Ski Channel Inside Look: Q and A with U.S. Ski Team star Scott Macartney

Posted By: The Ski Channel on October 27, 2009 8:18 am

Where do

we begin? When it comes to a classic, Scott Macartney is the real deal. He’s a real ski racer, a real skier. The self-contained Seattle-born U.S. Ski Team veteran started skiing not much later than he learned to walk, and the rest, as they say, is history. With a resume that includes World Cup podiums and an Olympic top-ten finish, Macartney is still going strong. Here’s an inside look on how he sees his sport and what it’s like to be a top athlete—along with what he has to say about launching a storied career, sleeping on the floor, and giving things 110%.

NEXT PAGE: Scott plants seeds


TSC: Tell us when it all began…

SM: I started skiing at two and a half, at Crystal Mountain (WA).  My parents were ski patrollers

(my dad has kind of retired from that, though my mom is still very involved). They had me on the ski pole and then a leash. That was good because you basically have to do everything. They ski behind you and control your speed, but you have to balance and make your own turns.

TSC: When did you start ski racing?

SM: Age seven. My brother started racing the year before. There’s a fun downhill at Crystal Mountain called the Cherry Tree Charge, (during President’s Day Weekend). I watched from the sidelines and wanted to do it and the next year I got to do it.

TSC: You skied a downhill when you were seven?!?

SM: When you’re super young, you start halfway… There were different rules back then. You could race downhill when you were young, but now you can’t do it until your 15.  

TSC: How long were your skis?

SM: Oh, 140’s or 150’s…

TSC: When did it start to get serious?

SM:  I’d say at about the time you start missing school and traveling to Junior Olympics and stuff like that. So I was about 13 or 14.

TSC: What’s your earliest race memory?

SM: Actually, I remember that first race at Crystal. As a seven year-old you race with kids ages nine and under, and I

think I got third out of that entire group. Even though I was you

nger than the others… So it was a big deal for me, and my first trophy.

TSC: Sounds pretty momentous. How about World Cups?

SM: My first World Cup was the downhill at Beaver Creek, in 99’. I remember just kind of forerunning the year before, so I’d been on the hill. But that hill is definitely a step up from courses on Nor-Ams and the other races I had done. It was faster and way more intense, and skiing in front of the home crowd was awesome, and it still is.

I think I got like 37th or something in that race, so I did alright.

NEXT PAGE: Scott’s American idol


TSC: A pretty big step. Do you ever get scared?

SM: Yeah, sometimes and there are a bunch of different reasons. Some of those courses are definitely intimidating. You can experience a lot of nervousness when you go down the first time.

It’s also scary when you decide to go fast. If you want to make it down and have a safe run, you can do that. But when you decide you’re racing, and decide to take chances and go fast, that’s where more nerves come into play, when you get after it.

It’s fun, though. It’s the part of the sport that’s pretty unique and cool. There’s a certain element of risk-taking involved with ski racing. It’s not a controlled environment and there are lots of variables. One you can control is the technical side, taking more risks, taking lines that are more risky… But you can beat people by wanting it more, and being willing to put more on the line.

TSC: That’s actually pretty deep. And powerful. Does that translate to life for you?

SM: There are certain parallels. It’s similar to what you can do in business or really how willing you are to take risks in other things. It’s about acceptable risk taking, whether you’re bungee jumping, or mountain biking. I think a lot of those things cross over. The real risk-reward… It’s easy to see it (that rich reward) in other things, too.

Skiing definitely taught me that. It teaches you about execution, self-confidence and your willingness to take chances. That kind of confidence rubs off in other areas as well.

TSC: Was there anyone who embodied all this, and who maybe was an idol for you?

SM: Growing up, I definitely looked up to one of my coaches. Alan Lauba. From when I was 12 and older, I chased him around the mountain. He was new to that team (at Crystal) and had just come off of World Cup. He coached the juniors and kept moving up with my group.

NEXT PAGE: The van ride that made Scott a man


TSC: Are there any stories that stand out from back then?

SM: Actually, my post grad year (Macartney took a year off from school before college) I remember going to race in Tremblant (Canada). My local group wasn’t going, so I jumped in with some guys from the Rocky Central group. They were never told I was coming, but I was told they knew…

So, we left Calgary and flew out to these other races. I just happened to be waiting in the hotel and ran into some kids who were on that Rocky team. They didn’t know I was coming at all. It ended up working out, but it was an experience.  Our hotel room had a double bed and there were seven of us. I didn’t even have a mattress to sleep on—just sheets on the floor. They were trying to save money and Tremblant can be pretty expensive.

