Hall of Fame honors six-time World Cup winner Kristina Koznick
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series that profiles the Vail Valley locals who were inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame on Saturday.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A story of humble beginnings, Kristina “Koz” Koznick grew up skiing rope-tow laps on the modest 310-vertical-foot Buck Hill piste — what would seem like a far cry from a career on the U.S. Ski Team. But it wasn’t a far cry at all. When she was 15 years old, Koznick landed a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. By the time she retired in 2006, she had cemented herself as one of America’s most decorated female World Cup slalom racers in history with five Nationals slalom titles, 20 World Cup podium finishes and six World Cup wins.
For those of you who know the ski racing community, you’ve likely heard of famed coach Erich Sailer. It was Sailer, along with her father, who Koznick credits for guiding her throughout her U.S. Ski Team career.
“I had many mentors along my journey — including many of my U.S Sk1-i Team coaches — but my two biggest mentors were my very first coach, Erich Sailer, and my father,” Koznick said. “I spoke with both of them throughout my career, no matter where I was in the world. They always gave me such sound advice, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.”
On Saturday, Edwards resident Koznick joined nine others as she was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Steamboat Springs.
In addition to her stunning professional resume — which also includes finishing second twice in the season-long World Cup slalom standings, being named to three Olympic teams and competing at six World Championships — she has also played the roles of NBC and Universal Sports commentator, Ski Koz Performance Studios founder and supermom. Koznick believes her experience on the U.S. Ski Team shaped her into the person she is today and that she draws from the experiences daily — with the exception of when she is changing diapers.
“That one was kinda learn as you go,” she laughed.
One of Koznick’s most memorable moments of the team was during her first year. She recalls gathering at Beaver Creek and each of the athletes having to go into a “special room” to get their uniforms.
“My turn couldn’t come fast enough. I was so excited,” she said. “I think I would have worn my uniform all the time, but apparently it wasn’t cool to sleep in it, too.”
However, the day that most sticks out in her mind is her first World Cup win at Are, Sweden. She reminisced about how it felt to stand on the podium and see her coaches in the finish celebrating.
“It just felt so good,” she said. “Like we had worked so hard to get to that moment.”
Despite her successful career, Koznick never could have imagined herself earning the Hall of Fame honor.
“I sure never thought about the Hall of Fame when I started this journey, but now that it is happening it is an amazingly proud moment in time,” she said. “It still seems a little surreal. I mean, I’m just little old me. Maybe someday it will sink in. Until then, I just know I am very honored.”
When asked if she believes her achievements helped pave the way for the success of current U.S. Ski Team athletes, she said, “I think whether we mean to pave the way or not, we do — just as the athletes before me created a path for me to follow. We all take slightly different paths to get to the top, and we learn from our successes and our failures. I can only hope that my career helped show someone currently racing the best way to make things work for them.”
Rest assured, Koz, you were definitely an inspiration.
On Saturday, Koznick took the stage in Steamboat joining nearly 400 other honored members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. She will be formally enshrined in September in a special ceremony at the actual Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Michigan, the birthplace of organized skiing in America.
Tom Kelly is vice president of communications for the U.S. Ski Team.