Sophie Goldschmidt: America's Best In Utah

By Tom Kelly Nov 2, 2023
Last Chair covered myriad topics with Goldschmidt from her global experience to funding a team with no government support and, of course, the stars of skiing and snowboarding.
Sophie Goldschmidt: America's Best In Utah

It was a typical day at the USANA Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah as Olympic and Paralympic athletes were sweating it out on the training center floor, preparing for their winter competition seasons ahead. Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, talked to Last Chair from a meeting room looking out at some of the greatest ski and snowboard athletes in America.

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The U.S. Ski Team moved to Park City in 1974, initially setting up shop in the old Silver King mine buildings at the base of what is now the Bonanza six-pack at Park City Mountain. Today, the team is based at the USANA Center of Excellence with elite skiers and riders from across America making their training home in Utah. The centerpiece training center is just a short distance from sport training facilities including Soldier Hollow, the Utah Olympic Park and a host of ski resorts.

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Goldschmidt came to the team in 2021, just prior to the Beijing 2022 Olympics. A modern sport leader, she honed her management skills working for global retailer adidas, helping grow the NBC in Europe and Africa and running the World Surf League.

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Sophie Goldschmidt and Last Chair Host Tom Kelly.

Today, oversees one of the largest and most complex of the 50+ Olympic organizations in America with programs touching on 10 different ski and snowboard sports programs – and now also included Paralympic sport.

Last Chair covered myriad topics with Goldschmidt from her global experience to funding a team with no government support and, of course, the stars of skiing and snowboarding. Here’s a sampling:

What’s it like to come to work in a training center like this?

Yeah, I have to say, it's pretty inspiring every day when I walk in through the doors. I get in pretty early, but we've normally got a few athletes and staff already in here training away, trying to improve their skills. I feel very privileged to call this my office.

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U.S. Ski Team alpine athletes train on slack lines this summer (Mike Dawson)

What has this training base in Utah meant to the team?

It's been in existence for well over a decade. It's an amazing facility for us to have. Now, over half of our athletes are based in the Park City area. And, you know, it's no secret that when you can get top athletes training together more regularly, it helps to push performance. I think it makes it more enjoyable.

How important is it for athletes to congregate here in Utah?

Yeah. So look, first of all, I love living in Utah and in Park City. It's certainly exceeded expectations and I had pretty high expectations coming into this. To be clear, we don't expect everyone to move to Utah, Salt Lake or Park City. But we did think it was important in the off season and pre-season to have athletes here more regularly. It varies by team, but is between sort of three, four, five months long. And to have them come here more regularly, we felt was really important. We want them to be able to tap into all this experience and resource and knowledge that we have.

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Action sports athletes have a skateboard bowl for training

After more than a decade of management by the USOPC, Paralympic sport has come back to your organization. How important is that?

“It made sense for a bunch of reasons. We want to be more inclusive, we need to be more inclusive. These athletes have a lot of similarities with our other teams and other athletes. We want to help them also achieve our dreams and really collaborate and learn from each other. So the timing was just right, right for us and the organization was very open to it.  I'm really excited about how it started and where we can get to.

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Utah is looking again at an Olympics in either 2030 or 2034. What impact would that have?

It's a game changer! Since day one on the job, when I really understood the opportunity and likelihood, we're all in to helping. I'm not sure there's anything really that could move the needle more than the build up to a home Olympics. 

Utah takes a lot of pride in the Deer Valley World Cup – it’s really special isn’t it?

Yeah, it's pretty magical. It's as great of an experience as any event I've been to. It's at the base of the mountain so you've got kind of almost a captive amphitheater environment. The Deer Valley, Park City, Salt Lake City area crowd really comes out to support it. This is a really special date on the calendar that I know everyone looks forward to. And Deer Valley just does a spectacular job hosting it. First weekend in February, guys, 1st to the 3rd of February. Mark your calendars.

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Look for more in-depth conversation with U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Sophie Goldschmidt in this episode of Last Chair.

Deer Valley World Cup

Feb. 1-3, 2024>

Want to see the top stars right here in Utah? The annual Intermountain Health Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort attracts the top moguls and aerials skiers in the world for three nights of competition under the lights. With a rich heritage, the Deer Valley World Cup brings the community together for a celebration of sport under the lights.

Support the Team!/donation/checkout>

With no government funding like most of its competitors, U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes rely on the generosity of the public to support their goals and dreams. If you want to help the great athletes who make Utah their training base, click to pledge your support.




Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Today we are in one of the coolest locations I think we've been in for Last Chair with Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of US Ski and Snowboard. We're in the Center of Excellence the USANA Center of Excellence today. What an amazing place to work.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:00:13| Yeah, I have to say, it's pretty inspiring. Every day when I walk in through the doors. Normally I get in pretty early, but we've normally got a few athletes and staff already in here training away, trying to improve their skills. So, yeah, I feel very privileged to call this my office.

Tom Kelly: |00:00:29| Now, |00:00:30| this is a busy time of year. I mean, things are just getting underway. Your season is pretty much here.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:00:36| It is, yeah. we're underway. We just finished our first stop on the season in Chur, Sölden is coming up. And lots to look forward to. I mean, every weekend is packed with different events, both in Europe, a few in Asia, and we've got more World Cup events than ever before in the US as well, which I'm super excited about.

