The Ski Channel Q and A: U.S. Ski Team Star Tim Jitloff

Posted By: The Ski Channel on September 27, 2009 10:24 am

One of the newest U. S. Ski Team athletes to join Bode Miller on the  ‘A’ team loves the color blue, playing Rockband and the Swedish band, Kent. He’s also involved with his local Reno, Nevada community, and is running the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure next weekend in honor of his mother. Tim Jitloff, or ‘Jit’ as he is known amongst friends is already one of the USA’s biggest ski stars, and he’s only just speeding his way up the ranks.

The Ski Channel caught up with Jit to find out how he got started on the slopes, and what makes him tick.

TSC: Tell us about when you started skiing. What’s the down low?

TJ: I’m the youngest of three sons, so I started when I was three. It was not picturesque. I hated it and I believe I cried the entire time. I vividly remember telling my parents I hated it and that I didn’t want to do it ever again. At some point in the day I got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so I was happy. But I just wanted to play with my toys. Eventually, obviously I came around and apparently now I like skiing.

TSC: Was skiing a family event?

TJ: My oldest brother Erik tried to make the Ski Team. He tried for a long time and quit when he was 20 or 21. Now he’s a paramedic.

We would travel together, though. It was good for me, because Erik led the way. He was the one I looked up to.

My middle brother Brian is the mystery brother, because no one knows I have a middle brother. He and I would fight all the time. Full fisticuffs. We hated each other but now we get along just fine.

TSC: What’s the first race you remember?

TJ: There was this monumental race: I was five years old… I don’t remember this too vividly, but my parents remind me. When I kicked out of the start, instead of going around the gates, I went straight to the finish. And then at the bottom they told me I had to go around the gates. I just tucked straight down.

TSC: So you’re a tech skier. Do you just like slalom and GS better than the speed events?

TJ: When I first made the ski team, they said I needed to make a decision, and I said I wanted to ski all the events. But they said in order to realistically make it, I had to pick two events to start in, and then once I got those down, I could branch out.

At the time, the mold for all the best guys doing all the events, like Bode, Benny Raich… They all started in tech and then branched out to speed.

So that’s what we decided would be best for me. So I’m going to start branching out to combined and then super G and then downhill…

TSC: Last season you had some of your best results, including a World Cup top 5 (in GS, Sestriere)! Tell us about your time on tour…

TJ: Well my last two years skiing World Cup had been really tough. Honestly, sometimes you get guys who come on tour and do wonderful things. Like Jens Byggmark, and Ted Ligety. But for most guys it takes a couple years to find the flow.

For me it took a couple years to figure out the hills on tour, the pressure situations, being in front of the camera, lots of people around… But I’m getting to the point, now, where I’m comfortable with all that.

TSC: So what about that top 5?

TJ: I’d been skiing a lot of slalom so it was the first GS race I got to do in about a month. I was so happy about that!

I was completely comfortable, then. I did a Europa Cup before—and they’re often more difficult than World Cups because the conditions are more rugged. I ended up third in really tough conditions, so I felt confident. And then the World Cup in Sestriere, the conditions were similar, so I was like sweet!

TSC: OK, so is there anyone on the World Cup Tour you especially look up to?

TJ: I have a couple of really good friends, but I’d say, it’s a draw. Marco Buechel—he’s hands down the nicest guy. My first World Cup he skied up to me and introduced himself. He just said, “How’s it going? Welcome.”

After Soelden the year before last, I didn’t do that well, and was super bummed. I went and stayed with friends in Switzerland who lived right near Marco. He invited me to his house for his birthday, in Liechtenstein. We went to his book signing, and then his birthday party. He just welcomed me into their home, with his wife, Doris, and a yellow lab. Everywhere in Europe, people have cats, but he had a dog.

So I walk in the door and huge yellow lab tackles me. I just thought, “Yes, this is exactly what I need. Some dog love.”

He showed me his office, his trophies and red bibs, from when he was leading in the World Cup. He said, “Hey, I’m 36, and I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not easy and don’t worry, your time will come.”

So I knew I was going to have to go through that period where it was really difficult, and he had to do it, too.

That was definitely a treasured moment

TSC: Switching gears. Do you have a favorite ski resort?

TJ: Honestly, Alpine Meadows in California. It’s where I grew up skiing. I went back over Christmas, and I’m not kidding, it’s still the same. It’s still a local’s resort; it’s ridiculous. There were no lift lines, and there’s so much hiking stuff there that no one goes to, because no one wants to hike.

I love Alyeska, Alaska, too. The tram there—the ride up—you have a view into the sound—the water comes in on high tide. It’s really something else. So beautiful. You get that sense of isolation and comfort. That’s a tram ride everyone should get to do.

TSC: Speaking of doing stuff, what do you do for fun, especially on the Tour?

TJ: Well, we’re not actually that cool, to be honest with you. The best times happen in the places you wouldn’t believe. We’ll go to Munich—the Moevenpick Hotel… Everyone knows the bar is open until 2am, and the guys from the US, Sweden and Canada are there, shooting the shit. That for me is enough.

Maybe in Kitzbuehel we’ll go out. But it’s not as big or as often as people would think. Apparently, we’re professional athletes.