was probably in his 70s then. Stein was still a competitive guy even later on. And, you know, he was an inspiration, for sure, growing up here.
Ted, what's the spirit that motivates you?
"I love just being out in the outdoors, being in the mountains, especially when there's snow on them. It's like a cleansing feeling being out there - this freedom to go fast, ski down a hill, the wind in your face. It's exhilarating. It's just magical being on the mountains,
Check out more with Ted Ligety on Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.
Ted Ligety by the Numbers25 World Cup wins
Five World Cup crystal globes
Five World Championship medals
Growing up in Utah, Ted Ligety was influenced by great champions like Stein Eriksen. In 2013, he matched the record of three gold medals in one World Championship, a mark held by Eriksen, Toni Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy. A pretty prestigious group of champions for the kid from Park City. (Tom Kelly)
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Well, welcome back, everyone, to the third season of Last Chair, The Ski Utah podcast, I'm Tom Kelly and happy to be your host again as we bring you amazing stories that form the fabric of skiing here in Utah. And we're kicking off this season in fine style. We have truly one of the greatest ski racers and I'll say skiers that Utah has ever produced Ted Ligety. And Ted, thank you so much for joining us here on this episode of last year.
Ted Ligety: |00:00:26| Yeah, thanks for having me.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:27| Now it's October. We're almost to the season right now, and I was thinking, you probably haven't spent many falls here in Utah, in what, 20 years? Probably.
Ted Ligety: |00:00:40| I think it's twenty six plus or minus years that I have not skied in the summertime. So pretty weird. I'm actually looking forward to snow falling, that's for sure.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:51| So how has your summer been so far? I know you've had a lot more time with the kids. Jax is four now, I think. Yeah, and the twins are twin boys are one. Exactly. So you and Mia have your hands full, don't you?
Ted Ligety: |00:01:05| We definitely have our hands full. These are busy little boys, that's for sure. It's been really different and weird for sure. I mean, not training, not having to go to the gym, you know, three plus hours a day and then working on the afternoons and not traveling to try to find summer snow. You know, I wasn't going to I mean, not that the southern hemisphere skiing is happening again this year, but, you know, not having to go to Europe or do any of the glacier stuff and spend more time in Park City has been really nice. I think it's been like a little bit easier in the sense that I had back surgery in the fall or in the spring. So not having to like have the same physical readiness as I normally would have had, I think also has made it easier. And, you know, having like the more mellow off season and just kind of made like a smoother transition in some regards and made it easier and to ease my competitive atmosphere appetite, I guess.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:57| So what kind of fun things have you done around Park City with the kids this summer?
Ted Ligety: |00:02:02| We've been biking a ton, so, you know, I have a trailer on one of my bikes and so I mountain bike a lot with Jax actually on the little like it's called like a mack ride. He goes between my arms. Mountain biking a bunch on my own as well. But just getting outside. I mean, that's what's so cool about Park City is there are so many great outdoor activities, you know, got Jax pedaling this year and so just fun stuff like that. It's been it's been great. I mean, the summer in Park City is one of the best places ever.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:28| So you retired last season, closed it out at the World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, although actually you weren't able to ski there, were you?
Ted Ligety: |00:02:37| Yeah, I mean, a week before World Championship started, I announced that I was going to retire and that the GS is going to be my last race. And then my back said otherwise a week before I'd had, you know, back issues over the years here and there. And it just was the final straw that broke the camel's back literally and figuratively and woke up one morning after me before training and was trying to get ready to warm up and just was like basically crawling around my room, trying to get ready. And I was just like, This is not going to work. And I went to Innsbruck to get an injection and get my back looked at. And the doctor there is like, So you still have bladder control. And I was like, Yeah, he's like, your imaging looks bad. And he's like, I can't recommend even if like, you feel good after a cortisone injection that you compete and went home, you know, tried the rehab thing for six weeks and still had a ton of weakness and the pain wasn't fully alleviated. So I had surgery and just been that bad. I mean, I had the same surgery four years ago and I walked out of there easy. It was like way better, felt stronger and less pain than before. And this time around, you know, the pain was gone, but the weakness is there. So the rehab piece has been challenging and it's been challenging, not necessarily having the same. You know, I'm not playing basketball with all the guys in the ski team of this summer. You know, a lot of other sports. I do have been a little bit more limited, but at the same time, the mountain biking side of things has been fun and that hasn't been limited. So it makes it easy to not be getting ready for a ski season, that's for sure.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:07| Ted, when we talked last winter when you were retiring, you talked about how your son Jax then three and a half years old, was spending a lot of time on skis here at Deer Valley with grandpa, your dad.
Ted Ligety: |00:04:20| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:21| Did you get a chance to ski with him when you got back home to Utah?
Ted Ligety: |00:04:25| Yeah, I mean, I ski with him every time I was home last winter. And then, of course, after my back went out, you know, my pain wasn't too bad before surgery and I would go out skiing with him. And that was really the only ski days I had post. You know, my career ending before I had surgery was just with Jax just following him around. He loves, you know, hitting the trees here at Deer Valley can basically ski the whole mountain now. So it's really fun going out with him because it's just a new and exciting challenge. And like him, exploring the mountain is also me exploring the mountain. I get a seat at the mountain in a totally new light. I've been skiing Deer Valley since I was two years old as well. Younger than he has, he is. So then it was fun. It's so much fun. He actually said the other day that he was looking forward to the snow falling as well, so that should be fun.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:12| Cool. Let's go back in time when you are a young boy growing up here in Park City, you had an opportunity to ski at two amazing world-class ski resorts, actually three at the time, the way they were apportioned. What was it like when you were two and three? And how did you first get into skiing here in town?
