Julia Ford (center) celebrates her second US Downhill championship in Aspen, Colo. in February. Abby Ghent (left) was second and Brooke Wales (right) was third. Brad Ghent - Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
April 02, 2012HOLDERNESS — Julia Ford has had success on the ski slopes the past few years, but this year seemed a little special.
The 2008 Holderness School graduate finally experienced what she calls a break through as a member of the US Ski Team, one that could have her on the fast track come next winter.
"It's been a really good year," Ford said via phone from Winter Park, Colo. last week during the US Nationals. "I am pretty psyched."
Ford has certainly made her mark over the last few years, winning the US Downhill championship and the NorAm downhill, Super-G and super combined championships in 2011. She made three World Cup starts that year as well.
But this year, the Holderness resident made a huge leap forward in her progress, capturing the overall NorAm title for the first time. She also repeated as the US Downhill champion.
"I'm really happy about it because I've been working hard to make the breakthrough," Ford said.
The NorAm overall title guarantees Ford a starting spot in all the World Cup races in all disciplines next year, which is opening up a big door for her skiing future.
"It's a huge opportunity," she said. "It's a huge thing to have in your pocket for next year."
Coming into her US Ski Team career, slalom and giant slalom were disciplines she was strong in, but the ski team worked with her on the speed disciplines, such as the Super-G and downhill and they pushed her in those directions. She noted that East coast based skiers like herself often find themselves excelling at those disciplines because of conditions.
Fellow Granite Stater Leanne Smith, a graduate of Kennett High School, has excelled in the speed events as well, making the 2010 Olympic team. Ford notes that there are different advantages to being from the east or the west.
"There's pros and cons for each coast," she said. "On the east coast, we grow up skiing on ice. In World Cup, the speed events tend to be on the icy side."
With east coast skiers often pushed toward speed events for that reason, Ford said she has no problem tackling those events because she's more than comfortable in icy conditions.
"Those are the conditions that I like to ski in," she said. "I've developed a touch for it, so when it's softer, you have to adjust to how you ski the course."
Ford joined the US Developmental team as a senior at Holderness in the 2007-2008 season and she was part of that group for three years before making the jump to the US C Team in 2011.
"I'm climbing the ladder, progressively getting further and further," she said. "I'm getting more results and more starts. This year was a breakthrough year and that success has set me up for the coming year."
For next year, she's hoping to get some solid World Cup results and make a similar breakthrough on that level as she did at the NorAm level this year.
"It was good to get my first World Cup points this year, but I want to be more visible there," Ford noted. "I want to have a presence in the World Cup."
Skiing has taken Ford from her sleepy New England village to cities and towns all around the world and she says the experience has been more than she ever could've imagined.
"It's really cool to be able to see other cultures and experience their environments," she said. "Especially coming from New England, it was definitely a different experience going to Europe."
She compared skiing in Europe to football in America, with thousands and thousands of fans at every venue, cheering on the racers and following the circuit around from race to race.
"It's a different world over there for ski racing," Ford said. "It's kind of an adjustment. It's nice to ski there, but it's intense."
She pointed out, however, that while the Europe experience is something to be savored in its own right, coming home and skiing in the United States is just as fulfilling.
"It's nice to ski with friends and family on mountains you know and everywhere you've grown up skiing," Ford said.
In fact, as this paper is being read, Ford is slated to be home in Holderness, enjoying a little time off. The season concluded last week with the US Nationals in Winter Park, Colo. The giant slalom was held on Friday and the Super-G was held on Saturday, effectively wrapping up the season for the US Ski Team.
The team members get a few weeks off, though they are set to return to Mammoth Mountain in California on May 6 for a wrap-up session for the season. They then have to spend May through July doing dryland training, recovering from any injuries and preparing for next season.
"We'll be back on snow in July this year," Ford said. "But we get two months to build our strength and recover and then try to put the most marks in on snow."
The past few years, Ford has spent a good chunk of her time off in Park City, Utah, working with the team in the offseason, but noted that this year she is hoping to spend a little more time in Holderness.
"I plan on spending more time in Holderness this year," she said. "I am so excited to get home."
She knew that there wasn't much snow in New England this winter, but she said, even as a skier, she wasn't terribly disappointed about that.
"I am probably one of the only people excited that most of the snow is gone," she said with a laugh. She was, however, not thrilled to hear that temperatures in New England had gone from 80 degrees back to the 30s and 40s in the course of a week.
With a great opportunity in front of her to make some noise on the World Cup circuit, Ford is poised to make the leap.
"The successes last year set me up for a successful season this year," she said. "And this success has set me up for the coming year."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126