PARK CITY — Growing up in Park City, Ted Ligety had the perfect training ground for the event that he has dominated this season on the World Cup Circuit: the Giant Slalom.
"The GS is the basis for all other events," said Ligety, who did what only four other men in the world have done by winning three consecutive GS World Cup races this winter.
The Giant Slalom, or GS, tests a skier's ability to ski fast, as in downhill, and his or her ability to turn, as in slalom. It is difficult to master both speed and technical proficiency, but Ligety seems to have found a secret this season.
One advantage — growing up on the slopes of Park City.
"I skied the whole mountain," he said. "I skied every day when I was a kid pretty much. Powder skiing, mogul skiing and everything else like that, and I think that helps you become a better overall skier."
And the perfect stage for showing off that versatility is the icy, treacherous slopes of the World Cup circuit, including Gran Risa in Italy, the venue for Ligety's win last week. It is the first time he's managed to get on the podium on that course.
"It's really the best even for showing your overall skiing skills," he said. "Also it's something that kids, when they are younger, they train GS the most, so I've just definitely had much more miles in the GS than I have in any other event."
Ligety isn't a racer who can't enjoy the freedom and relaxation that comes from recreational skiing. In fact, he had to put Tuesday's planned teleconference off for a few hours while he took advantage of the fresh powder at Park City Mountain Resort.
"It's pretty epic for sure," he said of the 24 inches of new powder.
When asked by journalists what he planned to do over the holiday, some were surprised when he said his down time included skiing.
"I think ski racers in the U.S. are more laid back than our European counterparts," he said. "We just love being out in the mountains and taking in the whole sport, not just the racing aspect."
Ligety was more motivated than usual coming into this season after a knee injury hampered his off-season training last year. He wasn't able to work out until August, and then his focus had to be preventing another injury.Comment on this story
"I was just trying to get stronger so I didn't get injured again," he said.
Now that he's fitter, he's also focused. He isn't resting on his accomplishments, but instead is focused on how to improve other aspects of his skiing.
"I think there is a little more pressure," he said. "Once you start winning a lot, getting second place isn't going to make you feel that happy anymore. There is more pressure to put in more great races like I have been."
But at least for the next few weeks, Ligety returns to his roots and the mountains of Park City.