From the outside, Ryan Scott’s 2012-2013 season seemed to be an inconsistent one. The 23-year-old sprinter for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/Team HomeGrown started off strong, with a win at West Yellowstone and a podium in Bozeman, Mont, and his early season success earned one of the coveted spots to the Canadian World Cups in December. But in Quebec City he started to lose steam; he got sick upon arrival and didn’t race as he would have liked, taking 60th in qualifying in Quebec and 51st in Canmore.
By the time Scott got to Soldier Hollow, Utah, for U.S. Nationals, he says he was “a little deflated.” He posted the fifth-fastest classic sprint qualifying time but didn’t reach the finals in either discipline. At the Midwest SuperTours later that month he didn’t make the finals, either, and after taking fourth in the sprint prologue in Aspen, Colo., Scott took a six-week break from racing while many of his peers raced Continental Cups in Europe. At SuperTour Finals he only entered the first two races, taking 26th in the classic sprint after qualifying eighth.
By Scott’s own assessment, it was not season he’d hoped for.
“There was really no game plan after January,” he said on the phone on Wednesday. “It was my fault; there was a lack of funds and I was unable to lay out much racing or get over to Europe to compete over there.”
Despite the down year, Scott is motivated for another season and hopes to bring his sprinting to another level in the upcoming Olympic year. Part of his plan to accomplish this involves taking a trip to Norway for a month this June to train with college friends and travel the country.
“Summer is a great time to go, because the training isn’t as structured,” Scott said. “It’s nice and sunny for the most part and it’s a break from training in the U.S. There’s different people to training with — new training stimuli — and that’s always exciting… I have a structured plan, I know what I should be doing and the different aspects to focus on, so it’s easy to jump in and do training with other people and have a little bit of an adventure, too.”
Through connections with old Montana State University roommates and friends from college skiing, Scott will make stops in Oslo, Lillehammer, Trondheim and possibly a few more cities. In Oslo he’ll train with University of Colorado alum Vegard Kjoelhamar and his club, and in Lillehammer Scott will connect with another CU skier, 2013 NCAA Champion Rune Ødegård.
“I guess he’s good friends with Sjur Røthe, so there’s a good training group there,” Scott said.
To add some competition to the trip, Scott will compete in the St. Olavsloppet, a four-day 350 k point-to-point running relay between Östersund, Sweden, and Trondheim. There are generally 15 people per team and each member rotates through 4 – 13 k legs. Scott participated in the race three years ago on a similar trip to Norway. The race generally attracts a large number of elite and recreational competitors; in 2012 the winning team included Eldar Rønning.
While abroad, Scott also plans to meet up with his father, six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott, and compete in a triathlon “for fun.”
“I’ll try to be in good shape for it, but I don’t know how much swimming I’ll be doing,” he laughed.
Scott says that lightly, but he comes from an impressive family of elite athletes. Dave Scott was the most dominant triathlete in the Ironman distance in the 1980s, and Scott’s younger brother, Drew, is beginning to make a name for himself, too — he was second at the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance Nationals last season.
Scott’s connections to the top level of triathlon begs the question: what ties him exclusively to skiing?
“The racing aspect in triathlon is pretty exciting as well, but I’ve always been more drawn to skiing,” he said. “The only tough thing with skiing is there isn’t as much of a clear path to the top on how to move up. After a while it gets a little harder…there’s definitely not as much support or money in the sport, which makes it quite difficult, so most skiers I know are working on the side or full time.
“My heart’s always been in skiing, but we’ll see,” Scott continued. “I’m not going to stick around skiing just to be a decent domestic skier. I think if I don’t break through in the next few seasons I might stop and pick up another profession or switch to triathlon.”
When he comes back to the U.S. in mid-July, Scott plans to have a fresh outlook on skiing. His big goal this year is to qualify for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as a sprinter. He believes it’s difficult to maintain a full race schedule as a sprinter in the U.S., but he’s committed to the shorter distance.
“I’m going to be focused solely on sprinting,” Scott said. “I think the disparity between distance skiers and sprinters will be more apparent this season. The all-arounders — there’s not much point to it other than the SuperTour leader’s bib, but as far as the Olympics are concerned they’ll be looking at the top in either sprint or distance, so it’ll be tough to sit in the middle.”
Scott also wants to make it back to the World Cup. His experience in Canada last December was dampened by illness, but he says the exposure to the top level of racing was valuable.
“It’s very motivating,” Scott said. “It’s just such a difference from our SuperTour races, where you have a few people cheering, to suddenly thousands of people cheering. Just the excitement was a really positive note of being there. So obviously I’d like to train hard and hopefully race fast and have another opportunity to show myself on the World Cup.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.