Ava Sunshine savoring world championships debut in sunny French Alps | VailDaily.com

Ava Sunshine savoring world championships debut in sunny French Alps

SSCV alumna placed 19th in the individual parallel qualifier and has accumulated 15 World Cup starts in second season on U.S. roster

Brian Pinelli, Special to the Daily
From left to right: Ava Sunshine, Nina O'Brien, Paula Moltzan and Katie Hensien.
Brian Pinelli/Courtesy photo

MERIBEL, France — She may be a beach girl at heart, but the sun-drenched slopes of the majestic French Alps have been quite inviting. Suntan weather for sure, for a ski racer who readily admits that she hates the cold.

Ava Sunshine is making her world championships debut at the ongoing FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in Courchevel and Méribel, France. At age 20, she is by far the youngest member of the Stifel U.S. Alpine Team’s 21-member roster.

Sunshine kicked out of the gate for the first time on Tuesday, attempting to qualify for the individual parallel event final. She appeared to be on track to make the top 16 cut, but then hit a panel, lost time and finished 19th. Still, it was yet another step and learning experience for the young racer.

“I’m super excited to be here – we have a really great team and I’ve constantly been inspired by them all season long,” Sunshine says, about making her first world championships appearance this week in France.

It was a sunny, bluebird day at the Roc de Fer course for the team parallel on Tuesday.
Brian Pinelli/Courtesy photo

As an avid surfer — who divides her time and sporting pursuits between southern California and Edwards — you might say that Sunshine is riding the wave of a thrilling ski racing season.

Support Local Journalism

Sunshine, who began competing in surfing competitions at the age of 14, has taken some of that experience and joy of riding waves to carving turns on icy slopes.

“Surfing is so nice because it really forces you to be present,” Sunshine said. “When you’re in the water surrounded by nature and going after waves, you can’t be thinking about the future or past.

“I try to transfer a lot of that toward skiing. Especially just staying loose and finding a good flow as well.”

Sunshine scored her first career World Cup points finishing 21st and 27th at the season-opening slalom events in late November, in Levi, Finland. In January, Sunshine raced at her second World Junior Championships in St. Anton, Austria, demonstrating versatility while competing across four events. She finishing eighth in both the downhill and slalom. Additionally, the up-and-coming talent sped to a super-G silver medal at the 2022 World Juniors in Panorama, British Columbia.

The Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy racer has accumulated 15 World Cup starts this season, in just her second year on the U.S. roster.

“It’s been a great year – there is so much to learn from the girls on the team, with so much experience and a lot of talent,” Sunshine said. “I’m really happy with how the season has been so far.”

Sunshine’s next opportunity in France will come in Saturday’s slalom, most likely alongside U.S. teammates Mikaela Shiffrin, Nina O’Brien and Paula Moltzan. Moltzan, who broke her left hand once again in the team parallel event on Tuesday, has been fitted with a brace and plans to start in Thursday’s giant slalom. If for some reason Moltzan can’t go, Sunshine would step in as a late replacement.

Moltzan, O’Brien, River Radamus and Tommy Ford raced to a shared victory in the mixed gender event for the first time ever at a world championships.

Shiffrin was all smiles after winning super-G silver.
Brian Pinelli/Courtesy photo

While Sunshine hopes to make the most of her golden opportunity in slalom, Shiffrin will be seeking her fifth career world championships gold medal in the event. The 20-year-old ski racer has enjoyed a front row seat witnessing Shiffrin’s astounding, record-breaking season.

“It’s amazing to be on a team with the greatest female skier of all-time,” Sunshine said. “It’s super inspiring. It’s amazing how she is able to ski so level headed after so many wins and so much success. 

“It’s so fun, it’s great, it’s like a damn party,” Sunshine playfully adds.

Sunshine is quick to admit that when she has a break on the World Cup, she returns home to Manhattan Beach and catches a few waves. The multi-talented athlete notes that ski racing at the Olympics is among her immediate goals, but what about a winter and summer Olympic double, considering that surfing has gone Olympic, introduced at the Tokyo Games in July 2021?

“I’d love to go to the Olympics for surfing, but I think I need to train a lot more,” Sunshine admits. “I’m happy to surf now and see where it will go. The last Olympics was a huge step forward for surfing.”

“I’m just super excited to keep watching the progress,” she said.

For now, staying in the present, she hopes to shine in Méribel.

A look at the Roc de Fer course from across the valley in Meribel.
Brian Pinelli/Courtesy photo

Support Local Journalism