Tom Kelly: |00:00:57| Is the tension a little bit higher this time of year? I was down on the |00:01:00| training floor here at the Center of Excellence and a lot of athletes working out. But as you know, can you kind of feel that anticipation of the season?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:01:08| I feel more tense. I mean, I like the competitive juices are flowing, you know, all the hard work that's gone in over the last few months. Now we're going to put it to the test and see how much it's paid off and how much these athletes have improved. But look, there's also always a great spirit of sort of joy and just appreciation and the camaraderie that you get down on the gym floor. But yeah, |00:01:30| the pressure's just around the corner.

Tom Kelly: |00:01:32| Well, that's what we're all here for. You know, it's a competitive sport. Let's talk about the USANA Center of Excellence. This has been a remarkable facility located right here in Utah. Give us a little introduction to the building that we're in.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:01:46| Yeah, I mean, it's been in existence for well over a decade. And it's an amazing facility for us to have. Now, over half of our athletes are based in the Park City area. And, you know, |00:02:00| it's no secret that when you can get top athletes training together more regularly, it helps to push performance. I think it makes it more enjoyable. Yes, of course, they want their alone time and downtime because they have such long, hard, competitive seasons. But to have a facility like this only encourages more of them to come here. We're very fortunate to have USANA as the partner of it that makes this all possible. And this summer we've had more athletes training out of here than we've had in years. Strategically, it was something that Anouk, our |00:02:30| chief chief of Sport and I sort of worked on leading into the off season. We wanted to get our teams here more regularly. It's great for those individual teams. And then just to see the cross-pollination of ideas and culture sharing and just, yeah, sharing kind of the joys and ambition that they all have amongst our teams. I think it's been really fun to see that collaboration and see that evolve.

Tom Kelly: |00:02:52| I want to come back to that in just a minute. But first, just when you walk through the floor, it's like going through any gym. It's like going to a planet |00:03:00| fitness in a way. But what I'm sure is going on is there's a lot of science going on behind the machines and people would recognize the treadmills and the different strength machines. But there's a lot of science going on behind this.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:03:14| Oh, for sure. So our high performance department is run by Gillian Bower. We have a high number of staff downstairs, both on the medical side and then the sort of training, high performance side who are working tirelessly day in, day out with these athletes, both on an individual |00:03:30| basis and on a team basis. And you're right, there's a lot of very high tech gear down there as well. For those of you that might have the chance to come and please come check out this center of excellence. We open it up from time to time. You'd recognize a lot of the machines, but a lot of the machines you would never have seen before because they've been very bespoke, developed to help our athletes with specific needs and areas that we're trying to improve. So yeah, it's there's all sorts of gadgets down there, hopefully making us faster, having even more endurance, helping the athletes to jump higher. |00:04:00| I was actually just downstairs. We've got a trampolining session going on at the moment with our freeski athletes helping them just dynamically and to become better, better in the air, which is important for everyone.

Tom Kelly: |00:04:12| For an athlete today, there's a lot that goes into it. And how much knowledge do the athletes carry with them on the science behind what their training is doing and how it's preparing them physically and also mentally for the season ahead? Are they all pretty knowledgeable |00:04:30| about this now as young athletes?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:04:32| Yeah, I would say the baseline knowledge is very strong and kind of improves every year by what we're sharing and just sort of their level of interest and like you said, sort of the breadth of what it takes now to be truly world class. There are so many different areas. There's the physicality, there's the mental side of it, there's the nutrition. And if you're not up to speed and doing what you can in all those areas, it's tough to be the best in the world. Having said that, some athletes. Outside |00:05:00| of sort of having a baseline level of knowledge, they kind of go more on instinct. You know, they like to get in the zone and just let things flow. Others really want to micromanage every element of their day. So there are certain aspects that are very sort of individualized and everyone sort of works slightly differently. But I think the overall level of knowledge and sort of interest that they have is growing as science and technology continues to evolve. They have to care about it to really be able to apply it in the most effective way to them. |00:05:30|

Tom Kelly: |00:05:30| Let's take an athlete in particular, Jessie Diggins, the cross country Olympic champion. I was here a short time back in October and saw her training here with the cross country team. But someone like that who's at really the absolute top end of their sport, she has to have a pretty good bank of knowledge on how to really sense things in her own body and to prepare it to be out there in this grueling 3 or 4 month tour.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:05:56| Absolutely. I mean, I would say she's just, in general, a very thoughtful, very |00:06:00| curious athlete. I think also, look, as you get more experience in your career, you really want to tap into that to be an advantage. So if you've been around for ten, 12 years competing, you know that can be your special sauce. Okay? Someone that's new on the circuit has other things. Maybe they have a different drive or energy because it's all new and that excitement. But I think Jessie and Rosie Brennan and others, we've got a nice balance. We've got some athletes that have been competing for a long time, some that are just on the team for for the first |00:06:30| year. But I think that mix of experience and kind of new energy is great. And I think that's where, you know, our coaches and everyone that supports and is around the team, you know, we have a huge support staff supporting the athletes and all sorts of ways and helping to educate them as to how you can tap into this bank of information and knowledge and experience. And when you're in a situation for the first time, okay, it's new, but actually look at the trends. Look at the patterns. You've been through something similar before and what what worked, what didn't work. So I think |00:07:00| really optimizing that kind of data and history and information is very important.

