Mikaela Shiffrin Learned to Ski in Vail. She Learned to Race in Vermont.

The conditions were awful. Which made them ideal. How the ice of the Northeast helped Shiffrin become the best technical skier in the world.

“It’s perfect conditions,” said Bug Pech, Shiffrin’s high-school roommate, “because it’s horrible conditions.”

.. “You grow up in the East, and you know how to ski on ice,” said Erik Schlopy, a Burke alumnus who skied in three Olympics. “There’s no better training ground than Vermont because it’s icy.”
Anyone who has skied both sides of the United States would say the mountains out West are bigger and better in almost every way. The powder in destination resorts like Vail is the soft, pillowy stuff of skiing paradise. But for ski racers, that’s a problem. They want the consistency of hard snow, and they’ll go anywhere to feel the power of their sharp turns.

.. The conditions in Vermont were almost identical to the conditions she would one day encounter across Europe. “The World Cup runs are pure ice,” Schlopy said. “It’s basically a slab of marble that’s a mile long.”

.. Even something as seemingly meaningless as her means of transportation was essential to Shiffrin’s development. She didn’t ride the sort of high-speed lifts that chauffeur recreational skiers atop resort destinations. Shiffrin was towed uphill by an old Poma bar. It picked her up at the bottom of the course and deposited her right back at the top. There was no wasted time or energy, and her feet never left the snow.

.. But how did she get all those extra runs? By getting dressed faster than any of her Burke classmates. That’s right: Mikaela Shiffrin was even the fastest at getting dressed.

.. She studied film instead of watching movies, and she shrugged at fresh dumps of snow instead of shredding it. “I’m not really that into powder,” Shiffrin said.

… She made her World Cup debut at 15, won her first race at 17 and struck Olympic gold at 18. She’s now 22 and seems to be peaking.