Ted Ligety: |00:05:31| The obvious way is my parents started me skiing when I was about two. I think it's funny because like now I'm being a parent. When you talk to people who aren't maybe growing up in a ski town, you're like, Oh, I started skiing at two years old and they're like, Whoa, that's crazy. Like, your parents must have been really into it. But now, like amongst myself and my friends, all of us having kids around the same age, you know, most of us start our kids at one, even just because we were like, already, so into it, but so started skiing at a young age. You know, my parents always joked that the mountain was my babysitter. I went to preschool and daycare, actually. Here, Deer Valley learn to ski through that program, went through the Park City Ski Team and all the programs over there as well. So, you know, when you live ten minutes away from a mountain and there's snow on the ground, this is like the perfect way to consume your winter.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:16| When you were a little kid, when you were three or four or five years old, do you have any memories of what that was like to be sliding on snow as a little kid?
Ted Ligety: |00:06:24| Oh yeah, I remember, you know, finding all the little jumps in the side of the trail here, just ripping around. I remember my friends and I just like skiing bell the bell here, you know, finding a little tree runs, you know, building little forts in the woods. There are all sorts of like little cabins around actually a Deer Valley, the old mining cabins that now they've kind of like establish like a place to go through. But back then it was like you were really exploring trying to find these things and just loving like the exploration of the mountains. And I mean, it's hard to have a sport that's like like skiing, where you can just go from nine o'clock to four o'clock and just exploring the whole day.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:59| How old were you when mom and dad trusted you to be on your own on the resort and just drop you off in the morning and pick you up in the afternoon.
Ted Ligety: |00:07:07| I think it was pretty young, probably like five or six years old, so I tell that to my wife, me and she's like, No way, we're not letting like leaving Jax to the mountain like next year or the year after. I'm like, I was young. Like, It's kind of surprising nowadays. But yeah, like, I think when I was seven, maybe eight, I would take my brother to who is two years younger than me. So, you know, pretty young age without ripping around the mountains. And it was fun. I mean, it's such an awesome way to grow up and explore. And you know, you can get into trouble on the mountains, of course, but definitely less so than other places.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:40| How old were you when you got into racing or started to be a little bit more competitive in what you did on skis?
Ted Ligety: |00:07:46| Yeah, I wasn't like the farm team at Park City, which you know, we did maybe a race a year. And then I joined the Park City Ski Team when I was 10 years old and started racing more regularly than so. I guess that's when I started. Really racing was when I was 10 years old and we were watching Tommy Moe at the Olympics in 94, and that was like an inspiration for me wanting to become a ski racer. I remember watching the VHS tape of those Olympics over and over and over again watching the ski racing. And so that's when I really decided that, like, that's what I want to do.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:20| Tommy Moe winning the Gold Medal in the downhill on opening day in Lillehammer and coming back to win silver and super-G. Have you gotten to know Tommy over the years?
Ted Ligety: |00:08:29| A little bit, actually a handful of times here, and there are different, different fundraisers or various ski events. So yeah, it's cool to see what he's done in the sport. And yeah, he's definitely like one of my first heroes.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:40| Ted, a lot of people look at you and they look at your record and know that you were a little bit of a late bloomer on the top end of racing. And one of those turning points, I think for you was probably the 2002 Olympics. Now you were not on the Olympic team, you were still in the team in Park City, but you had an opportunity to forerun those Olympics. And what did that opportunity mean to you? And what did you learn by being a forerunner in the giant slalom and slalom?
Ted Ligety: |00:09:09| You know, like you said, I got my butt kicked to put it, frankly, when I was a young kid, if I wasn't, probably until I was 18 years old, the Olympics happened. Yet here in Park City, when I was 17 years old and I was lucky enough to be able to forerun the slalom and really like, funny enough, the reason I got to forerun is because all the kids in the U.S. Ski Team were at World Juniors and at more important races, so they had to pick and choose out of a local club of Park City. But I think one of the coolest things in opportunities about, you know, the for on that was I got to inspect the course, I got to hang out in between runs with all my heroes at the time, like Bode or all these different World Cup guys. And it dawned on me that what they were doing was not that much different from what I was doing, you know, raising fist races, they were still just messing around and joking around at the Start House, you know, in between runs, it was a very similar atmosphere from what I was accustomed to racing, you know, at the regional level. So that was good for me to realize like, Oh, these guys are humans and you don't have to be some machine or some freak to deal with the mental pressures of racing at the highest level, like these guys are not so dissimilar to me, and that was a big step for me.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:18| I want to read a quote from your coach at the time or one of your coaches, Rob Clayton. And the topic here is work ethic, and I want folks to listen to this. And Rob said "We picked Ted as a forerunner from the Park City Ski Team, even though he wasn't the fastest guy. But because he was determined and gritty. It was a message to the other guys on the team. There were guys who had better results and were faster skiers, but none of them worked as hard as Ted." Hard work does pay off, doesn't it, Ted?
