King of the Slopes
December has been a cruel month for the French ski team, with World Cup races they meant to host
getting canceled because of an absence of snow and then a surplus of it. Add to that the fact that two
Frenchmen were leading the Val Gardena downhill when the jury canceled it after 21 racers, causing
race leader Johan Clarey to post a frustrated tweet blaming politics (not wind) for the jury’s decision.
But spirits were high at the one French race that wasn’t called off — the women’s slalom in Courchevel on Dec. 18. There in the finish was 2006 Olympic downhill champion Antoine Deneriaz, who
watched the second run with one of his two young sons sleeping in on his shoulder.
And there was the great Luc Alphand, who won the overall World Cup in 1997, shaking hands and
chatting with racers and fans with his famous bonhomie. Expecting Alphand to be present, one au-
tograph-seeker had brought to the mountain an old copy of the French sports daily L’Equipe that
showed Alphand on the cover celebrating a victory in an automobile race (Alphand’s second career).
The headline? “Le Roi des Pistes.”
While he signed the paper, Alphand reminisced with a Waxroom reporter about his career, and
spoke of fond memories of his American colleagues
Tommy Moe, A.J. Kitt and Kyle Rasmussen. He went
even further back to Bill Johnson and Doug Lewis and
said he is impressed with the U.S. team’s current suc-
cess, which he attributes mostly to “the spirit” and the
focus on big events, but also on giving racers an early
start on the World Cup.
“They always put the young ones, like [Mikaela] Shiffrin
– in the States they put the young ones early in the World
Cup,” Alphand said. “[Julia] Mancuso and the other ones
they start really good.”
It’s a surprising sentiment from a racer known best for
his patience; most of Alphand’s 12 World Cup victories
came after his 30th birthday.
Like Shiffrin, Alphand’s daughter, Estelle, was born in
1995. She has cracked the top 100 in the world in super G, but for now she’s working her way up the Europa
Cup ranks. Maybe one day soon she’ll make it to the
white circus like her dad, and the French team can hope
they’re back on a lucky streak by then.
What alpine athletes do in their free time:
What French moguls athletes do in their free time: