Q&A with River radamus

River Radamus is a twenty-one-year-old American alpine skier, who focuses on tech disciplines. He was the first skier (or snowboarder) to win three individual gold medals at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer and scored his first World Cup points in 2018 at Alta Badia, Italy, when he finished 24th. Keep reading to find out more about River! 

“A star is born” is also the title of your skiing career. You already broke a record at the age of 16 with 3 gold medals at the YOG. What did that mean to you?
The Youth Olympic Games were definitely my coming out party. It was my first taste of international competition and big event success. It was the first time where I believed I could “make it” in ski racing. It was also just a special time in my life. I had a great time at the Youth Olympics. I made lifelong friends and memories for a lifetime. I’m excited to follow the games this year and watch the next generation do great things. 

Having so many successes at this early stage of your career is definitely a really good point to start from, but it can also be a disadvantage because of the pressure on your shoulders. Has this been the case for you? How have you handled that potential pressure?
Honestly, I don’t feel a great deal of external pressure to perform. I’m sure some have expectations for me given my previous successes, but I don’t really think that way. Many have accomplished far more than I at a younger age, and many have accomplished far less at my age and gone on to have tremendous careers, so I don’t think past performance does anything to predict future success. I know the only way for me to get from where I’m at to where I want to be is continual improvement and drive.

When you were a kid you grew up watching the best athletes in the world on tv and collected all the Birds of Prey posters. All of a sudden you were on the cover of the Birds of Prey poster last year.  What did you think when you found out you’d be the face of the event?
It was really cool to see myself on the poster. As you said, I collected those posters back in the day. I had the the posters of guys like Andrew Weibrecht and Steve Nyman on my wall, and those were the guys I looked up to. So, seeing myself on the poster, and the possibility that I might be that guy on someone’s wall inspiring the next generation, is pretty cool. 

Who is the most inspiring athlete to you and why?
As an American skier, there’s no bigger inspiration than Bode. I think our team kind of prides itself on doing things a little different from other nations. We have different advantages and disadvantages than other national teams so we have to be a bit unorthodox to succeed in this sport. There was no one more unorthodox than Bode. He always did things his own way and was completely unapologetic about it. And of course the results speak for themselves.  

Ted Ligety has had an important influence on your skiing style, and now you have the opportunity to train with him and discover his secrets. What are the most important lessons you have learned from him?
Haha if I told you his secrets, then they wouldn’t be secrets…

Seriously though, Ted leads by example. When Ted steps on the hill there’s an aura of professionalism that you can feel. He takes his business dead serious in a way that makes you feel guilty if you take it less so. Him being there raises the game of everyone around. 

How important is your team to you?
Team is crucial to me. My team is the reason I am where I am today. Our crew is really tight-knit. We push ourselves and each other extremely hard. We hold each other to a really high standard on and off the hill, and hold each other accountable when we fall short. I think when our standard of excellence is really high, it puts all of us in a position to succeed. We’re working hard right now to cultivate this culture, and make sure it’s sustainable beyond just our group, so that it lives as an understood legacy for years to come.

Tech events are your main focus.  Do you also aspire to ski downhill and super-g races?
I definitely want to be a speed skier one day. Racing the big ones like Kitz and Wengen is a real dream of mine. At the same time, I recognize how much work it takes to get there. More than any other event, I think downhill takes time and experience to succeed. I’m going to continue to focus on establishing myself on the World Cup tech tour, and in the meantime continue to gain experience on the speed side at events that make sense.  

Last year was your first World Cup year. What do/don’t you like most about being far away from home and constantly travelling?
It’s definitely tough being on the road for so long. Because of the nature of our sport, I’ve spent less than 30 days at home in the past year. With that being said though, I think I’m very lucky to do what I do. I have my dream job and get to travel to amazing places because of it. The beauty of places like Val d’Isere can get lost on us occasionally with the job at hand, but being able to see places like that while I’m young is easily one of my favorite parts of what I get to do.

Which is your favourite slope and why?
For me, it doesn’t get any better than Alta Badia. If you designed a GS hill in a lab, you couldn’t make one any better. The hill has all the variables you could ask for – from steeps to rolls, 180° trail turns and even a jump. It’s just perfect in every way. Sure, you’d probably think I only say that because I scored my first World Cup points at Alta Badia, but the best day of skiing I had last season was the hill free ski the day before the race there. Two of the best runs I’ve had in my life. 

You grew up in a sporty family with a big focus on alpine skiing. How important is it to have such an understanding family around you? What are the most important values they instilled in you?
I do come from a family of skiers. My mom and dad both raced and currently coach. They both obviously have a great deal of passion for skiing, so I was very lucky to be exposed to the sport at a very young age. My parents passed along their passion for skiing but never forced me into it. They have been nothing but supportive of me as I pursue this dream. They’ve helped me to stay grounded and remember that at the end of the day this is just a game. Because of them, I make sure to enjoy the ride wherever it takes me.  

What does your life look like? What kind of passions do you have and how do you like spending your free time?
Of course skiing dominates my life at the moment. I’m on snow or strength training 9-11 months out of the year. When I do get some time off though, you can typically find me surfing in Central America. As soon as the season ends, I like to head down there to unload and relax for about a month before preparation for the next season begins.