Getting back to the airport was just as crazy. I ended up riding the three to four hours to the airport in the back of a cargo van, crouched on top of layers of skis.  And not just by myself. We were lying on ski bags with bindings on our backs

TSC: Wow. Things have changed for you! What do you love most about the World Cup Tour?

SM: A cool part about the sport for me is that it’s always different at each place. Each venue has a couple keys to the course, or ways to ski them fast. I enjoy going to that venue and figuring it out every time. The races are fun because they’re always slightly different.

And then, when they’re cancelled, you get to go powder skiing and enjoy the sport outside of racing, too

NEXT PAGE: Scott talks World Cup podiums


TSC: What’s one of your best memories as a World Cup skier?

SM: One of my best was my podium in Val Gardena, and also getting 7th in the Olympics (Torino, Super G). Just because on the Olympic one, I came down in the lead, so I got to sit in the winner’s circle for a long time. It was a definite highlight.

Personally, as far as the podiums go, my 3rd (at Val Gardena) was a better performance than my 2nd at Garmisch. At Val Gardena, I started after all the top guys had already gone down and the conditions were exactly the same. So the race was fair. I executed my game plan and skied really well; skied my overall focus and carried a lot of speed. I think I was in the top three through a bunch of the sections.

In Garmisch, I started first and then the course slowly deteriorated. So it wasn’t the most even playing field. (TSC note: OK, props for being so humble!) In Val Gardena, I performed really well on a really level playing field. So there’s nothing in the back of my head that I may have had an advantage.

TSC: What are some other achievements you’ve had, which people might not know?

SM: People usually don’t know that I completed my degree at Dartmouth (in Economics). And I was an Eagle Scout.

NEXT PAGE: Scott on the Olympics, You Tube Nation and Austin Powers


TSC: OK, so we’re about to start the season. Where are you now in terms of prep? We realize you had knee surgery last winter.

SM: I still have more time to get race ready. I’ve done the recovery. I’ve done the rehab program enough to know what I need to do.

It’s more about when I get into the races, continuing my progression through the first couple. I’ll use Lake Louise as another building block for the season. There’s no training substitute for getting back into the ski races.

Of course I’m going to try to be ready. But there’s always a bit of progression getting back into the World Cup.

TSC: Everyone’s talking about the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. What’s your take?

SM: People always ask the Olympic question because I don’t think people realize what the World Cup season is. There isn’t anything different I’m doing this year to get ready. I think the best way to prepare for the Olympics, having been there, is to treat it like any other race.

The media will make it some other race, but you’ve got to take the same focus as you would into the World Cup races.

TSC: People probably always ask you about ‘the crash.’ (For those who don’t know, Macartney suffered a head injury after a fall at Kitzbuhel in 2008.) How do you feel about all the people asking you about your injury?

SM: It depends on what direction they’re taking it… If it’s about recovery, no problem. But, if it’s all they know about the sport or if it’s all about me, I get more annoyed.

I do realize it’s a compelling story, but having answered so many questions about stories, for me it depends on the direction in which they’re taking it.

When people ask me about Kitzbuhel, I’ve said a couple times that you can hardly tell, and if they don’t get it, I move on.

Sometimes I get disappointed with media in the U.S. It is a good story, but it is a YouTube-Nation version of the sport, vs. educating people about what’s cool about the sport. It’s like reducing car races to the crashes and not showing the other side of the sport. The actual race.

There’s more coverage, now, though, and people who want to watch ski racing, can.

TSC: You’re strong like bull. What’s a workout move you’d recommend to help readers build those skier legs?

SM: Actually, right now, I’ve been doing a lot of single leg squats (balance squats). I’ll drop down, touch my heel and go back up. It builds balance and strength and I can’t compensate, so it shows me the evenness of my legs.

TSC: Think fast: Cat.

SM: Groomer.

TSC: Gold.

SM: Austin Powers.

TSC: If you were a color what would you be?

SM: Translucent

TSC: OK, what’s one last thing people don’t know about you?

SM: A pet peeve: 110%. I don’t like it. It’s not something that’s real. A lot of people think they can give 110% but that’s just not possible.

photos: /selkowitz