Mikaela Shiffrin answers questions about failure and her favorite childhood teacher at Avon event

The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon hosted Innovation & Success with the Education Foundation of Eagle County.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Olympic ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin took time out of her busy preseason training schedule Tuesday to address the community at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. The Westin Riverfront teamed up with the Education Foundation of Eagle County to host a discussion entitled “Innovation & Success” in a packed lobby full of Shiffrin’s fans of all ages.

Questions were submitted in advance by area school kids and curious adults who wanted to know more about what makes Shifrrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time world champion, tick. Oh, and did we mention that last spring, Shiffrin became the most decorated alpine skier of all time after earning her 87th FIS World Cup win, breaking a record that was held by Swedish great, Ingemar Stenmark, for over 30 years.

Shiffrin has been the resident athlete at The Athletic Club at The Westin Riverfront since 2014. When the Edwards homeowner is in the area, she works out at the recently remodeled and renamed Studio M: Mikaela Shiffrin Performance Studio.

A humble Shiffrin commented on all sorts of topics at the free event, including how to come back from failure.

“What I’ve found through the course of my career is the years where I was particularly afraid of failing, because I was afraid of disappointing those people who supported me and care about me, what I found was that when I finally did fail and own it, they actually supported me more,” Shiffrin said. “So, when you are afraid of disappointing the people that you love and you want to love you, they’ll be there when you fall and it’s OK. That keeps me in a place where I can concentrate because I know that support is there and I know that they know that I’m going to work as hard as I can to succeed.”

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A crowd gathered to listen to Mikaela Shiffrin on Tuesday at Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Another question asked Shiffrin to comment on how she recovers physically and mentally between races. She went through her busy schedule, from waking up at 5:30 a.m. to getting home around 8 p.m. after awards ceremonies and bib draws and mentioned that even finding time to eat is hard.

“I’m finally figuring this out, after 12 years into it, but during the season I’m basically overtired and grumpy!” Shiffrin laughed. “No, I’m just kidding, that’s a joke! It’s really, really fun!”  

With the Education Foundation of Eagle County moderating the event, one of the questions centered around teachers. Shiffrin was asked if she had any teachers that stood out throughout her life.

“I had one teacher, Mr. Lasher, at Vail Mountain School when I was in second grade and I just remember him being such a wonderful light, full of positive energy in the classroom and funny, he always brought humor into every single day,” Shiffrin said. “He always had patience with the kids and with us as little troublemakers, but he also knew how to keep the classroom in order and I just felt like we all looked up to him. Do you guys have a teacher who means something to you? Raise your hand!”

Lots of hands went up in the audience.

Shiffrin also mentioned her mother, Eileen Shiffrin, and her role as a teacher, literally, since Mikaela was home-schooled during various years in order for her to pursue her ski racing dreams.

“My mom has taught me so much and inspired me in incredible ways,” Shiffrin said.

The audience listens to Mikaela Shiffrin during her question and answer session Tuesday with the Education Foundation of Eagle County at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

After the questions wrapped up, there was time for photos with the ski racing legend. A long line formed with folks clad in green T-shirts provided by the Education Foundation of Eagle County, which is a local nonprofit that supports public education and the intellectual and emotional needs of students, focusing on in-school programs for enrichment, mental health support, and efforts to attract and retain top teacher talent.

“I feel that a lot of questions the kids asked about how do you pick yourself up when you fall and how do you keep a good attitude shows where their minds are these days. I think there’s a lot of self-doubt and struggles and it’s important that we talk about being OK and not being OK and how you get yourself going again,” Shiffrin said. “I love this event and the Education Foundation of Eagle County supports such an important cause. Our educational system is the foundation for our country, it is so important.”  

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