What blew Canadian racer Dustin Cook’s season over the top

When Dustin Cook found himself on the podium at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, he also found himself riding a wave of outstanding performances that also included his career-first podium in Kvitfjell, followed by his career-first win in Meribel.

With those three super G results officially in the books, the Ottawa native turned his focus to what will surely be his busiest offseason yet with hopes of carrying some of that late-season mojo into the upcoming prep period.

Recently, SkiRacing.com had a chance to catch up with Cook, who was celebrating the end of a hard-fought winter by hitting a different kind of wave: the surf in Maui.

SkiRacing.com: The final six weeks of the season clearly yielded the best results of your career. To what do you attribute your late-season success? What started clicking for you?

Cook: For me, it didn’t start then. It started right at the beginning of the year in Lake Louise when I got 13th there. That was the big clicking point for me, when I finally realized, OK, I can ski fast in races. I had a string of top 20s, so I was pretty stoked going into World Champs — at the beginning of the year, the goal was just to qualify. The goals obviously changed. I honestly wanted to medal.

Nothing really changed for me that much. It was a normal everyday kind of run (at World Champs). I just didn’t make that many mistakes. It’s tough to put into words how much confidence something like that (winning a silver medal) gives you.

SR: Would you say success for you comes as a result of just skiing cleanly or is it more about confidence?

Cook: I think it’s a combination of both. I still make mistakes. When I won in Meribel, I made two pretty significant mistakes, but I have the confidence now to keep it going and roll through the mistakes and recover like any normal training run.

SR: So which would you say was the highlight of your season, the silver medal or the first career World Cup win?

Cook: The silver medal, for sure. It was kind of like being at home with a bunch of family and friends there. It was pretty unexpected obviously to come from that far back in the order and not knowing where you’re going to finish. I get so many emotions when I think about crossing that finish line and seeing the board. I literally lost it.

SR: Did that race in Beaver Creek feel like a home race to you? You spend a lot of time in the Vail area. Could you feel the home crowd energy?

Cook: For sure. I will never have a World Championships closer to my home. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vail and have a lot of friends there. I felt very comfortable, right at home — and it’s so much easier to race when you’re happy, comfortable and at ease.

SR: Talk about your decision to drop downhill from the program and focus solely on GS and super G. It’s a somewhat unconventional combination of disciplines, but it makes a lot of sense. How did that help you this season?

Cook: Super G and GS have always been my kind of events, and I do enjoy racing downhill. I enjoyed doing all three, but especially at the World Cup level, it’s extremely tiring. I honestly have no idea how guys do four events or five, let alone three. I was just getting super tired and wouldn’t have enough time to recover. … We decided last summer to take it down a notch and focused on two events.

I do plan to do more downhill. I want to get back into it, for sure, because I think I could be good at it. But while I’m hot in two events, I’ve got to manage that and keep things in perspective.

SR: Tell us a little about your involvement in the Go Fund Me campaign to widen and reestablish a FIS-homologated race hill at Mont Ste. Marie, your home mountain. What did the Outaouais hill mean to you as an up-and-comer and why do you think the project is so important for the region?

Cook: Yeah, they approached me and asked if I wanted to be involved and I said, right off the bat, absolutely, this has to happen. It’s a hill I grew up skiing on. My group growing up, we named some of the rolls on it. It’s changed a lot since I was racing there. … It would be a great hill to host a NorAm level race, GS and slalom.

I went down the hill and they showed me all the changes they need to do. If it doesn’t happen, ski racing is going to struggle in our area because that is by far the best and most challenging hill. I would love to go train there if we had the opportunity. I could finally go home and do some training. It’s a really cool project that people need to get behind.

SR: What’s your program for the summer look like?

Cook: In early May, we’ll start testing. But as soon as I’m done here (in Maui), I’ll start mountain biking and hiking — everything I can do outside. This summer, I’ll be traveling a bit more. There will be a lot more obligations in terms of sponsors and that kind of stuff. But basically, I’ll be splitting time between Colorado, the Vail area, and Mont St. Marie.

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Geoff Mintz
- Geoff Mintz is a former alpine ski racer who cut his teeth at Ragged Mountain and Waterville Valley, N.H. After graduating from Holderness and UVM, he relocated to Colorado, where he worked as an instructor at Beaver Creek prior to pursuing a career in journalism.
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