At the conclusion of the 2017-18 winter Dartmouth skier, BrianMcLaughlin, had walked away with the NCAA giant slalom title, the NorAm GS title with guaranteed World Cup starts for the coming season, a runner-up finish in the 2018 U.S. Alpine Championship GS, and a world rank in GS of 31. For a 25-year-old college senior, things could not have gone much better.
Somehow, despite all of his accomplishments, McLaughlin did not get the official national team nod that many in the ski racing community believe he deserved. For a skier of McLaughlin’s age to make the U.S. Ski Team’s objective criteria, he must have a world rank of 30 or better in the World Cup start list rankings, requiring World Cup points. McLaughlin only raced one World Cup race last season.
“That stuff is out of my control,” former Dartmouth skier Brian McLaughin says of not getting a nomination to the 2018-19 U.S. Ski Team. “I just tried to do everything I could on the college circuit last season and I had a great year.”
Though he wasn’t officially nominated to the U.S. Ski Team, his season did not go unnoticed as he has been given invitee access to the World Cup technical program for this coming season but will have to cover his own travel and service expenses over the winter, which will likely cost him upwards of $100,000.
“I’m really appreciative of the U.S. Ski Team for including me,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to working with (head men’s technical coach) Forest Carey and that group. They’ve allowed me to train with them and be a part of their group for any training and races they go to. Forest seems very happy to support me and work with me so that’s awesome and, obviously, it’s a great training group with Ted Ligety, Tommy Ford, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle. That pace and experience will be really valuable to have heading into the World Cup season.”
A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, McLaughlin first made the jump from the Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield, Vermont, to the national team ranks as a bright-eyed 17-year-old in 2011. In his first years on the U.S. Ski Team, McLaughlin was known more for his exploits in the speed disciplines than in the NCAA events of slalom and GS. After getting cut from the national team following the 2014 season, the de-facto Vermonter packed his bags and headed to Dartmouth College to ski under the tutelage of head men’s coach Peter Dodge.
“I knew he had been a good slalom skier before, but he spent a couple years on the D Team doing speed and just didn’t get any training or any starts in slalom,” explains Dodge. “His first year, we just decided to work on it and get some starts and get his points down. His second year, he was second in the NCAA slalom.”
McLaughlin’s newfound success in what were his weakest events was no accident, but rather a calculated decision made by an athlete that had bigger dreams than being known as just another former U.S. Ski Teamer turned NCAA student-athlete.
“I think the college experience was definitely a positive for me,” Mclaughlin says. “When I started at Dartmouth in 2014 after I got cut from the Ski Team, I did really want to make the next level and I thought that Dartmouth was a great option for me to improve my skiing and to make that jump. I knew that people had done it before and it was possible for me too.”
American slalom skier David Chodounsky was the last Dartmouth athlete to make the jump from NCAA skiing to the World Cup after he graduated in 2008. McLaughlin actually managed to do Chodounsky one better as he earned his first World Cup start while he was still a student in the 2017 Beaver Creek GS.
“I was really excited to start in Beaver Creek,” he says. “I earned that spot off of my NorAm results the previous week in Copper. It’s definitely a different stage but I think that NCAA skiing can prepare you for those types of pressure situations. It’s like at NCAAs when you have 11 other teammates who are depending on you to perform. You do feel that pressure and it really tests those mental skills and that preparation and your trust to just go execute runs. That’s what you need to do on the World Cup.”
Although he did not qualify for a second run that day, McLaughlin managed to take that early-season momentum and turn it into a season he won’t soon forget.
With the U.S. Ski Team shifting their development strategy with Project 26 and encouraging more top-level juniors to look into the NCAA route, we might be seeing more athletes mike McLaughlin rise through the college ranks in the near future.
“I think that having people go to school or work with their club rather than being on the road for 12 months a year as 18-year-olds is really good because people can grow in their own way and make some of their own decisions on their development rather than just buying into such a full-time program,” McLaughlin shares. “People grow as human beings and develop that way which I think is really setting them up for success in anything.”
“The distraction of school can really get your mind off of skiing and the frustrations that can go with it sometimes,” adds Dodge. “It’s a healthy distraction and I think that’s super key. Guys come in and we talk and they say that they have these goals, but to have someone on the team like Brian get it done and make it happen makes it possible that we really can do this going forward. It happens sometimes, but when you see someone in college get it done, it really says that you can do it too. It makes it real.”
Dodge is already seeing the benefits of a success story like McLaughlin coming from his program as a number of D-Team level athletes have committed to skiing for The Big Green this coming year. High-level skiing combined with a flexible quarter system of Ivy League academics just might be a winning formula for Dartmouth and the U.S. Ski Team going forward.
“I was really happy with how it ended up and I’m just trying to find the best training opportunities that I can to be able to have success on the World Cup,” McLaughlin says. “I’m looking forward to all those opportunities in front of me.”
McLaughlin will be fundraising throughout the summer in order to cover his costs for the coming season that include travel, ski service, and training fees. To contact him directly or to support his endeavors, McLaughlin can be reached at: email@example.com.