Ted Ligety: |00:10:50| One hundred percent. I mean, that's I think what was good about not being dominant as a young age was that I had to work harder. I had that work ethic install. They have that hunger instilled in me. Also, like I was forced to take risks and explore and ask different questions than guys that were good. You know, I wasn't protecting, you know, my status as being the best junior in the country. I was like the 20th best junior or whatever when I was 18 years old. So I had to work at different things and I had to take other risks. I had to explore myself in the sport in different ways, and that ended up paying a lot of fruits later on. So, you know, I'm thankful actually, that I wasn't, you know, wasn't a childhood prodigy.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:31| You know, you came out of that experience. I know, and you went and you won a big race a week or two later up at Mt. Bachelor in the next season. You were actually skiing in a World Cup at America's opening on that trail in Park City. What was that next step like for you?
Ted Ligety: |00:11:46| Yeah, so so I made the U.S. in the next year and then so my first World Cup was the last World Cup in Park City November 23. So like two seasons later, but a season between. But I think, yeah, like you said, having had that experience and getting the confidence from that, just like realizing that like you didn't have to be some machine or freak to be able to compete at the best and highest level in the world gave me that extra inspiration, extra push to get to that next level. And once you start figuring a couple of things out in your skiing, little getting a little bit more confidence, getting a little stronger, you know, a couple of little breaks here and there, and all of the sudden things snowballed. And I guess what's my makeup is. I've always like seized when I've had an opportunity to presented it to me, I seized it. And that's the same thing. My first year on the U.S. Ski Team, you know, I was in the development team and we were just lucky to be given the opportunity to be able to time travel with the other guys in the ski team for a spot and the World Cup in Park City and ended up winning that time trial. So, you know, I really seize on every opportunity I was given and ended up scoring 000. World Cup points later on. And I feel like nowadays when I talk to these kids on the team and I'm like, they're like, Oh, I'm just trusting the process. And I like, you know, it's like part of the three year plan is like, no, like, you're fast today. Like, why not be fast tomorrow in the race? Like, come on, man, like the opportunity is now. So I think that was always my mindset. Like, if I was there today, I might as well do it.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:15| So you took that mindset into the 2006 Olympics and you weren't necessarily one of those medal favorites going into the games in Torino in the combined event in Sestriere, which for those listening, who may not be familiar. It's a combination of a downhill ski run and in this case, back in 2006, followed by two runs of slalom - diametrically opposed events. So you went into that event and after the downhill, which was not your forte, you were in 30 second place, I believe, three seconds back. Yeah. Did you have that mentality that, hey, I can still be fast in this thing and I can still do well?
Ted Ligety: |00:13:53| I mean, at that time in my career, I was one of the best or fastest skiers in the world, but I was far away from being a favorite, that's for sure. And being in the Olympics there, I was just excited to be there. I mean, I was hoping for a medal, but mostly in the slalom, but just more excited about the whole experience. And it was actually kind of funny before the downhill run. I was riding at the lift with Kjetil Jansrud, who's like one of my good friends in the World Cup tour. He's a Norwegian guy and he's like he was a slalom skier, which is funny too at the time. And he's like, You know, we actually have a chance today if, like we put it together and I was kind of like, Brush him off like, you are being ridiculous. Like, that's pretty optimistic to think that. But that did get the ball rolling. And after the downhill run, I was disappointed to be so far out. But at the same time, I looked at how far off I was from Benni Raich and Giorgio Rocca, and Ivica Kostelic - some of the guys who are going to be more of the main contenders in the slalom. And I was like, 'Oh, I'm only a second and a half or so off of these guys', so I have a chance like battling that back and then had one of the best first runs of slalom I've ever had and bounced all the way up to third place.
Ted Ligety: |00:14:58| And then I remember in between runs like sitting there, spinning and like, Holy cow, like I have a chance to win an Olympic medal here. And then I was like, Oh man, like all my friends at the time were basically racing college, and I was like, Oh, what would my friends think if I won an Olympic medal? Holy ... like. And so I got this like spin cycle in my head where I was thinking about just all like the cool pieces of winning a medal. And it made me super, super nervous. And I just was like, OK, control, delete. Let's like, let's reset the scene here and just go out there and ski and just be thankful if you're able to throw down another fast run, but not worry about the consequences. And that paid off, I was able to ski freely that next run. I had another one of my best runs in my career in slalom and came down leading by a ton. And, you know, luckily the next two guys weren't able to top it.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:48| You know, as skiers, we often kind of get that mental block. You're at the top of a really steep run and you just don't know, how am I going to do there and you're up there with all the marbles on the line. How do you get into a mental state to really approach that run the best you possibly can?
Ted Ligety: |00:16:07| I think something that served me well and my career in ski racing as having kind of a. It's a calculated nonchalance, like in ski racing, the best athletes ever have a much lower win percentage than 50 percent. You know, that's like the best ever, don't win most days. So. And even in the Olympics, especially at the Olympics stage, by and large, the favorites don't win. So having that ability to enter an approach in a calculated way, but also be nonchalant about the results of it, it kind of takes a little bit of pressure off. And for me, like when I did, my best is when I didn't think about anything, I didn't think about the consequences of the run. I didn't think about my skiing either. I knew I was in a good place. My preparation was in the right spot and I just let myself ski, and that's always what led to my best results.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:56| So four years later, Olympics in Vancouver, up at Whistler, actually, and it's a little different for you. You're now a Crystal Globe winner in giant slalom and you're going into the Olympics as one of the medal favorites. But you Didn't have the outcome you were hoping.
