Monday afternoon, Noah Hoffman announced on his blog: “After my disappointing season, I was not renamed to the U.S. Ski Team,” he wrote.
Those were the words beginning the post’s fourth paragraph. As the lead into that news, Hoffman referenced his big-volume 2016/2017 training load and subsequent lackluster results, as well as his near off-the-grid month adventuring in Utah’s desert country.
As of late Monday night, the 2017/2018 U.S. Ski Team (USST) nominations had not been released publicly. USST Head Coach Chris Grover declined to comment on the team’s newest iteration or Hoffman not being renamed to the team until a formal announcement is made through the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA).
Team nominations and configurations are a near constant work in progress. As every USST skier understands, renomination is no guarantee. At 27, Hoffman has been a member of the USST since 2008, is a 2014 Olympian, and represented the U.S. in the last four World Championships.
From the start of the World Cup season in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 27, 2016, through the finale in Quebec City on March 19, Hoffman’s desired results never materialized. He skied the 15th-fastest time of day on the famed Alpe Cermis final stage of the 2017 Tour de Ski and placed 30th or better in four other World Cup races — scoring World Cup points. He had a season best of eighth place in the 30-kilometer skiathlon in PyeongChang, South Korea, but the PyeongChang field was thin without any seeded World Cup skiers in that race. So in effect, Hoffman’s eighth place came with an asterisk.
By the numbers, Hoffman’s potential renomination to the USST was a nailbiter. The USST’s non-discretionary criteria for national-team status is top 50 on the overall points list. Hoffman finished the season 51st with 123 points. The 50th placed skier on the list, Norway’s Håvard Solås Taugbøl, had 124 points.
“For the team nomination, there was more of a sense of relief of knowing,” Hoffman said on the phone Monday evening from Putney, Vt.
“I knew … literally, from coming back from Korea when I got sick, that it was going to be really, really close to being top 50 in the world if I didn’t score more points after that,” he added. “I probably didn’t know exactly how close I was going to be, but then in Quebec, it became clear that it was going to be really, really close to either hanging in the top 50 or not. So I finished the last race and I checked the overall list and saw that I was 51st and one point off of 50th and I was like, Well, I didn’t qualify, and I don’t really have any results.”
Hoffman understood that quantitatively, the season’s math might possibly add up to a renomination. Yet qualitatively, he acknowledged his 2016/2017 results were void of any eye-popping result.
“I couldn’t have been any closer,” Hoffman added. “One World Cup point after scoring a hundred and twenty something, but didn’t really have any results that were going to be totally clear that I could be discretioned on.”
Hoffman explained he was notified by Grover by phone approximately one month ago.
“I knew it was going to be a question,” Hoffman continued. “I suspected that was going to be the answer and now I know and we can all move on. It’s not personal in any way, shape or form.”
For the foreseeable future, Hoffman, a Colorado native, will live and train in Hanover, N.H., close to his coach Zach Caldwell, who resides in Putney. In addition, Hoffman has been offered World Cup Period 1 start rights.
“Grover said to take some time, figure out what I wanted to do and then come back to him and talk about start rights,” Hoffman explained of their initial conversation three to four weeks ago. He called Grover back a week or two later to discuss just that.
“Once I decided definitively that I wanted to ski again, I was pretty sure that I wanted to ski Period 1 as opposed to staying in this country and trying to make the Olympic team that way, which is probably the easier way,” he said. “Because I want to be one of the best skiers in the world and I believe that I can, my goal has never been to qualify for the Olympics. I want to be skiing best in the world and I believe I can do that all season long and I want to prove it.”
Stay tuned for a more in-depth story on Hoffman and news about the U.S. national-team nominations as they become available.