Tom Kelly: |00:07:06| So if you are a national team, so you have athletes who come from all over the country, but you'd like them to come out here to Utah. And I think many of us, yourself included, have now found some of the great benefits of Utah. But what are some of the things that you've done to attract more athletes to make Utah their training base with the Usana Center of Excellence here?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:07:28| Yeah. So look, I first |00:07:30| of all, I love living in Utah and in Park City. It's certainly exceeded expectations and I had pretty high expectations coming into this. To be clear, we don't expect everyone to move to Utah, Salt Lake Park City, but we did think it was important in the off season and pre-season to have athletes here more regularly. I totally respect that. Some people want to be back where they grew up with their families, kind of away from the team all the time. But you know, the off season – it varies by team, but is between sort of three, |00:08:00| four, five months long. And to have them come here more regularly, we felt was really important. We wanted to monitor them more closely for the reasons we've just discussed. We want them to be able to tap into all this experience and resource and knowledge that what we have. But we have now had a lot more move into the area, which has been great. They're able to take advantage of the center of Excellence day in, day out, especially some of those that are rehabbing and coming back from injury, being able to get that literally hour by hour kind of monitoring |00:08:30| and rehab support I think is really key.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:08:34| But it's it's a mix. I think we need to be flexible and ultimately figure out what's going to work for everyone. And having them spend more time here is great. And I think we've kind of found found the right balance. It was great. You know, the first couple of times we really kind of required and asked all our athletes to come here. Not everyone kind of bought into it. I think by the second, third camp they were like, Oh yeah, I'm missing out. I see the value. And that was kind of the test I put to our team. |00:09:00| I want it to be such a great experience that everyone wants to spend more time here. Whether they move here or not, that doesn't matter. But again, tapping into all that knowledge, having our elite athletes train together more often and really pushing each other to achieve new things, I think is is a big part of what high performance sports all about. And we've got so many amazing athletes and teams that it's great to be able to to have that opportunity to bring them here.

Tom Kelly: |00:09:24| So the USANA Center of Excellence is located out at the intersection of State Route 248 and US 40, |00:09:30| it's called Quinn's Junction, so it's a little bit on the east side of Park City. If you've been here before. You also are literally 20 minutes from the Olympic and Paralympic cross-country venue in Soldier Hollow. You're less than 15 minutes from the Utah Olympic Park with the ski jumps and the freestyle and snowboard training facilities. And you have all of these amazing ski areas. How much of an asset is that for you being here in Park City, Utah?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:09:59| It's huge. |00:10:00| I mean, how lucky are we? Yeah. Just last week, I was out there with our cross country team who were here for a two week training camp. We've got athletes that will be coming back here during the season to train at the multiple venues you just mentioned, where we're very grateful and and supportive of our key resort partners, Vail Resorts here at Park City, Deer Valley, which is an ultra resort, like you mentioned, the Utah Olympic Park and that whole legacy group are incredibly important for |00:10:30| us and very supportive, as well as the multitude of other resorts around here, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Ulta, etcetera. And also another thing that makes this such a favorable place to be located is the airport. You know, there aren't many snow sport areas that are this close to an international airport. So for our area athletes to be able to come back and forth, fly directly to Europe, fly directly to Asia, it's it's really an amazing place to be. I mean, it's |00:11:00| the perfect location for us.

Tom Kelly: |00:11:01| You know, I can't imagine the number of miles that the athletes and staff rack up every year. But what are you, like 30, 35 minutes to the airport from here.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:11:10| 35 minutes door to door with no traffic. And at the moment, touch wood, there isn't often too much traffic. Yeah. Having lived in LA before, even though I lived quite close to LAX, it's a lot easier for me to get to Salt Lake City than it ever was to LAX.

Tom Kelly: |00:11:24| So Sophie, let's talk about your own background. You came into this role at US Ski and Snowboard, maybe |00:11:30| a different pathway than others have into the leadership role. But tell us a little bit about your background and how it eventually brought you here to US Ski and Snowboard in Park City, Utah.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:11:39| Yeah. So I guess going back to the beginning, you can probably tell from my accent I didn't grow up here. I grew up across the pond, was always very passionate about sports, though. Growing up, I was lucky and had the chance to ski from a young age and play all sorts of sports, netball, as we call it, back over in the UK, hockey -- field, hockey and tennis was my real |00:12:00| obsession and I got very into tennis, very focused on it when I was a teenager. And ultimately that's what gave me the opportunity to first sort of properly come to the US. I played college tennis at Baylor in Texas and from there that was kind of my first foray into the sports industry. I coached while I was there doing my grad program, which I loved. I kind of thought actually that was maybe the path I was going to go down. But then I got an internship at Adidas or Adidas, and that opened my eyes to sort of sports marketing. And it was |00:12:30| a dream role working in tennis and soccer, a great education and entree. And then from there I went to work in basketball for the NBA. I worked in rugby and ran the Rugby World Cup in 2015. I then worked for a group holding company in sports marketing entertainment that had a bunch of different agencies that I oversaw. And then before taking on this role, I moved to LA to run the World Surf League, which is the global professional surfing tour.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:12:55| And now I'm here. So I've been here almost two years and it's |00:13:00| been quite a whirlwind. I've had a very steep learning curve, but I've loved it and I'm very passionate about our sports. It was a big reason that I took the role. I was looking to do something different where I could kind of be out of my comfort zone, but have confidence that I was going to make a real impact as well. So certainly learning a lot on the sports side and just love being around all of our high performance staff, our chief of sport, our sport directors, coaches who just work tirelessly with our amazing athletes. And |00:13:30| then if I can put it sort of on the business side, the commercial marketing, communications, financial side of the business is something I'm much closer to and have had a lot of deep experience in running organizations and, and managing different aspects of the business side of our organization, which has been very fulfilling. And we've, we've made quite a few changes which I think are really bedding in well, and people have been very open minded to look in some areas. It is kind of incrementally |00:14:00| just continuing to do more of the same at a higher level and some other areas. I felt we had to make some more fundamental changes to really kind of cut through and take things to to the next level. So yeah, that that journey is underway.

