Many in the ski world would may know about Eliza Outtrim’s 36 World Cup Top-10 finishes, seven Nor-AM Cup victories, 2011 Dual Moguls national Championship, five World-Cup podiums, and final round finish of sixth overall at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Dual Moguls, but few know she graduated with a B.S in Economics from Colorado College. A true scholar and world-class athlete, Eliza Outtrim, Colorado College class of 2011, started her legendary careers on the slopes when she was only three years old skiing on the east coast. Directly following competition in Sochi, Outtrim and the rest of the best skiers in the world competed at a World Cup event in Japan. After returning to the USA from Japan and the Olympics just two days ago, thanks to Facebook, Eliza and I chatted. I’ll cut through the “hellos” and “goodbyes” to save room.
What made you like skiing so much?
“It was something I did with my family that was a big thing for us every weekend. I’m from Connecticut originally, and every weekend we would go up to Vermont.”
At what point in your career did you realize you could go pro doing this?
“I think when I was a teenager and I started skiing bigger events in the U.S. At 14 years old, I started skiing “Nor-Am” events – for the best Americans and Canadians ski who don’t ski World Cup – so it is the level below World Cup.”
With 14 podiums and seven victories on the Nor-Am cup, what did you credit your early success too?
“Well, many years (laughing)… which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I started when I was young, so that was pretty good. Making Nor-Am at 14 was pretty young. I got injured two years in a row in high school…so I blew out both my knees back to back pretty much. That slowed everything down a little bit and I had to, obviously, recover from that. I was able to make it back though, and I made the (U.S Ski team) team. But we had a strong women’s World Cup team, so it was hard to break through into World Cups. I definitely spent some time in Nor-Ams. I think it was good competing there. It me gave more confidence, experience…”
After gaining so much from the Nor-Am tour, how was it winning your first world cup event in Sierra Nevada, Spain?
“Oh, it was amazing! And that was breakthrough point for me. I had started off the year with World Cup starts, during what was an Olympic year. I ended up not skiing well (in the early World Cup events), and I got demoted to ski Nor-Am tour. I ended up getting a couple World Cup starts at the end of the year and uhh…ended up winning the last one. Which put me on A team…The U.S Ski team is broken down into three teams – A, B, and C. A being the highest, and it means that you are most likely skiing World Cup and are fully funded. So pretty much ever since I got that win in 2010, I have been on A team and skiing World cup ever since.”
“Ya, it was a big turning point”
So after turning things around that season you didn’t get a bid to Vancouver, how did you feel when you got that call you would ski for the US Ski Team in Sochi?
“ It was amazing!… Actually, one of my teammates was staying at my place training in Steamboat for a few days. She was listening as I got the call, and, you know, I was thanking my coach and talking with my coach and once I got off the phone I just started screaming! (Laughing) It was pretty awesome, and it was a tough year to make it because they added Slope Style and Half-Pipe to the Olympics. We got pulled in with all the spots, so we had to share spots. So we weren’t just competing against our own teammates for spots. We were competing against all those other [US ski] teams.”
I didn’t realize they didn’t extend the numbers to compensate for the extended amount of events…
“Ya exactly; they did, but not to a point that would allow the same number (per event). I mean, we only sent two boys for moguls, and for the Olympics it’s always been four boys and four girls in moguls. So that made for a really interesting thing for us.”
What did it feel like making it to championship round at the Olympics?
“Pshh. It was awesome. I felt good on that the course, and felt amazing making the team. It was really stressful just making the team for me because I didn’t qualify correctly. To qualify you had to have two podiums (on World Cup tour), and I did not, so I got a discretion spot. So it was a stressful process making it, but once I got to Sochi, I just sort of relaxed. It was a lot less stressful for me skiing in the Olympics than trying make the Olympics. So therefore it was a lot more fun. I mean, it was really exciting, and I think I skied really well, so I was happy with that”
Ya, You definitely did! I also saw you were at the now-infamous USA-Russia game.
“Oh my god, ya!. That was an awesome game – that was really fun! We definitely got into it…that’s the good thing about being at the Olympics. There is only one team to cheer for, hands down. No matter what event your going to, you are cheering for USA! That was super fun.”
So I have to ask you, how were the conditions in Sochi, were they as bizarre as the western media made it out to be?
“I was talking to my sister one day, and she telling me how they were saying here [in the USA] that there was no snow [in Sochi]. And I was like ‘what?’ I think it definitely got warmer after my event, but when we skied, we had a lot of snow. My coaches even had a powder day when we first were there. I think stuff got blown out of proportions to an extent back home. Because the conditions were great, and our course was really good. Difficult, but really good… Last year when we showed up, it was sooo warm. It was so warm they had to dry ice the jumps because they were just melting away. This year we didn’t have any of those concerns”
So you guys go out a year early and look at the track and whatnot?
“Ya, there is a rule to have a World Cup event at the Olympic site the year before, as sort of a test of it”
And the hotel. It was fine? No wolves walking through the halls…. stray dogs?
“(Chuckling), well we stayed in the Olympic village, and it was basically dorm style…more of a dorm than a hotel. And it was good – the USOC, the United States Olympic Committee, had a whole crew of people over there…
Oh, so you guys got the hookups.
“Ya… and it’s definitely not five-star living, but it’s certainty comfortable. I think there were definitely some horror stories about people in their rooms, and we actually had one day, where the water was like…orange in the faucet.”
Just that one day?
“Well, it wasn’t the whole day. Something happened with the pipes and they fixed it pretty fast, so it wasn’t a big deal. Needless to say, I didn’t drink the water when I was over there.”
I don’t blame you.
“Just in case…but the people there were so friendly. Everyone was so welcoming and chanting their countries names proudly. The transportation system was super smooth, especially for athletes.”
Soo, I have a couple questions for you about your time at CC. What was your major when you were here?
“I majored in Economics.”
Did you enjoy your time at CC? Did it work in your schedule nicely?
“Oh ya, it was a great decision. I mean it took me six and half years. I didn’t even take the winter blocks. When I first started, I did more school. I would do five blocks and two in the summer so I wasn’t even that far behind. But after I made the US ski team and traveling picked up, I took more time to train.”
Well many world-class athletes would choose to focus on just sports at that point in their career. What made you continue to stick with a demanding liberal arts college like CC, while continuing to compete at a world-class level?
“Well, my parents always instilled in me that getting a good education was super important. And they were always supportive of the skiing thing too, but I think really liked the balance of having both things in my life. Skiing was physically stimulating, and then school had more of that brain circulation going on. I started to thrive on that a little bit. And also towards the end, I was able to stay at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. So my last two years, I’d live there and that made it a little to just go to school and then I’d come back, go the gym, do my work and repeat… and repeat.”
I guess it’s that sort of work ethic that makes you a U.S. Olympian. Luckily for CC, we have a U.S. Olympic skier to call our own.