Anna Marno: What makes a champ
U.S. skier retires from national team after eight years
May 12, 2017
Anna Marno is sunshine in human form. She's graceful and humble and caring—a supportive teammate with a gentle aura who gives great hugs. Growing up in the Wyoming wilderness with a ski area as her second home, Marno was skiing almost the moment she was brought into the world. And now, after eight years of competing for the U.S. Ski Team, she announces her retirement from the sport.
Marno is a product of a love affair with and in the mountains. While her parents were studying at the University of Wyoming, they fell in love at the Snowy Range Ski Area just 30 miles west of campus. They settled in the small town of Centennial nestled in the Medicine Bow National Forest, where they lived in a teepee while they built their house. Quickly after, Anna entered the scene.
With a father as a former racer and coach, young Marno found her second home on the slopes at Snowy Range. She grew up with her brother Max as her closest friend, her horse and animals as playmates and her parents as guides in the mountains. In the warmer months, Marno mourned the loss of the fluffy white snow, so to stay connected to the winter, she named her animals after ski racing legends like Hermann Maier, Bode Miller, Picabo Street and Alberto Tomba.
On the mountain, Marno was a natural and her family soon realized she would outgrow small Snowy Range and bigger mountains were necessary for her to achieve her dream of one day skiing on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup. She moved to Steamboat Springs, where she qualified for the U.S. Alpine Championships when she was just a first year J2. It didn't take long to turn heads on the U.S. Ski Team, which she called home starting in 2009.
The journey to the U.S. Ski Team was not easy, nor was it easy once she was on the Team. One of the biggest lessons Marno learned that she'll carry with her through life was the importance of tenacity.
"I set a goal to be a World Cup skier when I was 8," Marno reflected. "I spent 12 years working toward that single goal before I stood in the start of my first World Cup. I was injured mentally, physically, and emotionally. It took more time and effort than my 8-year-old self could have thought possible. But when you want something so badly, and think about it every day for years and years, it seems like the hardest thing to do is to let go."
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Marno tasted World Cup points for the first time at the picturesque Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2016 when she finished 30th. She went on to surprise everyone, including herself, by capping off the season with her first national title at Sun Valley, ID in super-G, over teammate and 2017 national champion Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR).
The path to the top is oftentimes about learning heartbreaking lessons and experiencing the feeling of taking steps backwards—and Marno had her fair share of those moments. Learning how to find the need to slow down to get faster and make progress were often the most challenging, yet most productive, moments for Marno.
"Going to NorAms because World Cups weren't going as well as I planned, or taking a day to free ski while my teammates trained because an old bad habit came back into my technique…it hurts to feel like I wasn't prepared for a challenge put in front of you," Marno said. "We all know that progress isn't a straight line from the bottom to the top, and my hardest times were often followed by my biggest breakthroughs. But those moments, days, weeks or months when I felt like my progress wasn't positive were the toughest."
In alpine ski racing, it takes a healthy mix of grit, passion, perseverance and an extreme love for the sport to be successful. The dynamics are real and challenging. Ski racers can add chaos management to their resumes. And this is something Marno will carry with her as she transitions into her next big adventure. "As a ski racer, especially a speed skier, there are times when nothing goes as planned," she said. "There are so many things that are out of our control. I think we become experts at focusing, training and working amidst chaos."
Marno appreciated the good and bad parts of life on the road. "You do laundry half as much as you should and you feel like an insane person often," she laughed. But the positives outweighed the negatives. She always found the opportunity to take a moment to take a deep breath and look around, surrounded by amazing people in amazing places, doing exactly what she dreamed of doing. And that is what Marno will miss most about traveling the World Cup circuit.
What's next for Marno? She'll head to Mt. Hood to coach at the Ligety Weibrecht Ski Camp, where she and her brother are mainstays on a coaching crew decorated with World Cup staff and athletes headlined by Ted Ligety and Andrew Weibrecht. For Marno, both the variety of skiers the camp draws and the opportunity to meet legends makes it so unique.
"It's a mix of everyone from World Cup skiers and coaches to kids that have only skied a year or two in their lives, and everything in between," said Marno. "Regardless of age or ability, everyone is working to get better at the same thing. I think it's really special for young athletes to see skiers like Ted and Andrew simply as skiers, just like the rest of us."
Knowing what she now knows, Marno knows what she would tell her 13-year-old self, and plans on using the mantra throughout her coaching future. "Don't let your goals feel so far away," she stated. "They are closer than you think, and the time between then and now is going to fly by, so be ready!"
Marno ended her career with the U.S. Ski Team at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Maine's Sugarloaf. We asked Marno our three questions on what she believes makes a champion.
U.S. SKI TEAM: In your words, what makes a champion?
Anna Marno: Humility and confidence all at once. I believe that confidence is our best weapon. But I believe our confidence must be matched with the ability to accept success and failure with grace and humor.
U.S. SKI TEAM: Do you remember the first time you felt like a champion?
AM: I am sure there are many times I felt like a champion, although I can't think of the first. Every time I felt like a champion, the feeling was followed by the question 'what's next?' There is always a bigger goal. I think it's important to relish in that feeling, and enjoy that moment, but not get comfortable with it.
U.S. SKI TEAM: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for young athletes who want to be sitting where you are today?
AM: Always talk to the person sitting next to you on the chairlift. Everyone has a different path to success, but what everyone will tell you at the end of their careers is that it's the people and relationships that made it all worth it. The person sitting next to you could be your new best friend, a new fan or supporter, or maybe just a little kid that reminds you of how fun skiing is.
Some parting words of gratitude from Anna:
"As I step away from this career I feel mostly gratitude. There are so many moments of encouragement that I recall. So many people have made an effort to support me and believe in me. All I can say is THANK YOU to everyone who met me along this journey!"
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