David Chodounsky puts it this way when talking about alpine ski racing.
“I want to be the best. It’s addicting. You get those tastes of glory and you just want more.”
Remarkably, while his career to date has been more successful than most fledgling alpine ski racers, his modesty and work ethic continues to impress everyone he comes in contact with. Furthermore, it’s that drive, modesty and his genuine love for skiing that keeps him going on what’s been a long road to get where he is now, racing on the World Cup circuit.
David was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and made his first jump into skiing gates at Buck Hill in Minnesota with his father Martin Chodounsky. On one particular evening, David got noticed and he’s been bashing gates ever since.
“They had some gates set up and David and I were skiing one time and I told him to just jump in there and ski the gates,” recalls Martin. “A coach saw him and asked if he was my kid and if he wanted to join the team.”
David officially started racing at age seven as a J5 alongside Lindsey Vonn and under the tutelage of Erich Sailer.
“He’s a coaching legend,” says David. “I remember skiing down the course and he’d be right behind you yelling, ‘left ski, right ski, left ski.’ He’s Austrian so he had that Austrian accent.”
“David really liked it,” adds Martin. “He would train four times a week, seven to nine o’clock at night and it would be 30-40 degrees below zero, he didn’t mind.”
While in Minnesota he and his parents made the occasional trip to Crested Butte in the summer as well as ski trips in the winter.
His first trip to A Basin at age seven taught David one key aspect of skiing: turning.
“When I was little I just straight-lined Buck Hill and would get back on the lift,” says David. “My first run at A Basin I just pointed it and hit a cat track and exploded. From then on I started turning.”
He also spent some ski trips in Crested Butte further fueling his stoke for skiing.
“Scot Schmidt was a huge idol of mine and I loved coming here and ripping the extremes and that just enforced my love of skiing,” says David.
During one ski trip to Crested Butte with his father, they decided to do some impromptu race training on the area only to get pulled over by mountain authorities.
“I said to David, let’s go and do a little downhill training and ski patrol saw us,” says Martin. “We got busted for skiing too fast.”
Eventually, Martin wanted to get David on a bigger ski hill and after visiting Colorado several times, Martin liked Crested Butte the most and he, his wife Anna and David moved here.
David trained and raced with the Crested Butte Ski Club his first years in Crested Butte under coaches Rob Clayton and Kurt Olson.
In 1997 David got his first taste of glory at the age of 12 as a second year J4 racer when he won the giant slalom and overall title at the Prater Cup here in Crested Butte.
“That was my biggest highlight to that point,” says David. “That got me sparked and got me going.”
Once the Crested Butte Academy opened, David was able to increase his on-snow training as well as maintain his schoolwork with coaches Kent Rychel and Bruce Colon and support from headmaster David Rothman. While David saw some success through his high school career of racing, he was still outside the bubble of joining the US Ski Team development program.
“I didn’t quite make it. I was just on the other side of the criteria and decided to go to college,” explains David.
David was accepted to race for CU Boulder but deferred a year to give racing in Europe a try.
After his first year on the road as a lone ski racer, David reevaluated his collegiate plan, applied again to Dartmouth and was accepted.
“I wanted to see what the East Coast was about, get out of Colorado and see what was out there,” says David.
While college can often mean the end of a ski racing career on the World Cup circuit and on the US Ski Team, David found his time at Dartmouth was tantamount to continued ski racing success.
“If you stay focused in college, you can get faster and I did,” says David. “I had a lot of fun but I kept working hard, kept plugging away.”
He stomped onto the collegiate racing scene his freshman year winning the NCAA national slalom title. He would go on to captain the Dartmouth team as a junior during which Dartmouth won it’s first Division I NCAA collegiate title in 32 years.
He finished school with a degree in engineering and turned his attention to making the US Ski Team.
Despite the financial weight of college loans as well as a self-supported season of ski racing, David’s commitment paid off when he won the slalom at US Nationals. The victory ranked him 60th in the world in slalom and thus earned him a spot on the US Ski Team B squad for the 2009-2010 season.
“It felt good to know that whole year worked out for me,” says David.
There was one caveat though, due to financial cutbacks within the team, there was no support for B Team athletes for the first time and once again, David was left to pay his own way on the racing tour.
“They said, you’re on the team but you got to pay for it,” explains David. “That was a real bummer.”
David’s first World Cup start came at Alta Badia, Italy in December 2009 and while he hooked a tip on a gate at the bottom, the scene at the finish line was overwhelming.
“I took my skis off and was looking around at the stadium packed with fans and I thought, I just raced a World Cup, I want to do that more,” says David.
He got another taste of stardom at a World Cup race in Zagreb, Croatia a couple weeks later.
“I was riding the lift with a US Ski Team coat on and people down below were waving,” recalls David. “I looked down and was like, ‘they’re waving at me’ so I waved back and they all started cheering.”
Meanwhile, David was also gunning for a spot on the US Olympic team headed to the 2010 winter games in Canada, but he injured his knee at the Zagreb event and fell one spot short of the US Olympic team.
“It was kind of a heartbreak but that’s how it goes, that’s skiing,” says David.
He suffered another setback when he was cut from the B team for the 2010-2011 season. If he wanted to keep going, he would, once again, have to pay his own way.
Nevertheless, David continued on his quest to return to the World Cup and after posting incredible results in New Zealand last summer, proving himself at a US Team camp in Vail and stuffing an incredible result at a NorAm in Loveland this past November, he was back on the US Ski Team list. Not only that but he is now ranked 31st in the world in slalom.
“At Vail he showed some serious speed,” says World Cup slalom and giant slalom coach for the US Ski Team Ben Black. “Then he skied out of his mind at those races in Loveland, in a world class field. We thought, now the kid’s got speed, we got to figure out how to manage him.’”
David is now back on the World Cup circuit for the season and officially back on the US Ski Team for the 2011-2012 season.
He opened the World Cup season at Val d’Isere earlier this month but fell short of making the cut for the second run so his first World Cup points continue to elude him.
Once again though, David rebounded a week later. The US Team took him to a Europa Cup race later in Italy and David posted a fifth place among ski racing giants.
“It was a tougher field than most World Cup races and that’s when he really started to turn it on,” says Black. “We’re all just ecstatic with the way David is skiing.”
David is finding his niche in the giant slalom as well and will race a World Cup slalom in Zagreb on January 6 and a World Cup slalom and giant slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland.
His results in the next two races could determine his fate for the rest of the season.
“If I make it into the top 30 my next two starts I should be able to make it on the full World Cup season,” says David.
Furthermore, he is pushing for one of four spots on the US Team at this year’s World Championships at Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany in February.
“That’s my next goal,” says David.
While his ticket on the US Ski Team for next year is punched, he is still paying his own way this season and needs help.
There is a foundation set up in Park City, Utah called World Cup Dreams Foundation that you can make a tax deductible donation to and earmark it for David Chodounsky or you can contribute directly to him on his website davidchodounsky.com.
“I want to thank everyone so far for their support,” says David. “I love it so much, I want to make it to the top and be the best in the world.”
Profile: David Chodounsky
David Chodounsky puts it this way when talking about alpine ski racing.