Ted Ligety: |00:17:10| No, I think that reads right into what I was saying before is, you know, I at that race, especially in the giant slalom, I was first in the world. I was the favorite coming in. And I remember after first when I was in sixth place, only a couple of tenths off of a medal, six tenths off the lead, and I was like, Oh, I'm in a good place to make that second run charge up into the medals. And I just over-calculated, overthought it was thinking about the results. Too much was thinking about, you know, all the external things and not just skiing going hard. And I remember like five turns in that second run where I like just was way too conservative, ditched a ton of speed. And that was really frustrating. I think I ended up ninth in that race. And that, I think actually set a switch off my mind, I mean, having gone through that disappointment and like knowing so tangentially that I overthought it over calculated like, played the game too hard, that allowed me to have that next step over the next coming years to be like, flip that switch and not worry about the results as much and not the like. I wasn't caring about the results, but not like thinking about them in the start gate and not worrying about how it was going to go. My goal after that was always be happy with my intensity level and my approach in the finish and not the results when I cross the finish. And that was a big thing for leading to much better things to come.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:35| Ted, a lot of the public looks at your two Olympic gold medals, the one in 2006 and the one in 2014 that we'll talk about in a minute. But there was that week in Schladming Austria in 2013, and if people weren't following this at the World Championships that year, Ted Ligety winning three gold medals. It's only been done a handful of times before by legendary names like Stein Eriksen, Tony Sailer, Jean-Claude Killy and now Ted Ligety. Three gold medals. What was that week like for you?
Ted Ligety: |00:19:09| What's funny is leading into those world championships, I was having an awesome season, I was, you know, having a great year in Super G was, you know, just battling for the podium in a handful of races. My giant slalom was next level. I mean, that's the best I've ever skied eyes, winning races that year, a bunch of races by two seconds. And so I was on fire. I had a ton of confidence going in. I knew based on that hill in Schladming, I mean, that lined up really well as a technical super G Hill for me that I had a good chance in the middle of there. But at the same time, like you approach every race, individual race by individual race. And so I knew I had a medal, but Aksel was skiing amazing that time and all that. So in that super-G run, I just went and skied confidently and skied the best I could. And, you know, sat across the finish line after I think I was eight or 10 or something like that in the lead. And then I just had to sit there watching, and I think Aksel was running 22 and watching him come down like barely off me, ever every split, maybe even ahead of me in the last split and then coming down behind and just, you know, super psyched. But I think a lot of people were surprised. I mean, it sounds kind of arrogant to say I wasn't surprised, but I was. I was surprised to win, but I was in my mind I was I was hoping to get a medal there because I was skiing that well. And then the combined same thing, like I knew my speed skiing was going well at that time because I'd won the Super G. I'd had some fast runs and downhill at that time. Um. And it was also a hill that suited me in downhill and had probably one of the best races in downhill of my career. I've been on the podium in downhill, but on Lenzerheide, which is a very technical trail there. It was like fifth or sixth on the downhill run, you know, beating even like, I think axle on the run, who just won the World Champs downhill a couple of days before that. So one of the best runs downhill in my life. And that was a ways ahead of all the guys in slalom. But the same kind of thing as I was talking about before is like, I tried not to think about the calculations of how fast or slow I could go in the slalom run and had a fantastic slalom run, really solid, skied hard the whole way, top to bottom and, you know, came away with that win. And that's, I guess, when I started to feel the pressure for the giant slalom because at that point I had hands down a super successful world championships and I hadn't even skied my best event yet. And I didn't know about the whole record is records and hadn't been done in forty five years.
Ted Ligety: |00:21:35| So I'm glad I didn't hear about those pieces. But knowing that I was so far and away the favorite for the giant slalom, it was going to be in my mind, a failure if I didn't win the giant slalom. And so, you know, I had a ton of pressure externally and internally on myself to perform in that giant slalom race. But luckily, especially in the first one, I tried to push it out of my mind and skied as hard as I could in the first run and one that run by one point three. And that, just like, took the pressure off. At that point, I was like, OK, I'm skiing all the day, and that's something I've always, I think been good at in my career is like when I've had that lead, like it freed me to kind of ski more relaxed in the second run and also like. I would push hard as I could, but I also knew that like there's three turns, I didn't have to take a ton of risk. And so second run, you know, had an awesome run the whole way down. And then, you know, the three turns was pretty sketchy and basketball turns toward the bottom and took a little bit of, you know, time away from myself there to make it down safely and was able to throw it out. And it wasn't until the press conference later on that I heard that hadn't been done since John Kahekili.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:41| Yeah. Did what did you hear from the other athletes or did you hear from Killy, Stein or anyone?
Ted Ligety: |00:22:49| Um, I did not hear from Killy. We had a thing with Stein here, actually, that's that spring, so I heard from him. Um, so I mean, he was, you know, I grew up skiing in Deer Valley and watching Stein ski, and it was funny. It's like a kid you would kind of like, make fun of Stein's style his like because he had a very distinct style. Anybody who's ski to Deer Valley, new style and style where you know, the feet pinned together really pretty. But I remember actually, I skied with him on the NASTAR course once when I was probably like 14 years old, and all of a sudden he was like, wham, right into modern race stance and like beating all of us like 13, 14 year olds. And he was probably like in his seventies there and just being like, Whoa, OK, like, we're, you know, taking, you know, Matt joking around with this guy about how he skis. And then all of a sudden he shows us what's up at even when he's seven years old. So, um, you know, Stein was still a competitive guy even later on. And, you know, he was an inspiration for sure growing up here.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:46| Well, let's head on to Sochi. In 2014, a year after that, you had come out of Vancouver without that gold medal in the giant slalom you wanted. You did end up getting it in Sochi. I want you to relive that second run for us. You have the lead, you're the dominant skier. But still you took every risk. You were strategic in your approach to it, but it was one of the most impressive victories. I think that I've ever seen that you really put it together in that second run at Sochi.
