A competitive skier who got his start planting poles in local powder has his sights set on ripping it up at the 2014 Olympic games.
A member of the national ski team, Sasha Zaitsoff, 23, is striving to achieve a dream he’s had since he was a kid and this season he could do it at the 22nd Winter Olympics, being held in Sochi, Russia in February.
“From when I was young, I always wanted to be on the national team, race world cups and go to the Olympics — that was my dream. That is my dream,” he told the Star.
Zaitsoff started skiing at a very young age with the Nancy Greene ski league in Fernie. At age 12, the budding athlete moved with his family to Nelson and he continued training with the Red Mountain Racers. The BC provincial team picked him up after his second year racing FIS and in the spring of 2011, Zaitsoff made the Canadian ski team.
“It was cool to get there, to suddenly achieve that goal that I had since I was so young. It was an amazing feeling to be able to wear the jacket and travel around as a member of the national team. There’s a lot of pride in that.”
Despite that achievement, Zaitsoff isn’t one to rest on laurels, his Olympic dream still motivating him to “work as hard as I can all the time.”
This Thanksgiving, however, the 2008 LVR graduate enjoyed a rare two-week break at home in Nelson with his family and friends.
“It’s nice to come back and get grounded again,” he said.
Zaitsoff was just back from the South American Cup in Ushuaia, Argentina where he did a three-and-a-half week training camp and raced securing a “best ever result” of fifth place. His team had five placements in the top seven.
While he still likes to call Nelson home, Zaitsoff spends his winters on the road travelling from mountain to mountain, 20 pairs of skis in tow. His vacation was a welcome time out.
“I like to go fishing and biking and just relax as much as possible,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean Zaitsoff plunked down on his parent’s couch. In the midst of dryland training, the athlete still worked out every day and climbed Pulpit Rock six times while still finding time to bake apple pie and cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Maintaining a connection to his family and returning to his rural roots keeps Zaitsoff grounded. His best day skiing last season was at Whitewater with a pack of “little rippers” a part of the hill’s ski program, he said.
“It was so much fun,” he said. Used to racing across icy snow, plunging into powder was a blast. “The day I went up, it just dumped snow so we skied powder all day.”
Zaitsoff loves the life of a ski athlete, “office at the top of a mountain,” travelling and meeting new people. Driven by personal goals set, he said “it’s rewarding continually trying to improve myself.”
Upon leaving Nelson, Zaitsoff is heading to Austria’s Hintertux glacier where the National Team will ski for two weeks. The Word Cup season opener is Solden, Austria followed by races in Finland’s Levi.
As the season gets going, the disciplined Zaitsoff has to pay attention to every little detail of his races down the hill if he’s to make the Olympic team. Available are four spots per discipline — Zaitsoff’s being Slalom and GS and 12 spots per team.
“I want to be one of those spots. I have to be the best I can be all the time,” he said.
Based on results, the fastest skiers named to the Olympic team will be announced in January.