Fresh off the plane from his training camp in Austria with the Norwegian team Sjusjoen, Torin Koos was audibly excited for the upcoming season.
The defending U.S. classic and freestyle sprint champ is gearing up for his second season racing independently of the U.S. Ski Team (USST), and with no major championship to target this year, he’s used the past summer and fall to try new things.
Most notably, he split from the Methow Olympic Development Project in Washington last spring, teamed up with the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) in Bozeman, MT, headed back to school to finish his masters at Westminster College, and spent most of October training on the Dachstein glacier in Ramsau, Austria.
“Those are all things I wanted to do,” Koos said from Park City. “I think it’ll reinvigorate me a little bit. There’s sometimes a deadening effect with doing the same thing over and over, and now it’s like the great wide open again.”
The 31-year-old has been to five World Championships and three Olympics, with his sights set on one more of each. In May, he said that his long-term goals were top results at both Val di Fiemme in 2013 and at the Olympics in Sochi the following year. Six months later, those major events are still Koos’ points of focus.
“I think I’m in my prime,” he said.
After dislocating his shoulder in a race just prior to the 2011 World Championships, Koos entered the sprints under less than ideal conditions. A bout of mono later in the winter contributed to an early end to his 2011 season.
Shoulder surgery in the spring kept him unable to use his right arm until August, but Koos said now he doesn’t even think about it. The true test of its recovery was skiing with it for the first time again in Austria. Koos happily reported that the shoulder was feeling great, but noted that it may take time to build it back up to full strength.
Looking ahead to the coming winter, Koos will be balancing a full racing schedule with classes at Westminster until the end of the semester. With two SuperTour weekends in Montana and two NorAms in Canada, he’ll be going back and forth between races and class through December.
After Christmas, it’s on to Rumford, Maine for US Nationals. “Anytime I’m racing in the US, I’m kinda going for the win, for sure,” Koos said. “Nationals will be no different.” Wearing the BSF uniform, he’s aiming to defend his two sprint titles from last winter.
The day after the last race in Rumford, it’s off to Norway to train and race with Trondheim-based club team Strindheim, home to Petter and Tomas Northug, among others.
“I think it’ll be a pretty sweet partnership,” said Koos. He’ll be hopping in Scandinavian Cups to start with, with the goal of earning World Cup starts based on his results there.
According to USST head coach Chris Grover, Koos could see World Cup action in Period 1 the way anyone earns a start: by being the SuperTour leader following the races in Bozeman.
Since Koos’ plans right now include staying stateside until after Nationals in January, which marks the beginning of Period 2 on the World Cup, the decision will be more discretionary. The USST’s roster for period 2 and 3 World Cups is not yet set in stone, as it depends on how athletes are performing at that point.
“I’ll have good competition no matter what,” said Koos. “Some of the racing is dependent on the opportunities I have … At Norwegian Nationals, it’ll be pretty sweet to be an outsider and throw down with those guys.”
Between his partnership with team Strindheim and taking classes, Koos’ approach to racing this year is a bit unconventional. But he’s found the combination so far to be a good thing. “I find the balance between [school and skiing] complementary,” he said.
Despite collaborating with multiple coaches to set his training plan now (Dragan Danevski at BSF and Petter Hagen with Team Sjusjoen), Koos said he feels in complete control of his career: “At the end of the day, it’s up to you to believe in what you’re doing.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.