Chris Cook was born in 1980 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and began ski racing at the age of three. Cook attended Northern Michigan University and credits both his teammates as well as his coach Sten Fjeldheim for helping shape his ski career. In 2003 Cook skied to an NCAA championship, followed two years later at U.S. Nationals by a 2nd place in the 15K and a 1st place in the Sprint.
As part of the 2006 Olympic Team, Cook placed 21st in the Sprint and has continued to represent the U.S. as a competitive sprinter since, placing 14th in the 2007 Otepaea World Cup Sprint and 20th in the 2008 Canmore World Cup Sprint. Cook attributes his rise through the ranks of American skiers to his inherent competitiveness and his desire to be the best at every level of XC ski racing. “Anyone can do the training,” Cook believes, “…but you have to believe you can compete on the level or you won’t have the chance…It’s all about how you overcome adversity.”
Although Cook plans to continue his focus on sprinting, he also hopes to be a solid relay leg for the U.S. as well as a strong mid-distance racer. When Cook is not skiing, he enjoys mountain biking, waterskiing, and following the Green Bay Packers, and when, if ever, he retires from ski racing, Cook plans to start his own business.
Hometown: Rhinelander WI
Ski Club: SVSEF
Status on U.S. Ski Team: World Cup Team
Best Results: 2008 Canmore World Cup Sprint 20th, 2007 Otepaea World Cup Sprint 14th, 2006 Olympic Games Sprint 21st, 2006 US Nationals Sprint Champ, 2006 US Nationals 15k 2nd, 2005 Silver Star World Cup Sprint 12th, 2003 NCAA 20k Champ
Sponsors: Rossignol, Swix, Rudy Project, Marwe, Powerbar
When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your young skiing career?
I started skiing at a real young age. I still remember my first race though, I was three or four and got dead last, but the overall winner of the race gave me his trophy at the awards ceremony for being the youngest racer…After that I just wanted more trophies.
Who has been the most influential person for you, whether as a skier or a person?
I think my coach Sten Fjeldheim and teammates at NMU had the most influential impact on me. Sten believed in my ability to be a top tier ski racer from day one, and our team at Northern was a real tight unit. There was never an easy day there but a get your work done at any cost attitude. We all believed in our talent as a team and were determined to take all we could. We wanted to win everything in a dominating fashion.
Where is your favorite place to ski, where is your favorite place to race, what is your favorite part of the season, what are your favorite ski conditions?
My favorite place to ski is anywhere with freshly groomed corduroy. My favorite place to race has been the World Cups in Canada. It’s always nice to race in what feels to be a home course advantage. Favorite part of the season…I would say the very beginning of the WC race season. You’ve had all year to prepare for the season to kickoff. My favorite and ideal condition is a nice firm track.
What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your short term and long-term goals as a skier?
I think my desire to compete really drives me. I want to be one of the best so I want to race against the best head to head, and see what happens. My short term goals for this season would be to finish in the Overall Sprint WC top 30 list. As for my long term goals it would be to make the Olympic Sprint Final.
Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone or with others?
I would say my most consistent training partners would be my teammates. We generally are in camp or on the road for most of the year. At home though, I will train with my brothers when they are around. I definitely enjoy training with others, especially when you have the quality of skiers currently in the US.
What is your favorite on snow and dryland workout?
Favorite on snow workout would have to be the Sprint Race. As for dryland it would have to be short hard ski bounding interval repeats. It’s just a gut wrenching experience and if you can make it through you know it doesn’t get any harder than that.
What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
A great day without skiing would have to be hanging with the crew for a solid day at the lake. A couple boats, great friends, good water, and calling it a day at sundown, exhausted.
Have you always wanted to be a professional ski racer?
I have always wanted to be a professional athlete. I grew up in sports and loved it, and through skiing I got to make it my profession.
How and when did you decide to be a sprinter? Do you think that you will continue to sprint exclusively? How is your life as a sprinter different from the lives of distance skiers?
