U.S. teen skier Emma Resnick reflects on Lausanne 2020 and Jeff Shiffrin's legacy

After just missing the podium at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, the 17-year-old took three junior national titles and started her second season in the U.S. Development team.

By Alessandro Poggi

Emma Resnick is ready to dream big.

The 17-year-old has started her second season as part of the U.S. Development ski team, having finished fourth in the giant slalom - thanks to an impressive comeback on the second run - at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games and winning three junior national titles earlier this year.

"I'm just going to have to take it step by step," she said in a virtual interview a few weeks ago from her training camp in Soelden, Austria.

Resnick is currently competing in the 2020 U.S. Nationals in Copper Mountain, along with elder sister Allie, and plans to compete on the Nor-Am and Europa Cup circuits this season as she bids to follow in the footsteps of double Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin.

Resnick and Shiffrin both hail from the Ski Club Vail, the same as Lindsey Vonn and three-time Youth Olympic gold medallist River Radamus.

"I obviously look up to her. I know she’s always cheering for me and always says, ‘Ski like you know how to'," the slalom and GS specialist said.

Her parents are close friends with the Shiffrins and, after the tragic death of Mikaela's father Jeff, contributed to the fund created in his memory to support skiers and snowboarders trying to make Beijing 2022.

"He was an amazing guy. He made me think about racing against myself and skiing for myself, and trying to just work on my turns and ski the best I could." - Emma Resnick on the late Jeff Shiffrin

Olympic Channel: Last time we spoke with you was at Les Diablerets, the alpine ski venue at Lausanne 2020. What have you been doing since then?

Emma Resnick: After Youth Olympics, obviously races were still going on and we had junior nationals shortly after that, they were in Utah (Snowbasin Resort). And those went really well, I actually swept that race series (Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G), which was really exciting for me. Shortly after that, we went back home and that was when Covid hit.

OC: How were you affected by the pandemic?

ER: I live in Vail, Colorado. We were hit pretty hard in the beginning of the pandemic because Vail always hosts the Burton U.S. Open and so people travel from all over the world to come to that central spot. And that was right when Covid hit. Right after that snowboard competition a lot of people got sick because a lot of people had got Covid there. But we, my family stayed healthy. My friends have stayed healthy too.

It's been great to have an extra long conditioning block that we're not used to having. But there's definitely been pros and cons of the pandemic. Having that time of family has been great. Having time away from the slopes hasn't been great. I'm a junior in high school, and so another pro of the pandemic has been having the time to really focus on my school work without a big distraction as travelling is.

OC: What habits have you picked up during the quarantine?

ER: My sister (Allie) and I have gotten very into learning some of the TikTok dances, so that definitely passed the time. I picked up a little bit of baking here in there. I'm not great in the kitchen, but I'm working on it. We actually started ski touring a lot: so skinning uphill and then getting the ski down. Having a little bit of touch on snow was definitely fun and especially in a new way. So it was great to learn that skill and now I have the gear to start ski touring a lot more in places we travel to too.

OC: Looking back at your Lausanne 2020 experience, what were your takeaways?

ER: Youth Olympics was an awesome and unforgettable experience. Being able to be in a central area with amazing athletes from all around the world was insane, especially all being able to stay in literally the same place in the Vortex. And it was great to have a sense of accomplishment that I was there, I guess... I give myself the confidence that I deserve to be there as well as give myself a sense of passion, to want to be as good as the people next to me of better. So it definitely raised my hopes and dreams to know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and to be able to create friends and people in different teams.

The skiing at Youth Olympics was unbeatable, the surface that was prepped there, the hill. It was really amazing. So that was definitely one of my greatest experiences at the Youth Olympics, being able to race on that well-prepped of a hill was amazing. I just will never forget those turns. But also the Opening Ceremony was definitely spectacular, the way that they put on the show, it felt just so real. Like maybe the actual Olympics will feel hopefully one day if I'm in them.

Emma Resnick in the Lausanne 2020 Winter YOG Super-G (Photo: OIS/Simon Bruty)

OC: How different was racing in an international competition?

ER: Racing is racing everywhere so no matter what scenario you're in, no matter what part of the world you're in, you're still skiing and you're skiing against other people who want to beat you as much as you want to beat them. So obviously, racing at Lausanne, was much different than I've experienced before. Just because I'm not used to having people from every single country almost racing next to me.

OC: You finished fourth in the Giant Slalom having been 12th after the first run. How did you feel about that?

ER: The second run of the Giant Slalom at the Youth Olympics was amazing. Obviously, I was very happy with my run there, how I skied, how I felt, the time that came down with it. There's so much that went into that run that I was just extremely happy afterwards.

It was definitely a big bummer to miss that podium spot just by the snap of a finger. But in reality, I can't think about that too much because so many things happen in ski racing that if I were to hold on to that one tenth that cost me the podium, then it would be hard to move on from it. So I'm really happy with how I ended up fourth. And obviously I wish that I was number one on the podium, number two or number three. But other girls skied amazing. And if I could have put down a little faster of a first run maybe things would have worked out different.

OC: Why were you so fast in the second run?

ER: I think the main difference between my first and second run was the confidence going into the run, I had the willingness to lay it all out there. My first run, I definitely still skied well, I was really proud of how I skied. And although I wasn't the fastest on the course, I thought it was a solid run. And I knew that I didn't want to end up in the place I was in after first run. Not that it's always bad being not first, but I wanted to get more out of it. And so I think when I knew I had nothing to lose, I only had something to gain.