Ted Ligety: |00:24:16| Yeah, it's similar to what I was talking about in Schladming, where, you know, it was going to be kind of a failure if I didn't win that event in the sense I was the big favorite to win there. And that's like the first Olympics where I had a ton of hype. I was in a bunch of commercials leading up to that and you know, it was far and away the favorite there. And so same thing as, you know, super nervous leading up to it, but the same thing. I just I to like rewind actually on that a bit. We were lucky enough to train with the Russians a bunch on that venue and the years before that. So I knew that hill really well. And I knew, like over Bear's Brow, which is like the big, sharp break over that it paid. You didn't get anything for taking a lot of risks there. You were only like hurting yourself. You went fast over that roll and caught air because you would end up bleeding speed in the flat. So it was funny because I remember the first run going over that and like hooking it sideways. And like the coaches who are saying they were like, Oh man, I thought, you like, lost everything there. And that's actually where I made most of my time on people. And I thought, so is the same thing in my head. I was like when I was crossing the finish line, I was like, Oh, did I give too much on that turn? And then it turned out I didn't.
Ted Ligety: |00:25:26| But I was winning the first run by a lot, and so that gave me the confidence to relax in that second run, and I'm glad I didn't get too much information from the coaches. Adam Cole was like one of my childhood friends growing up was my coach at that point. He's a start coach, so he was getting all the course reports from the coaches and he did a really good job of filtering out how gnarly it had become. Justin Murisier or Stephen Missillier, who was ended up being silver, was in like 17 or something after first run and made a huge jump up because it got so gnarly and I was kind of oblivious to how gnarly it was. And ski down, ski a lot of confidence and there's a couple of holes there. I mean, in the moment, I didn't realize that they were like that close to disaster as it as I did when, you know when I saw the run later on. But, you know, just pushing as hard as I could in the slushy, tough conditions and was able to walk away with it. And it's so funny because it was such a different juxtaposition is like crossing the finish line in Torino, where I was just like, excited and ecstatic to be there and that I won. This is like those same notions mixed with like a huge sigh of relief to, you know, having had all that pent up pressure to like, fall through and actually win was pretty amazing under those circumstances.
Tom Kelly: |00:26:45| You know, I urge all of our listeners to go and look up the YouTube video of the second run and watch Ted checking up over the Bear's Brow. That was something we all watched that in the finish and thought, 'Oh, it's all over.' And then we started thinking, Well, maybe not.
Ted Ligety: |00:26:59| Yeah. Yeah,
Tom Kelly: |00:27:00| Very, very strategic. Ted, I want you to look back over your whole career and I'm not. I want to get, you know, kind of your thought on what do you take away from that great career in ski racing? Not so much the medals or the Globes. But is there something in your life that you've taken away from your experience as one of the world's greatest ski racers that will love live on with you?
Ted Ligety: |00:27:21| You know, when I was skiing, when I was in the midst of my career, I always tried not to look back or like, think about what it all meant and this and that. And so now that I've retired, it's pretty wild to think back on what I was able to accomplish, especially like thinking where I was as a 17, 18, 19 year old where, you know, I was far from being on anybody's radar as being one of the better ski racers of my generation. You know, I was getting my butt kicked by three to eight seconds, depending on the event in different races as a kid. And so. I surpassed my wildest expectations by orders of magnitude, that's for sure. I mean, when you're in the midst of your career, when I was in the middle of it, I always wanted more. You know, I always wanted more. I thought I was going to do more. I thought I could do more. And that's just like the competitive atmosphere and the competitive mindset you need to have in that moment. But looking back on it now, just I'm surprised and it's surreal to think about what I was able to do and just super humbled to think that I was able to do what I could do.
Tom Kelly: |00:28:23| We're talking today on Last Chair on the Ski Utah podcast, with Olympic champion Ted Ligety, a Utah native. We'll be right back after this short break.
Tom Kelly: |00:28:48| We are back with Utah native Ted Ligety here on the opening episode of Last Share The Ski Utah podcast and Ted, it was great to relive your competitive career, but let's kind of bring things more to the present. You made a decision to retire last winter and talk a little bit about what went into that decision for you and for your family.
Ted Ligety: |00:29:10| Yeah, as a multitude of factors, you know, this part of my life, I have three kids, for Jax' first year, first couple of years of his life, you know, he was traveling on the World Cup with me. I think he'd been to three 13 countries by the time he was one year old. So he saw the full World Cup tour and that was easy to do with one kid. But now that I had three, it was really hard making those trips back and forth to Europe, and it was hard to balance competing it the way I wanted to compete and preparing for the season, the way I want to prepare with also being the father and having the family that I wanted to have. Also, my body was starting to break down and had a lot of back issues over the previous years, and that's ultimately what ended up doing me in a week earlier than I had actually planned. But so those pieces and being competitive, I could have gone one more year even despite the injury and probably made the Olympic team. But I'm not the type of person that wants to go to the Olympics or do one of these things. As a tourist, I want to go there and try to compete for a medal. You know, if I wasn't competing for podiums or medals and didn't think I still had that chance, I wanted to be done. And I think that culmination of factors all led to me saying like, I couldn't do it without compromising something else in my life more than I was willing to compromise. And so I decided it was done. And, you know, happy to have that decision.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:36| In addition to being a great ski racer, you also have been a businessman and you became a businessman actually right after the Olympics at the age of 21 with the formation of Shred. How did that concept come about and walk us through where the company is today,
Ted Ligety: |00:30:52| You know, to be naive and young?
