BiosContinental CupOlympicsJames Southam

FasterSkier FasterSkierDecember 3, 2008

James Southam was born in 1978 in Anchorage, AK and began skiing as a freshman in high school after he was cut from the basketball team. The highlight of Southam’s junior ski career was when his team won the relay at Junior Nationals. Southam attended both the University of Nevada and Western State before joining the APU program that allowed more flexibility for athletic development.

Southam has been a two time National Champion and was a member of the 2006 Olympic team. He credits Frode Lillefjell as a coach who taught him how to race and believe that he could ski with the Europeans. Southam is currently living in Anchorage with his wife and hopes for another Olympic opportunity in 2010 with a top 15 individual finish and a medal in the relay. “[The US] has the horses to do it,” Southam believes. When Southam is not skiing, he spends time with his wife and works at Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage.

Birthdate: June 5, 1978
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Current Residence: Anchorage, AK
Ski Club: APU Nordic Ski Center
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 151 lbs
Best Results: 2006 Olympian, 2x National Champion
Sponsors: Atomic, Swix, Toko, Skinny Raven Sports, Dedicated Athlete, Rudy Project, Altolab
Website: jamessoutham.blogspot.com

Full Interview

When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your
young skiing career?

I started as a freshman in high school after I got cut from the basketball team and figured I needed to do something over the winter. As far as highlights go, I still remember the day I learned about double poling. I was in a relay race my first year skiing striding side by side with another kid who started double poling and I figured I would try that. It was faster and I beat him! The other highlight from my junior days was when my relay team won at Junior Nationals. We were the Alaska 2 team and managed to pull off the big upset over a stacked Alaska 1 and Intermountain team.

Who has been the most influential person for you, whether as a skier or a
person?

In skiing I would have to say Frode Lillefjell. He was the one who really taught me how to race and got me to believe that I could ski with the Euros.

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?
No question Soldier Hollow is my favorite place to race. Big climbs, fast descents, and just enough subtleties to make it interesting. Canmore is a close second. Silver Star is a beautiful place for a training camp. For a base Anchorage is hard to beat with two amazing ski areas right in the city. For my favorite time of the year it has to be now. Everyone has put in a lot of work, and has that mix of anticipation and hope that they are in the kind of shape they think they’re in.

What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your long-term goals as a skier?
I just love that I have the opportunity, the support, and the ability to try and be the best at ski racing. My long-term goals are starting to turn into short-term with my last Olympic opportunity next year. A top 15 individual race and a medal in the relay are my goals. We have the horses to do it.

What are your favorite race formats/distances, and do you try to specialize for these events?
My favorite are the Pursuits. Head to head, not too long and not too short. It’s a shame that we don’t do more than one of those a year in the US, much less any other 30k’s… I have been best at 10 and 15k’s but I have made a big effort to transition to the longer events this year so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

What are your overall goals for this season?
Redeem myself after last year, that was just embarrassing…

Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone or with others?
I train 5 days a week with APU which has been fantastic. But since the guy’s team is mostly sprinters I end up training on my own a lot. That suits me well. Training solo is really valuable for technique and pacing.

What is your favorite on snow workout and favorite dryland workout?
I am an intensity guy. On snow I really like long pace workouts, I don’t do them very often but it feels so productive when I finish one. There is nothing quite like hard bounding in the rain, mix a little mud in there… that’s training!

What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
I like doing things I am not good at. Golf for example, no pressure because I suck, so it is just playing. I also really like a day off with nothing to do and just kick around town with my wife.

In terms of employment, are you a 100% full-time athlete, or do you have another job besides training/racing? If so, what do you do?
I am a 75% full time athlete. I work part time at Skinny Raven Sports in the off season. If I didn’t have that little something else in my schedule I think I would go really stale mentally, I would also be broke. My wife and I are expecting a baby any day now so that will be a big new addition to life.

How long do you think you will ski at the elite level? What do you see yourself  doing after you finish your ski career?
Two, maybe three more years. The Olympic season for sure and if I am skiing at a high enough level, can make it financially viable, and have the motivation to go thru the 2011 World Champs I will do that. If I could find a way to actually make money ski racing I could see going thru Sochi, I am still getting faster and love what I am doing. With another 4 years of training, who knows what I could do.

Do you or did you ever attend college? How did you make that decision?
I went to U of Nevada, Western State, and APU. When I chose NCAA schools I don’t think I put too much thought into it and based my choices more off scholarships than anything else. Neither program was a great fit for me and then the APU program started up which ended up a great support and educational system for me that let me develop as an athlete and still graduate from college.

Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the offseason? Did you play other sports as a kid? What are some of your favorite non-skiing competitions?
There are some great mountain running races around here in the summer but I have typically been at training camps or injured. I spent the summer of 2004 and 2005 with some lower leg issues that kept me from running. As a kid I did the baseball, basketball, football thing. Once I finish racing I am looking forward to some city league softball and hockey.

What do you do with any spare time at training camps or on race trips?
I tend to lay low. Usually I just read, sleep, and talk to my wife on the phone. Every so often I will go on a movie binge though.

What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and breakfast?
I am very much a routine guy. Bread, butter, jam, and ham or sausage for breakfast. Pasta with chicken or tuna, spinach and tomatoes for lunch. Afternoon peanut butter and honey on toast. Dinner is salad, meat and potatoes. One thing that makes my routine easier is Anchorage has a couple good bakeries so I don’t have to eat the sliced grocery store bread. Pre-race food is like any other day really.

How do you spend your weeks off?
In the spring I try to take a trip someplace warm like Hawaii. During the training year I usually end up taking care of all the stuff I have been neglecting while training. Occasionally I get to go somewhere fun, usually not.

What is the best race or workout you have ever done?
2001 Opa cup in Germany I was 8th. I was not a great junior or young senior and then I had that race. It totally changed what I thought I could do as a skier. Also my first national championship in 2005. In the 10k classic race the day before I was in the lead at halfway, heard the split that I was leading, tried to do to much and died. That next day I got a split that I was tied for the lead at halfway. I took in the info and kept racing within myself and unloaded in the last two k’s and won. I had no real expectation of winning that week which made it so sweet.

What race events are in your plan for this season, and which race are you are looking forward to the most?
My schedule will be a little more focused which also means no more sprinting for me. With the baby coming soon I won’t be spending extra time on the road and won’t be doing races that aren’t going to help me qualify for Worlds and the Olympics. So I’ll be doing the early SuperTours and Whisler races, US Nationals here in Anchorage, then hopefully the Canada World Cups, World Champs, and finish off with distance Nationals in Fairbanks.

What else do you want to say?
Can’t wait to get the season rolling!

Headshot photo courtesy of Heather Thamm.

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