I really just put it all on the line and my coach really instilled a lot of confidence in me before my run... Just telling me that I don't want to regret anything. I want to leave it all out on the hill and I want to make the best turns I know I can make. And I really tried to do that and it paid off.

OC: This is your second season with the elite team. What has changed?

ER: I'm still part of the 'D' (development) team. This year we've moved to a full-time basis, which is great, having more time with my teammates and on the road being able to train with them consistently. Last year was a project-based team so we would only meet every so often at race series and training camps over the prep periods. But now we're together a lot more, which is awesome.

Marjan (Cernigoj) is the head coach of the development team, the Nor-Am team is what we call it now. And I also have another coach, Dan Stripp, who's definitely helped me along the way. He's been with me for a little bit longer than Marjan, just because he is at home with me in Vail as well and works with my older sister. So Dan Stripp was actually the one who set the course on the second run, and he knows me so well. He just he knew that I could lay it all out there if I if I really did try.

OC: You are still very young. What steps are you contemplating in your development process?

ER: I would love to be a World Cup regular and, you know, win the Olympics, win World Cup finals, do everything that every ski racer hopes and dreams of. There's definitely a lot of steps to get there. And I can't really say what they are because everyone takes a different path.

But I'm definitely going to try and ski my fastest every race, every training day I can. And hopefully that will take me to a place where I can be the fastest skier on the hill in the world out of everyone. But I think I'm just gonna have to take it step by step starting by finishing high school, continuing to race for the Nor-Ams... Hopefully get to do some Europa Cups, which I think we're planning on doing this year.

Two of my teammates, including my sister, did Europa Cup last year and it's definitely a new level. A lot of people say they can be harder than World Cups. So being younger can give me a disadvantage as I haven't had much experience as them on the slopes and just in different conditions, training, variability... But it also gives me a bigger opportunity because I can learn so much from the older athletes in hopefully a quicker amount of time to hopefully ski as fast as them one day and maybe faster. But I think it's harder to break into a new race series as a younger athlete, although it's really cool to be able to watch all the athletes surrounding you.

OC: You are the youngest of the team. What's your relationship with your older teammates?

ER: They're all super supportive of our futures and of our racing careers. And they want to help us as much as they can. We all have mentors and we're mentees on our team. So some of the older athletes are our mentors. And so being able to talk to them and ask them questions for them to give us advice, show some of their videos... it's all really helpful. And it all helps us to become the best skiers that we can be.

OC: Your family is contributing to the 'Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund', created by the Shiffrin family to honour the memory of Mikaela's father and support the U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes. What can you say about that?

ER: The Resiliency Fund is an amazing fund that has come together in the times of the pandemic, and it's there to create a financial support for the bridge that Covid created. And it's there to support all athletes across all sports of the U.S. team. My parents and my family, we've definitely been lucky enough to support that initiative. Being really close with the Shiffrins and Jeff, especially, my parents felt that it was important to them, and to show everyone else how we can all give back in times of need like this. And so they have definitely donated and just supported the whole fund and everything as well as me and my siblings. And it's a great initiative that's going on right now.

OC: Many U.S athletes have shared their stories to support the campaign. What is resiliency for you?

ER: Resiliency for me means so much. Being an athlete, a student athlete, you have to be resilient. Growing up, I definitely lived a very good life: I haven't had a ton of hardships, as for injuries and all of those things. But being resilient for me has meant keeping up with my schoolwork, like little things, balancing different acts while I'm on the road, just helping the people next to me, helping a teammate recover.

My sister has unfortunately had a few injuries and being able to be there for her and pick her back up when she needs some help is showing resiliency. And just really trying to be there for anyone who need a helping hand with the sport through the ups and downs, through the successes and the hard times. And that's what being resilient means to me.

OC: You knew Mikaela's father well. What memories can you share about him?

ER: Jeff Shiffrin and the Shiffrin family have been really close friends for a while now. Jeff's passing was obviously devastating and it's awful that he was taken so soon. He was an amazing guy and my whole family was really close with him. And so him not being with us anymore has a huge impact to the whole ski racing community as he was supportive of every kid who went up on the hill and wanted to ski their best.

He was always all about the turns. One day when I was about 12 years old, Mikaela and (mother) Eileen were on the road in Europe or all across the world. Jeff was home a lot of the times as he was an anaesthesiologist. I was racing in Beaver Creek one day and when I got to the bottom of a race, Jeff was standing there and I had no idea he had come out to watch me race. And he was standing with my parents and I came through the finish line.

Immediately I'd say, 'How did I do? How did I do? What place am I in? Was I fast?' And Jeff stopped me there and was like, 'How were your turns? It doesn't matter what place you're in, doesn't matter how fast you are. How did you feel? How were your turns?'

"Jeff was always about the turns. And that gave me a new perspective into how I kind of did things at that time."

Jeff Shiffrin (right) with wife Eileen (left) and daughter Mikaela (centre) at the 2017 World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado.

I was always about beating the person next to me, catching up to my siblings, all that. But he made me think about racing against myself and skiing for myself and trying to just work on my turns and ski the best I could.

OC: Have you spoken with Mikaela recently?

ER: Yes. I've seen Mikaela since the passing of her dad. Obviously, I can't speak for her, but I think her family... They've been really strong through the whole thing. They've definitely held their heads high and they've been grateful for what they have, especially in these times. And so I think they're getting through things and having the races come back on I think will definitely give them a sense of normalcy, even in this crazy world. But they're a really strong family. And having each other is really helpful for them.