How the U.S. Ski Team spends Christmas |

How the U.S. Ski Team spends Christmas

Skiers get together in Europe for holidays

The American Downhiller crew and staff spend Christmas together in Dorfgastein in 2015 at the old U.S. Ski Team headquarters.
Photo courtesy of USSA

Being a member of the U.S. Ski Team certainly has its perks. You get to travel to different places in the world, meet a ton of new people and take in some of the planet’s greatest cultures, all while doing the sport that you love.

That said, there are some downfalls, specifically during this time of year. Because the World Cup circuit pretty much runs through the holiday season, most skiers are forced to stay in Europe to either train or compete, while having 3-4 days off somewhere in between.

“Basically, unless you’re injured, you’re not having Christmas on the men’s ski team,” local athlete Steven Nyman said. “I used to fly home after our races that are coming up in a week for New Years, but I don’t do that anymore. I just live over here. I have an apartment. This is better for my performance and everything like that.”

In years past, Nyman, along with other members of the men’s ski team, would get together to “celebrate” Christmas, but there wasn’t much holiday cheer.

“We always kind of have a little Christmas celebration as a bunch of guys, and it was fun, but it’s kind of depressing,” Nyman said. “It’s like the man thing, whatever. Nobody is really super passionate about it.”

But this year will be different. Accompanying Nyman on the World Cup circuit is his girlfriend, Charlotte Moats, who is carrying a plus-one, as the couple is expecting a baby after the season ends. Additionally, other members of the team are joined by their significant others this year, and they simply will not be having another depressing Christmas.

“They’ve kind of been like, ‘Let’s make this a little nicer,’” Nyman said during a phone interview as Moats was baking cookies in his apartment in Innsbruck, Austria. “They called out how depressing it was.”

While Nyman’s apartment is in Innsbruck, the ski team owns an apartment in a nearby town called Patsch. This is where the group, consisting of more than 20 people, will be gathering for the holiday.

In addition to the cookies Moats is making, the group is also setting up a Christmas tree with decorations. They will also “chef it up,” as Nyman would put it, for a traditional Christmas dinner.

“It’s a lot more festive this year,” Nyman said. “It’s fun.”

Nyman enjoys spending the season in the Innsbruck/Patsch area, as the holiday isn’t as commercialized as it is in America. Instead of being bombarded by commercials and sales, the locals in Austria focus more on good music, good food and good company.

“It’s about that social scene and that’s really nice to me, and relaxing,” Nyman said.

One of the biggest traditions the guys had in past year will be carried over this year: the White Elephant gift exchange. Each year, the guys would get a funny present to give to another member of the team, but not to anyone in particular.

The way it works is the limit for the price of a present is set at $20. Each member will buy a gift and when they get together on Christmas Day, all the gifts are placed in a pile. Then, they will pick numbers out of a hat to determine the order and whoever drew No. 1 would get to pick first. The next person, No. 2, then has the option to either steal the present that No. 1 chose or pick a new one from the pile.

This tradition usually gets a few laughs, as most of the gifts are meant to be a joke.

“Everybody is fighting for the best present and it’s really dumb because the presents are usually dumb anyway,” Nyman said.

Nyman and company recently finished a competition at Val Gardena in Italy, where Nyman nabbed a third-place finish. The day after was technically a day off for the skiers, but they embarked on a five-hour car ride to the next race zone in Santa Caterina, which is about a three and a half hour drive from Innsbruck and Patsch.

The group will get roughly four days off, extending through Christmas Day, but you can’t keep the skiers off the mountain for long, even when they’re on a break.

“During that time, a lot of it is maintaining our fitness and staying focused,” Nyman said. “Yes, it’s the holidays but it’s the prime time of our race seasons.

“We usually go for a ski somewhere. We usually go as a team, kind of strap on the boards and whip around for fun. Maybe we’ll plan one of those the next few days.”

For Nyman, who will turn 35 this coming February, this obviously isn’t his first road trip away from home. Born in Provo but living in Park City during the summer months, Nyman has grown fond of the area and misses it during this holiday season. With the recent dump of powder the resorts here received, he would like nothing more than to tear it up on the same slopes he skied back when he was a kid.

Instead, he’ll be celebrating Christmas over 5,000 miles away. When he was younger, the thought of this would bring him down, which could directly affect his performance on the World Cup circuit. Now one of the team’s veterans, Nyman plans on showing the younger skiers on the team how lucky they are.

“It makes me a little jealous, but you have to step back and say, ‘Hey, I’m living in the Alps. I’m racing downhill and traveling the world. This isn’t bad either,’” Nyman said. “I try to tell that to the young guys.

“I try to keep them calm and help them realize how special they’ve got it.”

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