Tom Kelly: |00:14:14| And it will always be underway. It's never ending. We're going to get back to skiing snowboarding here in a minute, but I want to explore your work for the NBA. If I'm not mistaken, you worked for NBA in Europe, is that right?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:14:24| Correct. So I started out in New York, in the headquarters in Manhattan, and then I moved back to London. We actually |00:14:30| moved a lot of our international operations to the UK. So I looked after Europe, Middle East and Africa and and a pretty exciting time where the NBA was taking games overseas. I bought our first ever regular season games to London. We did a lot of preseason games around a mirror, as we call it, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia and sorry, Europe, Middle East and Africa. We opened our first offices in various parts of those continents. Center. |00:15:00| Yeah, it was amazing experience. It was when David Stern was still alive. He was a big proponent of international growth. I had the chance to work very closely with him and also actually with the current commissioner, Adam Silver, who are both very supportive of sort of the international expansion and what great people to learn from. I certainly learn a lot from them.

Tom Kelly: |00:15:19| I was really curious, you know, what is it like to sell a sport sport that's huge here in America, but to sell it into a new market where it's a different culture and, you know, different |00:15:30| perspectives on sport, what was that challenge like?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:15:33| Yeah, it was fascinating. I mean, to your point, and it's different in every market. I mean, the NBA is an entertainment brand was often bigger than it as a sort of basketball high performing sports league. In the UK, for example, it was about the hip hop and the music and that lifestyle cross over in France, we had nine French players in the NBA, so they were all about high performance basketball. They had a great national team, they had a strong league. The same in Turkey. |00:16:00| We went to the Middle East for the first time, two players to Dubai and Qatar. And and that was a real eye opener. Africa, A lot of our athletes were very focused on giving back in Africa, really wanted to crack through their soccer had sort of dominated. So we took our first ever athletes over there. They now have a league in in Africa. And I hired our first managing director of that region who reported into me. So, yeah, it was fascinating. Time And to your point, I mean, it certainly wasn't a one |00:16:30| size fits all approach. Every market, we had to take a slightly different strategy, um, to the market to, to be successful.

Tom Kelly: |00:16:39| Do you think about that? And I'm kind of using this in reverse now where ski racing in many aspects of ski racing have often been considered to be Eurocentric and bringing that sport to America. You were new to this. You've been in the role for for two years right now. But are there things that you learned there |00:17:00| that transcend over to what you're doing now to help sell the sport of skiing, sports of skiing and snowboarding here in America?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:17:09| Definitely. I think not just in my NBA time actually working in tennis, too, which is very global and and very big in some markets, less so in others, I think. Yeah, a lot of relevant sort of examples that I've been able to sort of tap into and experience that I can sort of bring to the fore. Um, how you can sort of break through, think out |00:17:30| the box, how can you grow the profile of these athletes, which they deserve. But selfishly, for us, there's nothing that helps sort of increase participation and interest in our sports by having more globally recognized stars as well. How can we be more inclusive? How can we ensure that even if you don't live near a mountain, you still care about what's happening? How do we educate people that we're not just Olympic sports? We have year round World Cup schedules, and actually winning a globe is almost as important as anything. I mean, we love a gold medal |00:18:00| from the Olympics for sure, but actually, who's the best athlete week in, week out over a 4 to 5 month period really determines the best athletes in the world. So yeah, it's been fun to sort of figure out how we can better educate the market on our sports and how we can, you know, tactically put some new things in place to make it more understandable and easier to relate and follow for our athletes and teams.

Tom Kelly: |00:18:26| We're going to talk about some of those stars of the sport here in just a minute, but just |00:18:30| give the listeners a little bit of a 411 on what U.S. Ski and Snowboard is as an Olympic sports governing body.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:18:36| So we are the governing body for the majority of snow sports in the US. We now have ten different sports that we oversee within those sports, they have multiple disciplines. So for example, in Alpine, which is one of our ten, we have downhill super giant GS, giant slalom and slalom skiers. Some do multiple disciplines, some just focus on on |00:19:00| one. In freestyle, for example, we have moguls and aerials. So we have a number of different sports. The most recently added sports that we've taken on board are our para alpine and snowboard team, which we're super proud of quite a long way back. They used to sit within our organization and then they went over to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and we brought them back earlier this summer, which has been awesome. So we're going |00:19:30| through that integration and transition at the moment. So we have over 240 athletes that we fully support on an annual basis from the development level right up to the best in the world and we help them achieve their dreams.