I have been sprinting since the beginning and realized that I had some good speed and who doesn’t want to go fast. I have been training primarily for sprinting but these days the training to be a good sprinter is not that much different from the distance guys. We do a few more speed workouts and our intensity varies a little from theirs. I will continue to focus as a sprinter but I still want to be a solid relay leg and 15km racer.
If you weren’t ski racing, how would you be employed? Do you have any other means of employment to support your ski career?
Ideally I would want to be employed as my own boss, running my own business, isn’t that the dream? And currently the only way I am trying to support my ski career is by skiing real fast.
How long do you think you will ski professionally? What do you see yourself doing after you finish your ski career?
I want to ski race as long as I can and after I finish…not sure, go back and do it all again.
How did you rise through the ranks of American skiers? Was there a specific turning point? Describe your training or other factors that have allowed you such success.
I think it was just a steady progression. At every level I wanted to make it to the top whether it was as a junior racer, collegiate racer, europa cup racer, senior racer and now world cup racer. I have always looked up to the next level and do whatever it takes to get there. I’m not sure there was a specific turning point, but more gaining confidence with my racing and building momentum. Anyone can do the training, there are no secrets, but you have to believe you can compete on the level or you won’t have a chance.
You attended Northern Michigan University, where you were a standout ski racer. How was that experience? Did going to NMU help you develop as a skier and a person?
I believe that going to NMU was a perfect fit for myself developing as skier and person. NMU helped mold me into the ski racer I am now as well as allow to experience how important it is to have balance in your life.
Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the offseason, or did you play other sports as a kid? What are some favorite non-skiing competitions?
As soon as the race season ends I use mountain biking to get my fix for racing. I generally get in six or seven races from spring until mid summer. Coming up as a kid I would get into any game I could and play hard. I played soccer all through high school before deciding to pursue skiing as my collegiate career but there was some definite contemplation if I could swing both.
How do you pass the time while traveling? Do you have an essential item that you bring with you everywhere?
Life on the road definitely has its share of downtime that’s for sure. I would never think about hitting the road without my ipod, and football. That thing has been around the world. A couple of us have PSP’s which provides some quality entertainment, especially on the 4 hour plus van rides.
What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and breakfast? Do you enjoy eating foreign food when you travel?
My diet isn’t too particular. You have to be pretty flexible with it on the road as well. However, I wouldn’t think of starting my day without a good cup of coffee. I do enjoy the euro breakfast though…fresh rolls, jam, cheese, and coffee what else do you need.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’ve competed in the National Figure Eight Barefoot Competition.
What, if anything, do you do besides ski? How do you spend your weeks off?
In the summer I love to get out on the boat and waterskiing, and the closest thing to a week off we get would be in the spring after the season when we usually all head to the beach to kick back after a long season.
How has the transition to the U.S. Ski Team gone? Was there been a major change in your life? How has the team changed while you have been on it?
I would say the transition to the US Ski Team has been smooth. It has had it’s ups and downs as you would expect though. For example, last season was real frustrating for me, but like any occupation you have to get back on the horse that tossed you off and never give up. All in. I don’t know if the team has really changed much, more than it has been steadily building momentum. This team is determined to be the best and do whatever it takes, to win World Cups, World Champs, and Olympics.
Do you have a message for aspiring young skiers? How does a young skier get to where you are now?
Never give up and dream big, and like any fight you’re going to take a few blows, before landing your own. It’s all about how you overcome adversity. You can let it get you down, or you can use it to make you better. Which one do you want?
We see pictures of you in Chicago Bulls shorts, and hear you like the Green Bay Packers. Are you a big sports fan besides skiing?
Being from Green Bay, it’s a given you’re a packer fan; pretty sure you don’t have a choice it just comes with the territory. I was a huge fan of MJ which stemmed my out of state love for the Bulls; otherwise I like to keep it all in house. Pack, Bucks, and Brew Crew.
Action shot photo courtesy of Andy Fecteau.