River Radamus: Finding the fast current | VailDaily.com

River Radamus: Finding the fast current

After Olympic fourth-place giant slalom finish, the 24-year-old Edwards skier hopes to be a consistent World Cup giant slalom contender

River Radamus makes a jump during the men's super-G at the 2022 Winter Olympics, where he placed fourth.
Alessandro Trovati/AP photo

At this point, River Radamus probably expects cliche headlines. Not one, but two stories have used “A River Runs Through It” on the former multi-time Youth Olympic and World Junior champion’s progression from SSCV prodigy to international star. Coming into the 2022-23 season, however, the up-and-coming bright spot in U.S. men’s Alpine skiing has ambitions — on and off the slope — worthy of more than glittery literary devices.

In a deep international GS field fused together by “old guard” skiers like Alexis Pinturault, Mathieu Faivre, Tommy Ford and Zan Kranjec and the dominant new generation — led by Marco Odermatt, Lucas Braathen and Filip Zubcic — Radamus knows he hasn’t done enough to prove his name belongs with the rest of the rising stars.

“They’re bringing a new energy to the field and really pushing the sport forward. I’d like to think that I’m part of that, but the reality is that I haven’t been there and done that,” he said, adding that for much of the year, his resume was the only one in the top-15 lacking a World Cup podium.

“So, still I feel a little bit like I’m on the outside looking in, but I feel primed to be able to compete for those medals and push myself into that top, elite group of the GS field.”

The 24-year-old Edwards skier progressed from 49th in the 2019 giant slalom cup ranking to 28th in 2021 and 15th last year. His two early-season sixth-place marks — one at Soelden and another at Alta Badia – were a prelude to his breakthrough fourth-place finish in Beijing, where he missed the Olympic podium by 0.26 seconds.

Support Local Journalism

“You know I think there’s a bittersweet element to it, knowing how close I was,” he said of that day.

“It’s a huge stepping stone. It showed me that I really belong there and have the ability to compete for medals in the future. I’m taking the confidence from that and I’m also super hungry lining up into the next World Championships this year and down the road to the next Olympics. I think that there’s lots of positives to take from it,” he continued before articulating perhaps the main one: he’s ready to ride in the discipline’s fast current.

“I think it also put everyone else on notice that I have the ability to compete there,” he said.

“I truly feel like I’m primed to have the best season of my career.” 

The more things change, the more they stay the same

There have been some paradoxical realities characterizing Radamus’ first post-Olympic offseason. While the ousting of his coach the past few seasons, Forest Carey, whom he said “has been invaluable to me,” was rough, the personnel change didn’t dramatically alter the system surrounding his training or racing. Of his new head coach, Ian Gardner, Radamus stated, “He’s also probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.” All in all, the shake-up has been minimal in terms of his Alpine Xs and Os.

“I think our team is still working really well,” he said. “It’s a continuation for sure. Forest has been Ian’s mentor through the years as well, so there’s a consistent vision and care for the athletes. It’s always tough seeing Forest being let go, but I still trust our coaching staff and I still think we have a great atmosphere right now.”

Another novel perk for Radamus, courtesy of his breakout 2022 season, was increased factory service and access from Rossignol. This year, the sponsor will pay his technician and grant the skier specialized service and access to its vast resources. “I’m let in a little bit more on the ski development side to find out what exactly works for me,” Radamus explained, adding that it’s a blessing and a curse.

“I think it’s something that’s incredibly valuable, but I think I have to keep it in check,” he said. “I have so much more access to find out what setups work out for me, but it’s sometimes overwhelming. I think I spent a lot of time in the prep period worrying about what the skis were doing as opposed to what my skiing was doing. And I think I have to find a balance in that and make sure my technician controls that part and the data bears out what skis were best as opposed to my input. It’s overwhelming to deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

In a world where equipment can be the difference between extremely meaningful hundredths of seconds, Radamus explained the main advantage of increased factory access in terms of performance comes down to skier-ski synergy. In other words: anyone can make skis fast, but they have to work for the individual, too.

“Once you’re on the World Cup level, it’s not that anyone has truly faster skis than you; it’s more about the construction of the ski and how it connects with the skier,” he explained. “The better you get, the more options you get to fine-tune the feel of the ski. More constructions that are stiffer in the tip or more flexible through the middle, longer, shorter — all these different factors that can connect better with each individual skier.”

Hearkening back to the offseason theme of incongruity, Radamus understands the balance between nerding out — or freaking out — from a tech perspective, at the expense of focusing on fundamentals.

“I’ve always been of the mindset to find something that works well enough and focus on the skiing,” he said. “I think the ski construction can count significantly and matter a great deal if everything else is fully in touch. If your fundamentals are off, it won’t matter what skis you’re on.”