Tom Kelly: |00:30:54| Yeah, but it worked, right?
Ted Ligety: |00:30:56| Yeah, it's so. I started Shred right after the Olympics in 2006, and really the impetus for that was growing up like. My generation of skiers, you know, people that are, you know, I guess, 84s to a little bit younger. We grew up, you know, with snowboarders who grew up with snowboard parks and freeski parks and jumps and bumps and powder skiing and ski movies and all these things. And I was really inspired by all those factors and all the brands out there, and the media always pitted those factor, those different facets of the sport against each other. And I was not happy at all with what was out there, at least in the ski racing world, as far as like image-wise of product and on the free seats, free ski side of things or snowboard side of things. Those products actually didn't really work for me in ski racing as well because they might have been cooler, but they were too small a field of view and all that stuff to work as a ski racing product. So I decided like I wanted to create a product that I was psyched and that helped me race to the highest level. But also, like on a powder day, I didn't feel like a race dork wearing it. So that was really the impetus for starting shred was kind of that nexus. And then I had a friend who started Slytech Protection. He's Italian. He signed that started that a couple of years before, and I was telling you about this idea on a mountain bike ride actually here in Park City in the summer.
Ted Ligety: |00:32:23| And he loved it and we just ran with it like two young, naive guys. No business plan. Just like he thought. He had a couple ideas for factories in Italy and went from there. Like six months later, we had a product actually, and we're selling, you know, maybe eight months later. And so really wild, quick turnaround. But he's an engineer, so we were able to, you know, take those mine and make some big improvements. You know, we've come a long ways. We've, you know, like our lens technology we developed with MIT, with our contrast boosting lens lenses. We have a lot of patents on the helmet side of things. So, you know, we've gone from like a very graphic oriented company to being a company that's, you know, has some serious technology behind it. And that's been fun kind of going through that whole arc and the business strategy and arc of that, you know, maturing as a company is also along with myself and the career, and I always wanted to create products that helped me boosted my confidence as a skier, help me go faster, but also carried over to the everyday skier and boost their confidence in the mountain. That's what it was all about, is how to create a product that allowed people to have more confidence and have more fun on their on the mountain, whether it's, you know, a lens for flat, lighter back protection. So you felt safer and going off jumps or whatever it was, you know, trying to create a product that really drilled down to that building confidence in the mountain.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:41| You really need to think about the combination of style and function. You've got to put those two things together to get a great product today, don't you?
Ted Ligety: |00:33:51| Yeah, that was like we started basically on that exactly that. You know, it was the impetus for stride was that there wasn't something for my functionality needs while also meeting, you know, a fun stylistic side of things, you know, not looking a super dorky, you know, heritage ski racing brand that I wasn't happy to represent at all, you know, trying to blend that younger generation. And I'm pretty psyched with how we were able to blend those two things together.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:18| What role are you playing with the company right now? Are you more actively involved now that you've retired?
Ted Ligety: |00:34:24| Yeah, for sure. I mean, over the years, I was definitely on the 30,000 foot side of things where I was involved in everything involved in every decision, every product and everything. But I didn't necessarily follow through on anything. You know, I had other people doing that and now definitely diving more deeply into the business, more into the day-to-day side of things. So, you know, that's still in the midst of sorting itself out. But you know, I'm really excited to be diving deeper into the business side of things, and I still have a lot of, you know, partnerships with sponsors and various things like that going on. So, you know, I still have. A very multifaceted outside of ski racing career, I guess, going on, but, you know, definitely more. It's definitely a lot of fun diving deeper into that side of things.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:07| Ted, let's explore a little bit about skiing and snowboarding. All of us have who are listening to this podcast have this passion for the mountains and snow. You happen to grow up here in Park City, so it was second nature to you. A lot of people move here to Utah or visit Utah to get that experience. But what is it in your mind that really gives you that special feeling when you're up on a mountaintop?
Ted Ligety: |00:35:32| I love just being out in the outdoors, being in the mountains, especially when there's snow on them. It's just this ... it's like a cleansing feeling almost, you know, being out there, this freedom to go fast, go ski down a hill, the wind in your face. It's exhilarating. It's just magical being on the mountains, especially when there's snow on them. And to grow up, you know, with the mountains 10 minutes away from my house, it's I couldn't have had a luckier childhood growing up in a better place to to really be able to fully utilize what I have in my backyard and just being in the mountains and being outside is so special.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:06| You like taking the family up there too, don't you?
Ted Ligety: |00:36:09| Yeah, that's why I'm still in Park City is it's just such a great place to grow up and having kids now. I really wanted my kids to be able to experience the outdoors here in Park City and whether skiing or mountain biking or just hiking around, you know, we live in a really, really special place here in Utah. So, you know, I feel really lucky.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:28| We talked a little earlier, Ted, about Stein Eriksen and Stein, the Norwegian Olympic champion who also won three gold medals in the World Championships back in 1954. But you grew up here with Stein, so you had a memory of him and an image of him. Let's talk a little more about what he really represented to you as a skier and the qualities that you saw in Stein Eriksen.