Tom Kelly: |00:19:43| Let's talk a little bit about the transition to bring Para back to us. Ski and snowboard. Literally. Your next door neighbor is the National Ability Center, one of the greatest Paralympic training centers and actually adaptive sports centers in the country. Give us a |00:20:00| little introduction to to para sport and why this should be so important for us.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:20:07| Yeah, I mean, to me it was a no brainer. I sort of wrongly assumed when I started this role that it was part of our world. It's part of many national governing bodies and for various reasons we hadn't had it within sort of our organization for a while. But it made sense for a bunch of reasons. We want to be more inclusive, we need to be more inclusive. These athletes have a lot of similarities |00:20:30| with our other teams and other athletes. We want to help them also achieve our dreams and really collaborate and learn from each other. So the timing was just right, right for us and the organisation was very open to it. So we had a really good transition process with the US APC and yeah, look, we've still got a long way to go. We've hired a sport director, we're getting the coaches in place. The athletes have been very patient with us because ultimately |00:21:00| we want to do the best for them, but it takes time to get everything right and and we've got a lot, a lot to learn. But yeah, I'm really excited about how it started and where we can get to.

Tom Kelly: |00:21:11| When you see them on the training floor here at the Centre of Excellence, do you sense a special spirit about them and what they're trying to accomplish?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:21:21| Yeah, as much as any of our athletes, I mean, it's as expected, they just integrate with each other. Yeah, look, they have some |00:21:30| disabilities which is sort of overcoming in my mind in superhuman ways. I mean, it's quite incredible what they can do on the slopes. And yeah, we're just very proud to have them be part of our organization.

Tom Kelly: |00:21:43| I want to just quickly run down some of the stars of the sport. And I know you have a lot of them. You have ten different sport programs, so hard to keep track of all of them. But just to go down each of the sports. Alpine, you have one really big superstar right now.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:21:57| Yeah, our GOAT, Mikaela |00:22:00| Shiffrin, who had just the most incredible season last year. I mean, it was sort of towards the end of the season, every race, she was breaking another record and just an incredible person as well. The ultimate role model who gives back more than anyone might imagine. So, yeah, super proud of her and very fortunate to have her on our team.

Tom Kelly: |00:22:20| You know, I think what you said about her being the role model and one of the things that's always struck me about Mikaela is that what everybody sees, that's the real person. Yeah. |00:22:30|

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:22:30| Yeah. I mean, we talk a lot about role models in sport, and for sure there are others. But having worked around a lot of the greatest athletes of the last 20 years across my various roles, you know, people sometimes talk about risk with athletes and associating with them. There is no risk with Mikaela. I mean, what you see is what you get. And actually there's a lot more behind the scenes. I mean, her thoughtfulness, her attention to detail, her professionalism. You know, of course, you expect that, you know, when she's training, |00:23:00| but it's the other things that I think really make her stand out as well.

Tom Kelly: |00:23:04| In cross country skiing. This is this is actually a sport that I grew up working in years ago. And it was a sport that we just never really had that success. That has now changed, hasn't it?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:23:15| Yeah. Jessie Diggins And by the way, before we skip from Mikaela, Mikaela, who clearly leads the way in Alpine, but pretty exciting the talent that we've got coming up and and some of the talent that's been around for a while that's continuing to break through. So we'll |00:23:30| come back more to that. But yeah, shifting to to cross country, Jessie had a fantastic season last year, won our first world championship gold and continues to just go from from strength to strength and has kind of created momentum in our cross country program that we've never had before. And we were very close to finishing top three in the world. We had multiple athletes podium. We had the best under 23 male cross country skier in the world. |00:24:00| And the future looks very bright. Having been out with them a couple of weeks ago, I could just see how they're pushing the boundaries and the next generation that's coming through. We had the next level of sort of development athletes from a lot of the top clubs and other programs in the country here. And, you know, there's dozens of them. It's not just a handful like it was in the past. We've got dozens of them vying to be on our team. And that surely is going to sort of bode very well for the future. Now, this.

Tom Kelly: |00:24:28| Is something that applies across all sports, but |00:24:30| when you have those star athletes like Jessie, like Mikaela and some of the others we're going to talk about, they really do breed success from the younger athletes coming up, don't.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:24:39| They? They do, especially if they're willing to engage and train and sort of include them in their sort of ecosystem, which both these two do. In fact, you know, all of our athletes do. There's a really neat sort of camaraderie and wanting to give back and care about a legacy in the next generation, which I'm trying to tap into. More and more. I |00:25:00| think it's sort of invaluable for our athletes and teams.

Tom Kelly: |00:25:03| Let's move on over to freestyle. Freestyle is a sport that has had quite a heritage of success. And right now you've got a couple of great stars. And what do you look at in freestyle now in moguls and aerials?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:25:16| Yeah, well, in moguls we're stacked. We've got a lot of great athletes, especially on the women's side. Jaelin Kauf leading the way, but we have multiple other female athletes that have podiumed and doing very well the same on the men's side. Nick Page leading the way |00:25:30| there, but Cole McDonald and Dylan Mazzolini and various others really breaking through. And then on the Aerials side, look, we've had some of the best athletes for a few years now with Ashley Caldwell leading the way and then obviously winning the team gold with Chris and Justin and now a young star who really broke out last year, Quinn Dehlinger, who was super excited about. He's definitely pushing some of those that have been around for a while. But again, with the great sort of team |00:26:00| camaraderie and it's just, yeah, fun to see them working together. The freestyle team moguls and aerials, they here a lot over the summer, so you get to interact a lot with them. They're a really tight knit bunch and yeah, let's see what what they can do this season.

