For one of the brightest rising stars on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, 2021 has already been a glimpse of enormous untapped potential. 23 year old River Radamus has finished in the top 20 of every single FIS World Cup race since the start of the new year--his first first full season on the FIS World Cup Circuit. In the first FIS Alpine World Championships of his career, the Vail, Colorado native placed eighth in the individual Parallel discipline, marking the first top-10 finish of his young professional career. Radamus went on to finish 11th or better in the Team Parallels and Giant Slalom events at the World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. River, a Giant Slalom specialist, has begun to emerge as the heir to American Ted Ligety’s throne as the top GS specialist on the U.S. Ski Team. In fact, Ligety said so much recently following the announcement of his retirement from professional ski racing.
In a letter River shared via his Instagram account following Ligety’s unexpected retirement, River wrote a thank you letter to the ski racing legend regarding how influential Ligety’s career was for him during the advent of his ski racing career; sharing that “cheering for Ted was a cornerstone of my childhood”. Radamus went on to say, “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be like Ted… being [Ted’s] teammate has been one of the great honors of my life”, to which Ligety responded, “your turn now.”
Ligety’s passing of the GS torch to River just a week before the start of the World Championships proved to be an important confidence booster for the young Giant Slalom specialist, as River competed in Cortina as the lone American in the discipline following Ligety’s retirement and season-ending injuries sustained by teammates Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Tommy Ford. Radamus then carried this same momentum into the most recent World Cup stop in Bansko, Bulgaria, where River finished a career-best 14th in FIS World Cup competition and clocked the fourth-fastest second run of the day.
Perhaps the most admirable thing about Radamus is his unending support for his fellow USST teammates. While being one of the stars of the U.S. Ski Team, he’s also one of its most profuse cheerleaders. Be it on his Instagram or in interviews, River seemingly never ceases to hype up his fellow teammates. From expressing his stomach churning sympathy for Tommy Ford upon his cringe worthy crash in Adelboden, Switzerland to championing fellow GS specialist and Colorado native Bridger Gile’s FIS World Cup debut, River remains a team player in a sport where it is not uncommon for teammates to be pitched against one another in competition.
Sure to be a standout on the FIS World Cup Circuit in the weeks and years to come, look out for River’s signature hip drag as he continues to rise in the FIS Giant Slalom standings.
We reached out to River a couple weeks ago to check in with him and get his take on the World Championships.
Spyder: What is it about this event that is special?
River: This is my first World Championships. World Champs are where legacies in Ski Racing are made. Beyond the obvious, the thing I found myself reflecting on a lot is how few opportunities you get in a career to compete on this stage. If you have a long career, you can hope to maybe race in 5 or 6 World Champs and if you are extremely talented, and extremely lucky, you can make 2, maybe 3 Olympic teams. A typical GS course is around a minute to 1:20. Multiply that by 2 runs per race, and that comes out to roughly less than 20 minutes. We train for tens of thousands of hours, travel hundreds of thousands of miles, and work for years, perfecting our craft, for 20 minutes. Given all that, the weight of the moment feels almost overwhelming. It's easy to think "I've done all that, just to get here. Better not mess it up." But I prefer to think, "I've done all that, just to get here. Better enjoy it."
Spyder: What about the location of World Champs is unique to you?
River: I'm a pretty big James Bond fan. So when we go to a place where one was filmed, I get pretty excited. Cortina is the scene of one of my favorite James Bond movies: For Your Eyes Only. Being here, and seeing where everything was filmed makes me almost feel like I'm in the movie. Almost.
Spyder: Where is your favorite place to eat when you are in Cortina? What is your favorite local meal?
River: Easy answer: Pizza. Italian pizza is easily my favorite food and Cortina has a few phenomenal pizza places. My favorite spot, Al Passeto does the crust just right, and tastes as close to heaven as I've found on this mortal coil. I get the Pizza Bufala con rucola e speck. A perfect pizza.
Spyder: What is your favorite section on the course? Where would you like to watch this race from if you were spectating? How many time have you competed at this venue?
River: This is everyone's first time racing GS on this hill. I like that because I think it levels the playing field a bit. Experience gives no advantage and it's all about who can adapt and execute. This is one of the most challenging races all season for a number of reasons. The hill is really technical. It has one of the steepest pitches we ski all year right out the gate, then terrain changes and quirks throughout the rest of the hill. Depending on how they set, I think there are 5 totally blind turns in the course. With all that said, there's not a bad place to watch this one. Wherever you stand, I think you'll see something interesting. My favorite section to ski is definitely the bottom of the pitch to the flats. The pitch is so steep, you're really only trying to survive and keep your line, but the way you look for speed entering the flat sets the tone for the rest of the course and can make or break your run.