Ted Ligety: |00:36:54| Yeah, I mean, he was a legend. I mean, growing up here. Stein was a legend in the town. I mean, knowing growing up and skiing in parks at Deer Valley and seeing him around town, knowing what he'd done in the sport and just how he carried himself was was really inspirational as a young kid. Like I said, I told the story about racing him in the NASTAR course too, and like, he had that competitive edge. And when you talk to him, you can see that competitive edge. And so, um yeah, I mean, it's cool to have those heroes around in town, for sure.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:23| Before his passing a few years ago, did you have a chance to go skiing with him at all or were you pretty much on the tour the whole season?
Ted Ligety: |00:37:31| I've been lucky to ski with him a handful of times, for sure. Definitely in the later years, you know, by the time my season ended the ski season, unfortunately here was mostly on its way to ending, so didn't have too many opportunities later on. But, you know, luckily enough, growing up, we took some lift rides together and took some runs together. So, you know, I feel really, really lucky that I did have that opportunity.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:53| Let's go back to that day in the spring of 2013, after you'd won those three World Championship gold medals. In the plaza over at Park City Mountain, there was a community celebration for you and Stein got to the front of the stage and he looked out to all the kids and he said, 'Be just like Ted.' How did you feel when he held you up to that high a level of esteem?
Ted Ligety: |00:38:17| That's that's humbling. And hopefully I can live up to at least a portion of that, you know? I mean, that's special to have somebody who's been around for as long as he had been who'd seen as much as he'd seen, who'd had the accolades and had the personality and the influence. He had to say that about me. It was amazing. I mean, it's cool to see somebody who is literally a legend in the sport. I mean, not only in ski racing, but he was a ski legend beyond that with, you know, jumping Nordic side of things, but also the freestyle and aerials side of things as well. So, you know, to have one of those legends, you know, place those remarks upon yourself is pretty wild.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:00| Do you ever go up to Stein Eriksen Lodge and look at his trophy case?
Ted Ligety: |00:39:04| Yeah, every once in a while we have a picture actually of the three, the two of us with our three World Championships medals right there in front of his case. So yeah, it's pretty cool to see all that.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:13| It's a lot of memories in there. I urge if you're skiing Deer Valley, pop into steins and take a look at the trophy case. You now work as an ambassador here at Deer Valley. What is your role here today?
Ted Ligety: |00:39:25| Here skiing with people you know, promoting skiing here at Deer Valley? You know, I'm lucky this is my backyard. This is where I grew up skiing. It was always like a treat or when I was on the World Cup, coming here for Christmas, like just getting out here and skiing is always like so much fun. People ask me, like, where's your favorite place to ski in the world? And of course, I'm biased, but Deer Valley is like, It's awesome. I mean, I love coming up here and skiing the groomers. It's nothing quite like in the world, but on a powder day, like there's awesome powder ski on every one of the like the mountains amongst in. Side Deer Valley, so lots of little street tree skiing stashes, such a fun place, and so I look forward to, you know, a bunch of years of skiing and mountain biking here. If you're for me on the slopes here, yeah,
Tom Kelly: |00:40:08| Oh, we will. If you're taking a couple of VIPs out who are pretty good skiers, where are you going to take them here at Deer Valley?
Ted Ligety: |00:40:16| I mean, it depends on the day, of course, but you know, in your typical sunny groomer day, you know, getting on the lift and going straight over to Stynes run actually is, I think, one of the coolest morning runs on any mountain. You're it's east-facing, so you get that early morning sun exposure and it looks like you're just skiing right into the lake at Jordan now, which is beautiful. It has a cool pitch to it, pretty much always groomed. So it's just a beautiful run, cool scenery. So that's one of my favorite runs anywhere in the world. You know, Wizard is also on the same left on my favorite runs. You know, if it's powder day skiing Ontario bulls, there's just so many memories and so many cool places to ski. But that's definitely starting off at Stynes is definitely the place to go.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:57| A lot has been said about the greatest snow on Earth here in Utah. All of us who live here are pretty biased on it. But Ted, you've skied literally all over the world. What is it that makes that Utah snow so unique?
Ted Ligety: |00:41:12| It just regularly snows, I mean, even on a bad snow year, which is funny is like it's still great skiing here in Utah. But the Utah powder is like nothing else. I mean, it's they call it champagne powder for a reason, you know, it's just so light. And it's just so much fun skiing here on a powder day. But it's just awesome skiing. Even after, like after a snowstorm, the way it packs out just for ripping around the groomers is is fun too. It just holds together really nicely. And it's just. It's hard to beat anywhere else in the world.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:41| What's Jax' favorite run here, Deer Valley?
Ted Ligety: |00:41:44| He likes like Quincy, Quincy's Cabin, one of the little tree runs. He loves going in the trees. That's his jam.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:51| Yeah, and you're not. You're pretty good on that too, huh?
Ted Ligety: |00:41:53| It's hard actually following when those little runs because, you know, he's going a little slower than I would normally like to go. And so, you know, those little like little kid ruts are hard to navigate and ducking under the trees, and that's just like his zone. So he challenges me up there for sure.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:09| Bucky's backyard?
Ted Ligety: |00:42:10| That's exactly right. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:11| Well, Ted Ligety, thank you for sharing so much with us today. We're going to close out this episode of Last Year, The Ski Utah podcast with a little section I call fresh tracks. So just a little quick Q&A for you. And hopefully we won't stump you too much on this and I want to start it out. And let's go back to the competitive aspect of of your career. Who would you look to as that toughest competitor that you always most feared over your career as a ski racer?
Ted Ligety: |00:42:39| That's pretty easy. Marcel Hirscher. I mean, he's in my mind like one of the best. He's probably the best ever. I mean, he could have gone a couple more years and gotten more wins and challenged Mark, and him and I had a lot of epic battles over the years.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:53| You had a lot of those over at Beaver Creek in the U.S. World Cup, too, and you usually came out with the upper hand.
