US Ski Team member Marco Sullivan spends winter on the razor’s edge, racing the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit. He specializes in the “speed events”—Downhill and Super G—navigating seemingly vertical, bulletproof slopes at up to 90 miles per hour.
As Marco was packing his skis to depart for the highest peaks across France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and points further, we hit him with a blizzard of questions about his racing life and music.
First off, congrats on a huge start to the season and the World Cup podium at Lake Louise – 100 percent awesomeness!
Thanks! Lake Louise is always a fun place to start out the winter and to start on the podium was so great. Hoping that will set the tone for the rest of my season!
After a such great start, what other races do you have circled?
We just arrived in Val Gardena, Italy. This is our first stop on the European leg of the tour. I have twice been 4th place here and am itching to get up on the podium. We also have World Championships this year in Schladming, Austria. All ski races in Austria are big but the World Champs is going to be like the Super Bowl. I heard that they’ve already sold 20,000 tickets and the race is still almost two months away!
Backing up a little bit, a string of injuries almost led you to retire. What made you come back for more of such a physical, psychological and treacherous sport?
I love skiing and hope that I always will. The racing element of skiing is what has beat me up, but the thrill of competing against the fastest racers in the world every weekend is such a great test of manliness that I just can’t give it up yet, (laughs).
On the subject of manliness… speed events are your specialty, which require a combination of strength, technique, vision, and let’s face it: major cojones. What goes through your mind at 90 miles per hour?
To be honest, once I’m on the course I just kind of let my body take over. We train nearly year-round to be comfortable at those high speeds so when it’s race time I just zone out and try to get to the bottom as fast as I can. I love racing because it’s just you against the clock and you instantly know how it went when you see the reaction of the crowd as you cross the finish line. That’s when I come back to reality. Sometimes I can barely remember what just happened on the course.
Standing in the start house facing down a course, what song would you dial up to 11?
I love classic rock but lately have been getting a little bit rowdier in my music selection. At Lake Louise I had Pennywise, Bro Hymn in my head. It’s nice to get a little fired up in the start house.
Which one of your teammates has the best taste in music**? **
The young guys on the team usually have the best playlists, I think because they invest the most time in searching out new music. Wily Maple, a downhiller from Aspen, Colorado, probably gets my vote for best music.** **
How about the most questionable?
Steven Nyman is always bringing out new music but I’m not sure where he finds it. I’m always grumpy when he is riding shotgun and gets to have control of the music dial.
What about the European pro skiers? Thumbs up or down to their music tastes?
The Euro skiers are infamous for latching onto a handful of cheesy American pop songs and playing them on repeat for the entire winter. Or they’ll make a dance remix of a legit American classic song. On the radio yesterday we heard an electronic remix version of John Denver’s Country Roads. Seriously?** **
The crazier lot: pro skiers or snowboarders?
I don’t think the differences between these two genres are as great as people may think. Living the dream and sliding mountains is a crazy lifestyle no matter what you have strapped on your feet.
***A trusted source tells us you’re an excellent wingman. Any secrets you care to share for such an important responsibility? ***
Ha ha, well we don’t get that many days off to party when we are traveling and competing, but when we do get out, we try to do it right. Walk into the place like you own it and things usually move in the right direction.
As a wingman, what song would you queue up in support of a comrade?
Journey, Don’t stop Believing is always my go to. So many good times include that song!
Thanks for your time Marco, and best of luck on the rest of the season. Follow Marco on Twitter at @marcOsullivan and check out his Rhapsody playlist here.