When the ski world changed its rules, skiers everywhere were up in arms. But while many complained about the International Ski Federation’s Byzantine rule tweak increasing the minimum ski length, two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety carried on, honing his singular technique in the giant slalom (GS), in which he lies almost parallel to the snow, holding on for dear life at every turn.
“That’s really where my advantage has been,” he says. “I’ve been working on a different GS technique from most of the rest of the world.” While other skiers jerk out of turns and make the Politicos last-second adjustments, Ligety’s turns are perfectly calculated. He always knows what’s coming next, a skill that lets him leave everything out on the course and snatch up each precious hundredth of a second.
It’s paid off: He rode his take-no-prisoners style, practically sitting on the snow while taking turns at 50 mph, to a gold medal in the GS at last winter’s Sochi Olympics.
But a harder-edged approach to screaming down the mountain (the sides of Ligety’s skis really are at almost a 90-degree angle to the snow) demands more gym time. He’d always done a lot of lower-body, balance, and core work, but the longer skis were “more taxing,” he says.
So, in an effort to avoid cooked legs halfway through the race, he changed his routine, “focusing a lot more on muscle endurance and just preparing myself to be pushing hard near the end of a course and not feeling quite as tired,” he explains.
Even with two gold medals at home, Ligety still has unfinished business. He’ll be only 33—which isn’t terribly old in ski racing—at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea; he’s also set his sights on an overall World Cup title.
“I still think I have a bunch of good years left in me,” he says. “I’m not just sitting here happy with what I’ve done so far. I want to continue to get better.”
FIT FACT: Four days a week, Ligety hits the weight room for “everything from lower-body strengthening to core stability,” he says.