Two-time Olympian Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, WA) announced his retirement from the U.S. Ski Team leaving a legacy of leadership at every level of the U.S. alpine program. In 12 years with the Team, ‘Mac’ amassed World Cup podiums, top-10 finishes at Olympics and World Championships and a record of World Cup points at every downhill venue he raced.
“There’s a lot of things that I’m proud of in ski racing, but some of my greatest memories are fairly recent,” said Macartney. “Our speed team’s trip to Moab mountain biking last summer was pretty amazing for our group. It was cool to get together and be competitive in something else other than ski racing. There are bonds I’ve built with these guys I’ll hold my entire life.”
A skier from birth, Macartney’s volunteer Ski Patrol parents had him on boards at age three. By seven he had started racing at Crystal Mountain and in 1998 made his break through with a bronze medal and the Junior World Championships in Megeve, France. Through racing, he continued his education through Dartmouth College and received a degree in 2004.
His rise through the U.S. Ski Team program was something that Head Speed Coach Chris Brigham lived through every training camp, every race start and every injury.
“Mac has always been a leader in this program,” said Brigham, who has been with the U.S. Ski Team since 1997. “As a young guy he was pushing the veterans then it was him getting pushed and responding with outstanding performances. He’s battled through a lot of injuries and came back charging and smiling. As a team, we’re all bummed he’s leaving. He’s been a fantastic teammate and a friend for a long time. We’ll miss him.”
His most notable injury, both personally and across the ski racing community was at the 2008 Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. After finishing on the podium earlier that year in Val Gardena, Italy, Macartney was on laser point to what would have been a top 10 at ski racings biggest and most treacherous event when a crash off the finish jump sent him through the finish line unconscious. It was his 30th birthday.
After completing an incredible recovery, he returned to the World Cup circuit the following season and was producing some of the best skiing of his career when another crash in Wengen, Switzerland – the week before Kitzbuehel – knocked him out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The result was another year of waiting before returning to Kitzbuehel.
“I was ready to charge it again in at Kitz last year. I had just come off an incredible race in Bormio, which is one of the gnarliest tracks in all of ski racing and then I blew my ACL at Wengen. It was pretty heartbreaking, but I’d been there before,” Macartney said.
It was heartbreaking to his coaches too. Brigham, more than anyone, was fired up to see him conquer the Hahnenkamm and knew that his skiing was in a place where he could, then the crash at Wengen. It hit teammate Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) especially hard.
“That December, he was skiing better than ever,” said Sullivan. “He basically came back from something that no one would have thought possible. He was super focused and then he blew out his knee, but he still came back to race at Kitz the next year. That showed a lot about his character. He has a unique passion for the sport and for him to put that out there is pretty inspiring.”
“To see him cross the finish line at Kitzbuehel, two years after that crash – as a coach – was one of the coolest things of my career. I couldn’t have been more proud,” added Brigham
Yet it wasn’t the mark Macartney wanted to leave.
“I never had just a check box next to Kitzbuehel,” he said. “It wasn’t that I just wanted to finish again, I wanted a top 10, I wanted a top 5, but by the time I got back there it became more about how my body felt. My back was hurting, my hip was hurting. I wanted to charge, but being in the finish again and on my feet, that was pretty special.”
In addition to his role as a racer, Macartney remains an active athlete member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Board of Directors. His role as part of the USSA Athletes’ Council allowed him to work more closely with his fellow athletes and to learn more about the inner workings of the organization.
“It was really educational. If you have ideas or are complaining about something, it’s good to be in a position where you change them or work on them from a global perspective,” Macartney said. “It was really healthy for me to see the inside of a business that has a relationship like we do with trustees and sponsors. The support structure is so deep and interesting and it’s important to see how it all comes together.”
The knowledge is something he’ll take with him into his next career. Macartney has begun the process of starting a database for coaching education and has also thought about helping bridge the link for athletes to the next step of their lives after ski racing.
“He was a leader off the hill too,” added Sullivan. “When it came to Team meetings and when we had to work through things with the various levels at the U.S. Ski Team, he was the one doing the talking. He busted out that Dartmouth education and made things so easy for everyone. No one is worried about him.”
While Sullivan’s worries end when it comes to Macartney’s next career, he does have some competitive fire left for the snow and plans to go head-to-head with Macartney in one more race this season.
The friends plan to meet early April in Alaska for the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic, a unique event deep in the Hoodoo Mountains that opens with a downhill, before the skier is intersected by a snowmobile and towed at 90 mph through a canyon then whipped down to the finish line. From the start, the course drops 1,700 feet to “hook-up” then climbs 1,200 feet to “release” before dropping 1,200 feet to the finish line.
Both Macartney and Sullivan have Arctic Man victories on their resume, with Macartney, along with driver Tyler Johnson, holding the event record. On this line this year is a guaranteed purse of $25,000.
“I’ve only been there once with Marco and I took that one, but whenever we haven’t been their together, we’ve won individually, so it’s definitely a bit of a grudge match between us and our drivers, especially between our drivers,” said Macartney. “It’s going to be fun and it’s a way for me to keep doing something to fuel my love of speed and my love of skiing. I’ll always love skiing.”
For those in the Crystal Mountain area, Macartney will be hosting a ski clinic at his home mountain on Saturday, March 27. For complete details: http://www.skicrystal.com/Events/918/Scott-Macartney-Ski-Clinic.