Young Vail native making history on U.S. Ski Team

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Mikaela Shriffrin (Photo Facebook)

Skiing (v.) – the act of attaching your feet to two waxed sticks to throw yourself down a snow-covered mountain while enduring nature’s bitter and unforgiving cold, all at great personal risk.

While this may be the definition of skiing for some, it is what makes Colorado a top destination spot for around the world visitors. And, within our undoubtedly awesome borders is where some of the world’s top competitors of the sport are nursed to sweat success.

Lindsey Vonn, Olympic gold medalist and winner of an astonishing 57 World Cup titles, isn’t the only top competitor to rise out of our Rocky Mountains. The Vail phenomenon has a young neighbor racing her way to the top in the FIS World Cup series continuing through March in Europe.

17-year old Mikaela Shriffrin is an Eagle County resident who recently became the first American to clench two World Cup wins in a single season before the age of 18.  

Shriffrin won the World Cup night-slalom event on January 4 in Croatia by an impressive overall margin of 1.19 seconds – an eternity in alpine racing.

The triumph scored her 50,820 Swiss Francs (about $55,000). That’s the biggest pay on the women’s tour and for just about any 17-year-old out there, including the 17-year-old who won $50,000 for being the nations’s fastest texter. Shriffrin’s athletic ability far out-reaches quick thumbs.

“It’s not too early to call her the next phenom of U.S. Skiing” Universal Sports’ Steve Porino said after calling the first of Shiffrin’s two runs, where she was three tenths faster than the field – this according to a Sports Illustrated report.

Her first win, also a slalom event, came last month in Sweden. 

“It’s definitely one of my goals to win the slalom title,” Shiffrin said in a Vail Daily report. “And then the GS (giant slalom) title, and sometime the overall. Right now, I am taking it day by day and race by race.”

The slalom event is the most technical, involving much lower speeds and much higher intricate and dynamic athleticism. U.S. Ski Team member Ted Ligety wrote in a Denver Post blog that Shriffrin is more mature physically than his 27-year-old teammate Resi Stiegler.

“She skis very simply, makes turns in the right spots and doesn’t make many mistakes” said Ligety, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist.

With Vonn in and out of training because of lingering effects of an intestinal illness that landed her in the hospital in November, Shriffrin has moved into the spotlight.

Many are hoping that Colorado will soon have another proud daughter to parallel Regis High School graduate Missy Franklin, who dominated in swimming during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, winning four gold medals and clenching the world-record for the 200m back-stroke all before high school graduation.

With Shriffrin’s recent success, becoming a strong U.S. medal contender in the Winter Olympics in Russia just 13 months away is not far out of the question.

Shriffrin, who now lives only part-time in Vail, is a senior at Burke Mountain Academy, a ski-oriented high school in East Burke, Vt.

As the women’s tour moves to Austria this week, peeled eyes will be stuck on Shriffrin.