Tom Kelly: |00:26:14| A lot of Utah names in that group too.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:26:16| Yes, certainly are. Yeah. A lot of those are based here. The training facilities at the up are so good for those programs with the the ramps and and the pool work that they do in the summer. That's yeah. A |00:26:30| real advantage for us. So hence a lot of them being based in the area.

Tom Kelly: |00:26:33| There is a great heritage in snowboard that goes back to the early competitive days of the sport. Shaun White has now retired, but there's still plenty coming up behind.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:26:43| Yeah, still rumors he might come back again, but I've heard that he's he's got a lot on his plate. But yeah, the next generation is looking very good. We almost kind of skip maybe a few years of having quite as much young talent. So we've made a few changes in our snowboard |00:27:00| program. We have a new sport director, Ricky Bower, who's doing a great job, but we still have some standout athletes with Chloe Kim leading the way. She's back training this year. She's been doing some amazing work in Saas-fee. I heard from a couple of weeks ago a few new tricks up her sleeve that no one's ever seen before, which is pretty awesome already. And Maddie Mastro, who's had some tough injuries. But again, you know, year in, year out, shows that she can podium regularly and is right up there with the best, best in the world. So, yeah, |00:27:30| snowboard is is looking particularly strong as well as we go into to this year. And then on the Freeski side too, I mean, we've had an amazing heritage of success there, especially on the men's side, fantastic depth led by Alex Hall and Colby Stevenson. Both Utah skiers spend a lot of time here, but they've just sort of created an ambition and a culture which is very, very strong. I often talk about our free ski culture. We have a new sport director there, |00:28:00| Skogan Sprang, who was our head coach for many years, so he's just doing more of the same. We've won over 30% of the available Olympic medals since freeskiing has been around, which is pretty awesome, but it's getting more competitive. The other countries are picking up the pace, so we got to keep pushing it and and trying new things.

Tom Kelly: |00:28:18| Just to go back to Chloe, Chloe, Kim for a second, might we see her competing this year?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:28:23| Yeah, I think she will compete in some events to be determined which ones, but I'd be |00:28:30| surprised if she doesn't do at least a couple of events this year.

Tom Kelly: |00:28:33| Cool. We talked about the pair program earlier, both in alpine snowboard. Any names you want to throw out there?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:28:40| Yeah, look, that's a long list too. We've got, you know, multiple athletes that are part of the program. I guess a couple that jump out. Andrew Kircher has been on a great roll and yeah, super excited to see what more he's going to achieve. Zach Miller, SB winner this year with Mikaela, which was amazing to have two of them |00:29:00| take home an SB and, and he's also done some superhuman things and been very successful and both young I mean they've still got years ahead of them and and quite a few following in their footsteps. And like you say with the National Ability Center right next door, which again is sort of another no brainer as to why we would be now integrating Para into our organization.

Tom Kelly: |00:29:24| We're with Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of US Ski and Snowboard. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back |00:29:30| on last chair.

Tom Kelly: |00:29:32| And we're back on Last Chair. Today, we're at the U.S. Center of Excellence, the training center for us ski and snowboard. And Sophie Goldschmidt. Let's take a look ahead at the Olympics. We've got an you of an Olympics coming up in 2026 and Milan-Cortina, and it's just getting pretty close. A couple seasons away. What are you thinking?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:29:52| Yeah, look, it's it's around the corner. And also, we've still got sort of two and a half years to go. So it is one step at a time, that old adage |00:30:00| not to be too boring, but yeah, from a sort of a peaking standpoint, definitely something that the high performance staff and coaches kind of think about. Also the next generation, how quickly you want to bring them through. But no, I think we compete a lot in Cortina on the Alpine side and have had other sports events there over the years. I think the Italians are going to put on a great show. Hopefully we don't have Covid to sort of distract us. And yeah, look, it's going to be here before |00:30:30| we know it, but we're kind of focused on the races and events coming up and this season. So it is it is one step at a time.

Tom Kelly: |00:30:37| Do you I think those of us as fans, you know, we kind of look out to that and, you know, it's going to come up in 2026 and we'll watch it on NBC. But does it really factor into your athletic preparation now two years out? Is that something that's on a timeline that you're following? Yeah, it.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:30:53| Is. We sort of we do plan on the Olympic quad sort of period. But but it is |00:31:00| for us incremental game. You know, it's one step at a time. We want to continue to build that momentum and progress. But yeah, testing different technologies, different training, periodization kind of techniques and schedules so that we know how we can have people ideally peak at the right time is something that the team are constantly working on.

Tom Kelly: |00:31:22| We mentioned a Anouk earlier before, your Chief of Sport. Talk a little bit about what who she is and what she's brought to the whole high performance |00:31:30| planning.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:31:31| Yeah. So she has been awesome for the organization. I'm very glad that she accepted the role. She was on our World Cup Alpine team a few years back and then actually went into a very different career in investment banking consulting and most recently in technology. But having senior leadership roles in some very big organizations, but always stayed very close to our organization and our sports and is very passionate about elite sport. |00:32:00| So I felt we needed some different thinking, some different sort of professionalism, people that were going to push the boundaries, that were going to hold us all to account in a slightly different way. And and she ticked all those those boxes and she started not long after me and has made a real impact. She's built fantastic relationships and credibility, I believe, with the coaches and sports and high performance staff and as importantly with the athletes. So, |00:32:30| yeah, I'm thrilled, thrilled to have her on board and she's certainly making her mark.