Ted Ligety: |00:42:59| And I was I mean, I can maybe claim that maybe I was one of the few guys that when both of us were at our peak, I had his number, maybe more often than not overall, the long term, he took me down far more often, but first and second places, I think I have the edge on him there. They're cruel versus each other. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:20| Ted, what are the music tracks or song or playlist that most motivated you when you were a ski racer?
Ted Ligety: |00:43:29| That's hard to say, it's actually kind of funny, I generally and I was like working out in the gym and everything, I would listen to audiobooks or podcasts, actually, but going up to to a race, you know, I listen to like to get pumped up. Sometimes I would listen to like Rage Against the Machine and stuff like that, like kind of throwback to my youth. I listened to a lot of punk rock growing up, but so listening to those kind of tracks and getting ready for a race would be kind of my go-to. It's not something I would listen to outside of that, I guess, these days.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:01| Did did you listen up in the start house before you went out?
Ted Ligety: |00:44:04| Generally to start a house? No, I was. I mean, you'd hear music going on the loudspeaker, but I like to kind of be in the environment and talking to my coaches, talking with Ales, my technician and trying to like be in the environment. I didn't like to like quarantine myself off into my own little headspace. I got to kind of be more open so I could kind of focus in those last moments.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:24| Cool. How about your favorite GoPro video edit that you've done over the years?
Ted Ligety: |00:44:31| Oh, man, I mean, I do a lot of stuff with GoPro, and we've done a lot of cool edits, um. I mean, I think some of my favorite stuff is like me following Jax, actually, I think that's like some of the cooler, funny ones, especially like when he like says funny comments into the cameras is pretty hilarious. So, um, it's hard to pick a favorite there. But I think, you know, some of the most engaging stuff on social media with the GoPro edits are skiing with Jax.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:56| You had some fun stuff. My favorite was the one that you did at Rosa Couture the year before the Olympics in Sochi, where you were having that encounter with a soldier up at the top of the mountain.
Ted Ligety: |00:45:08| Yeah, yeah, we the first one, they had the World Cup there a couple of years before the Olympics. I wasn't racing in the downhill day, so I went powder skiing and snowed a bunch right before we got there. But because the mountain was closed down only to the racers and the hill crew, that top section of it, Rosa Khutor, has a huge like section, section of balls and spine lines. And so I took my powder skis up there and the Russian Army had a bunch of bunkers built in the mountain up there, and they were very confused on what I was doing up there just because the backside is also into Georgia and there is some conflict at the time there too. So guys with huge rifles, you know, stop me and I was able to talk my way through for a couple of runs and then they put the kibosh on it and weren't weren't letting me take any more runs. But yeah, trying to negotiate with a Russian soldier in snow camo with a huge rifle was kind of intimidating.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:04| And he had no idea you were taping it.
Ted Ligety: |00:46:07| No, I think, yeah, that was before. You know, the days of, you know, knowing or blinking red light on your head was meant you were being filmed.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:15| Go check that one out, folks. How about your favorite Utah ski run when it's just Ted Ligety going off to have a run? Where do you like to go?
Ted Ligety: |00:46:24| Stein's Way ripping groomers down that going super fast in the morning. That's an awesome first run of the day
Tom Kelly: |00:46:29| If you're not skiing in Utah or anywhere else in the world. What's your favorite place to ski?
Ted Ligety: |00:46:35| Oh, man, I've skied so many places. The place that I think I would go back is like a ski vacation would be Nozawa Onsen in Japan, just, you know, the Japanese powder culture. It's so different. I think I've spent the last 17 years of my life spending all winter in Europe that the. Kind of the the how special it is over in Europe is kind of worn off of me. I don't think I don't consider that special anymore, but going to Japan is still fresh and new and neat. So that's kind of the place that I'd like to go in on my next ski vacation.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:12| Let's bring it back home. Do you have a favorite High West whiskey brand?
Ted Ligety: |00:47:18| Um, I am into rye, so their Double Rye.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:23| Have you tried BouRye?
Ted Ligety: |00:47:24| And the BouRye was my favorite, but they don't have it all that often.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:27| No, you got to really find that one. We did a podcast on that last winter. Actually, when you and Mia get a babysitter, or maybe grandma and grandpa say they're going to watch the kids. What's your favorite date night dinner here in Park City?
Ted Ligety: |00:47:41| Oh, that's tough. We like Yuki Yami Sushi. Rivernorse, yeah, I guess it depends on how fancy we're trying to get, but yeah, there's a lot of great options in Park City.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:56| And then lastly, Ted, if you look at skiing in Utah, what's one word that comes to mind for you?
Ted Ligety: |00:48:03| Convenient, and I say that actually, because there's so many places in the world that have great skiing, but nowhere in the world, you can just fly directly and hit. Twenty mountains, basically, within an hour, I mean, that's pretty unreal, I mean, Colorado always gets all the hype in the U.S. as far as being like the ski area capital of the U.S., but you have to get in the car for two hours anywhere you want to go out of Denver. So and it's I-70 is that's an overrated corridor as well. So yeah, the convenience of getting here to Utah, it's hard to beat.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:38| I love it. That's why we love it here. It's right here. And it's not just because we live here. Ted Ligety, thank you so much for being a guest here on Last Chair the Ski Utah podcast.
Ted Ligety: |00:48:48| Yeah, thanks for having me.
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