He’s had time to work on those fundamentals, as well as sharpen his speed events, at Copper Mountain, where he’s been stationed since returning from the Soelden giant slalom on Oct. 23.

River Radamus speeds down the course during the men’s World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Oct. 23.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

“I haven’t had a lot of time on snow on the big boards this summer, so it was really valuable to me to get full-length speed training and get to carve it up with the big speed boys,” he said. “The super-G and the downhill training there is probably the best in the world right now.”

Though giant slalom remains the primary focus, he plans on getting in more super-G racing — “where it makes sense” — this year.

“It’s always fluctuating and it all depends on how early races go,” he said. “I think I’ll have a better chance on the more technical tracks than the ‘glidey’ ones, so we’re targeting those and slowly trying to expand without losing any of the GS ability.”

Downstream from opportunity

Last spring, Radamus expressed his passion for lowering barriers and expanding access to the sport he loves through his foundation on the Arc City Podcast with fellow U.S. Ski Team athlete Jimmy Krupka. Radamus described the last two years as being “a laborious process,” but now, the River Radamus Arco Foundation, which will focus on helping U16 athletes, is almost ready to launch.

“I think that the U16 age is a really vital one. Kids are often just getting into high school and the sport suddenly becomes much more expensive and cost-prohibitive with out-of-region racing, more gear and more specialized coaching,” he said.

“It’s much more of a year-round process once you get into high school and that’s why we see the biggest drop-off in enrollment in our sport. So, my goal with the Arco River Radamus Foundation is to make sure that those athletes who have the ability and are on track still see it as a viable option to continue pursuing the sport through the FIS ages.”

The foundation will be a subset of the World Cup Dreams Foundation, which provides “funding and support to snow-sports athletes that are not fully-funded.”

“We’re planning to finalize (with the World Cup Dreams Foundation) through the next couple of weeks, build momentum through the season and then give our first grants out before the next season starts,” Radamus said. As for the name — ‘arco’ is an Italian reference to every skier’s raison d’etre: the perfectly carved turn.

“It’s something that sticks with me. It’s what it’s all about,” Radamus explained. “The reason I connect with skiing is the beautiful feeling of a perfect turn. That’s what I’ve always come back to and it’s always driven me. It’s the root of our sport and it’s what I want the goal to always come back to.”

Hoping to please the home crowd

Examining the lay-of-the-GS land, Radamus can’t help but get amped up.

“I think GS is in a really exciting place right now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever been more competitive and high level than it is now. On any given day, there’s probably 15-20 skiers who could podium. That’s really exciting and unnerving, because you’re never settled into a spot.”

He made it into the top 15 four times (not counting the Olympics) last year, “but it’s never a given,” he noted. “You always have to go out and fight because there are so many hungry people who want to take your spot.” His showing in Soelden this fall was emblematic of that reality.

“It’s strange. It makes you feel like you may have stagnated in some way, having done better at a race the year before than you did this year, but truly, I’m not that concerned,” he said of his 26th-place finish (he was sixth in 2021).

“In every way, I think that I’m a better skier now than I was this time last year. Sometimes results come and sometimes they don’t. I think conditions like what we had this year in Soelden are things I still need to work on,” he continued, pointing out how soft, springy snow has been a kryptonite he’s known about since the end of last year.

“That’s still a weakness of mine that I need to improve to execute on a daily and weekly basis throughout the season.”

Based on his speed training at Copper, Radamus received a bib for the Lake Louise super-G on Nov. 27. Though he was a DNF, he’s optimistic about his next shot at the event at what he considers to be a more favorable, technical Birds of Prey course, on Dec. 4 at Beaver Creek.

“I think the super-G at Beaver Creek more suits my skills,” he said. Last year, Radamus had two DNFs on his hometown slope. He’d like nothing more than to redeem himself.

“Birds of Prey is obviously the one that I want to have success at more than any other track. There’s nothing like racing in your own backyard,” he said. His reflection on last year’s performance, however, wasn’t totally saturated in disappointment.

“I feel really proud of the preparation and the way I addressed the event,” he said. “I pushed as hard as I could and I was on top-15, top-10 pace in both of the super-Gs. Ultimately, that’s what I want more than anything — to know that I gave everything I had every time I get out of the start gate, and I think I did that there.”

After a 26th-place finish in Soelden on Oct. 23, River Radamus is hoping for a big performance in his backyard at the Birds of Prey super-G on Dec. 4.
Giovanni Auletta/AP photo

He can’t promise locals a podium finish, but he can assure them, like a kayaker steering into the fastest-moving rapids, that he’ll go all-in with an aggressive approach.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “And I can’t guarantee where I’ll end up, but I’ll definitely be giving everything I got.”

If he ends up on top of the podium, there’s probably a good headline out there somewhere.

Support Local Journalism