Tom Kelly: |00:32:34| Let's take a little bit of a longer lead. Look at Olympics. Salt Lake City, Utah is bidding on the 2030 or 2034 Olympics. What would that mean for us ski and snowboard if those games came back here to Utah?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:32:47| It's a game changer sort of almost since day one on the job when I really understood the opportunity and likelihood I'm all in, we're all in to helping. However |00:33:00| we can cap Fraser and the team in winning another Winter Olympic Games in 30 or 34. I'd love it in 30. Maybe 34 is a little more likely because it's tough with a 28 to have probably back to back games politically with the IOC, but I'm not sure there's anything really that could move the needle more than sort of the build up to a home Olympics. And hopefully they will announce both 30 and 34 at the same time. That's to be determined. But yeah, |00:33:30| very motivated to do whatever we can to help help the games come back to Utah.

Tom Kelly: |00:33:34| From an events perspective, Utah has always been a big focal point for us ski and snowboard. What's the big event you've got coming up this winter?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:33:44| Um, well, we got so many. We have a lot of races around the US here in Park City. We love our Intermountain Health Deer Valley event where you can come see our moguls and aerials athletes. We're bringing our first cross-country World Cup |00:34:00| to Minneapolis, first cross-country World Cup in 20 years. First time Jesse's competed on home soil and it's going to be on the outskirts of downtown Minneapolis, which I think is going to be amazing. We're also bringing a moguls event to Waterville, which is the home of freestyle. Um, and that is on top of what we have at Birds of Prey. We kick off our domestic World Cup season at in Killington with the Stiefel Killington Cup. We also have events in Palisades and Aspen. |00:34:30| So it's a full schedule and that's on top of all our Noram and Rev tours and other events. So, so yeah, the season is certainly going to be busy, but bringing more major events to this market has been a real focus for us. We we believe it helps participation in home field advantage is real. It does exist. We feel it inspires the next generation of athletes. The number of our athletes that have told me that they got involved because they saw their heroes competing live up close and person here and then commercially. And for our broadcast |00:35:00| partners, it gives them another reason to partner with us. And ultimately, while we are a not for profit, we don't shy away. We want to make as much money as possible so that we can invest in our programs, in our athletes and help more people fall in love and participate in our sports.

Tom Kelly: |00:35:15| I want to get back in a minute and talk a little bit more about the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup. But just on a more of a global perspective, I know one of your big international initiatives has been to get more elite level events into the United States. So you have that broadcast, you have that showcase |00:35:30| of your athletes to to future generations. How important has that been? I mean, you've got a record number of events coming to America this year.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:35:38| Yeah, it's been very important strategically. When I joined, I just I saw it as an opportunity. Fis were open minded to it. I think they see that there's an opportunity for them to really crack the US a little bit, maybe like F1 and others have done. I mean, it's such a big market. We also have some amazing athletes, so we've kind of got that to back it up as well. So yeah, look, timing is everything. |00:36:00| We're not the only ones wanting more events. We're battling the Europeans and other markets. But yeah, really pleased with the progress we've made and hopefully, look, it's not an unlimited number we can add because they're a big expense. You know, it's an investment from us as well. But hopefully over the next year or two we can add a couple more.

Tom Kelly: |00:36:17| To bring it back to Utah. The Deer Valley event sponsored by Intermountain Health is just a remarkable spectator experience. And I know that for the athletes it's like a highlight for them to compete against |00:36:30| these these fans kind of share with the listeners what that experience is like at the Deer Valley World Cup.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:36:35| Yeah, it's it's pretty magical. It's as great of an experience as any event I've been to so far, and it's at the base of the mountain. So you've got kind of almost a captive amphitheater environment. The moguls, Hill and the aerials Hill are just beautifully designed and you get to see the whole the whole run. In addition to that, it's at night, so it's floodlit. So |00:37:00| it just looks beautiful. And the Deer Valley, Park City, local Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City area crowd really come out to support it. Look, one of the reasons is we don't have that many events in the state snow sports events. So this is a really special sort of date on the calendar that I know everyone looks forward to. And and Deer Valley just do a spectacular job hosting it as well. So. So yeah, I can't wait. First weekend in February, guys, 1st to the 3rd of February. Mark your calendars.

Tom Kelly: |00:37:29| Everyone's |00:37:30| welcome. It's a great event. Let's just talk about as we close this out, how can the public engage with you? How can they be a part of helping support the success of your athletes?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:37:42| Yeah, look, it's a big focus for us and we have so many amazing stories to tell. So many events to follow that it can be quite hard to sort of figure out what's on when, especially when some of them are in Europe coming in in the middle of the night. But we have some fantastic broadcast partners outside media. |00:38:00| So if you subscribe to outside plus you can catch every one of our domestic events live and VOD, they also will be showing some of our European events in addition to NBC, who showed both domestic and European. And then there's another platform called Ski and Snowboard Live that also shows European events. It's not our event. I know it's confusing with the name, so there are plenty of opportunities. But what I would say is go to our social pages, go to our website. Every weekend we will |00:38:30| show exactly how you can tune in to watch any of our athletes live that are competing that weekend. So easy. Go to our Instagram page, go to our website. It's all listed there, a click of a button. It'll take you to where you need to go to watch the event. Live. So that's on the broadcast front. On the events side, again, we've got multiple events. It'll be tough for people to remember them while they're listening now. But again, go to our website. They're listed every every week during the season, making it really easy for people to know what's going |00:39:00| on. And you're all welcome. They're open to the public. They're free. We love to have fan support. It really makes a difference to the athletes. And we've got a busier season than we've ever had before. Um, so yeah, follow us on social. Sign up for our newsletters. We also have various fundraising events which you can do online or you can attend in person. Every bit of support matters, whether it's monetary or just being great fans of our athletes and sports. |00:39:30| We really appreciate it. And we can't do it without the public support, in addition to our commercial partners and our very generous donors.

Tom Kelly: |00:39:37| When you walk the floor of the USANA Center of Excellence, you see firsthand what your work is doing for them. And the public really needs to be a part of that for this success to happen for these amazing athletes.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:39:51| Yeah, look, we really are in it together. We sort of have a one team mentality across our 240 plus athletes and ten teams. But we we are |00:40:00| America's team. We're Park City's team. We're every ski resort's team. We want people to feel part of our organization. We're trying to be much more inclusive. Anyone that supports our sports or athletes is connected to us, and we're very grateful for that. So thank you in advance. The season's obviously underway, but thank you in advance for all of your support this season. Definitely tune in and you're going to have a lot of fun getting to know and watch your athletes.

Tom Kelly: |00:40:25| Sophie, one last section. We're going to go into fresh tracks right now. Just a few final questions |00:40:30| for you. What's your favorite participant's sport when you're just out to recreate on your own?

Speaker3: |00:40:35| Yeah, I mean, it's.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:40:36| Skiing at the moment, but I'm going to try more of our sports. I mean, look, I admire them all. I love watching them all. The beauty of being here in sort of the Park City area is you get to see them all. When I'm out on Park City Mountain, I can see our Freeskiers, our snowboarders, our Alpine skiers, those doing moguls and and the same at the other hills around the area. So yeah, I'm a fan of them all.

Tom Kelly: |00:40:59| How about your favorite |00:41:00| ski run in Utah?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:41:03| Wow. That's tough. I mean, I love it when I'm out there again watching our athletes. So Park City Payday, I love there's so many great runs last year with some of the the powder going in and out of the trees was really, really special. I mean, look, last year we had, it seemed like two months. We had a fresh foot of powder every day.

Tom Kelly: |00:41:23| Every day.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:41:24| It was like a dream season and actually couldn't even read half the signs because they were just covered in snow the whole time. But |00:41:30| yeah, look, there's so many great places. This is the best place to ski in the world. I think while we have so many other amazing resorts that are very supportive of us and I'm forever grateful for, I think living here, we've got how many mountains within an hour hour's drive? It's kind of a ski or snowboarders dream, dream location.

Tom Kelly: |00:41:49| It really is. And you're able to break away once in a while to get out there occasionally.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:41:53| But look, I love what I do, so I'm kind of constantly engaging with with anyone that's connected to our community. |00:42:00| I feel very fortunate. For me, sort of business and pleasure is all intermingled and kind of part of the same these days.

Tom Kelly: |00:42:08| So if you've been here for two years, do you have a favorite apres spot now in Utah?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:42:16| We often like to host people at home. Hi. West Always easy to get to, especially if you're skiing in Park City. Deer Valley has some great locations as well. So look, being from Europe, I definitely like to |00:42:30| do a bit of apres.

Tom Kelly: |00:42:31| High West is pretty good.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:42:32| Yeah. If you can get in ... it's so busy. It's a nice problem for them to have, but uh, no, that's a great spot.

Tom Kelly: |00:42:38| And then finally, and I'm not going to ask you for your favorite moment, but is there a is there a moment that you can share with us of athletic success that you've been a part of the last couple of years since you've been leading us ski and snowboard that you might want to share?

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:42:56| It is really difficult to to highlight one. |00:43:00| I mean, just the Olympics overall in Beijing, kind of the highs and lows. You know, we the sort of realization of just how many athletes and teams we have and how amazing they are. And just as someone was sort of struggling and disappointed with the result, we had someone else doing something that we didn't think was possible so soon. So if ever there was a sort of a reminder to kind of stay calm. Literally every hour, sort of the highs and lows of that. Look, I |00:43:30| mean, this last season, what Mikaela did, I mean, it's, you know, once in a generation, if not longer, who knows if those records will ever be broken. I was fortunate enough to be in when she tied and then broke Ingemar Stenmark's record, and that was a very special moment. But there have been many. I feel very fortunate to have experienced quite a few in person, and I've tuned in to watch a lot of them online and live on linear TV as well.

Tom Kelly: |00:43:59| Sophie There's |00:44:00| going to be a lot more of those opportunities, I'm sure that Sophie Goldschmidt, thank you for joining us on Last Chair.

Sophie Goldschmidt: |00:44:05| Thank you. Pleasure talking to you, TK. Really appreciate it.