World Cup slalom star Henrik Kristoffersen has already achieved a great deal in alpine skiing. The Norwegian has 16 World Cup wins and the 2016 slalom title to his name and is ready for another intense battle with Austria’s Marcel Hirscher in the approaching 2018-19 World Cup season which begins for the men on October 28 in Soelden, Austria.
The 24-year-old, who is the first skier to win the four classic slalom races of Adelboden, Kitzbuehel, Schladming, and Wengen in a single season, revealed details about his life on the slopes in a recent interview with personal sponsor Red Bull.
How does a skier train in the summer?
I haven’t been on snow since the end of April. In alpine skiing you need to be very physically fit and strong. I always used to train on dry land in the summer, which enabled me to ski more in the winter. At this level, though, you need so much strength capability, agility, and speed so I spend a lot of time in the gym. I do biking, running, and swimming as well as I like having a variation of activities when you train 350 days a year!
Bikes are a passion of yours? You love motocross?
I have been riding dirt bikes since I was six. I do a lot of motocross in the summer. Motocross has been a big part of my life since I was young, and it has helped me become the skier and person I am today.
Do you still get to ride in the off season? How does that complement your skiing?
I think it is one of the most physically demanding sports on the earth. There is a lot of stuff you can take from motocross into skiing, for example the line choice and the movements. It helps me a lot and is great fun. When I was younger I wanted to be a motocross rider and, once I am done with skiing, I will race “old boys'” motocross races in Norway. It is a big part of my life, as my dad rides as well.
You have talked about trying to put on weight, why is that?
Basically, to get more power and to have the possibility to be a bit more brutal. In giant slalom when it gets really rough I had some problems in the past as I am a little lighter. I wanted to gain strength and weight to make this better. I am probably one of the lightest alpine skiers, at around 78kg, and the rest are mid 80s. I want to do it smart and gain it in muscle. My girlfriend, Tonya, has a master’s degree in nutrition, so she helps me out a lot. The eating is the toughest part for me, not the training.
What part of your approach have you worked hardest to improve for the new season?
I want to improve everything. Last year I was really close to Marcel at most of the races, with lots of second places and podiums. It was the best season I have ever had. At the moment, Marcel is the guy to beat. It is hard to really pinpoint something particular I need to change. I hope this year I can give Marcel another good run for his money.
Every sport needs a rivalry, do you see your great one with Hirscher as a positive for skiing?
I think so. I have heard a lot of people say that it is a lot of fun to watch. You always remember the rivalries. For me it is great to be in a position where you are a rival to one of the greatest skiers of all time. Of course one day I hope to be known as one of the best of all time, but I am not there yet. I need to win more races but to be in the fight is a good feeling.
Does it help having Marcel there?
Yes, even though it would probably be easier if he wasn’t there. The coolest thing is to be on the start with the best guys in the world, and try to beat them. When you do, it is the best feeling ever. We have pushed each other a lot, especially in slalom, where the level has been raised a lot. It has helped me ski faster, but maybe not win more races!
What is your relationship like with Marcel?
We’re good friends, we have a good relationship and have a lot of respect for each other. I think maybe he sees a bit of himself in me. We can talk freely with each other about a lot of different things. The best thing is to win when the best guys are at the start, and he is the best guy at the start.
Do you take inspiration from other skiers like Aksel Lund Svindal?
One hundred percent. I had a lot of help from Aksel, especially in the younger years. The way he comes back from injury tells a lot about him. He is really focused and wants to be the best he can be. The way he comes back has been amazing – a lot of people won’t imagine the work he has done and pain he has been in.
Do you prefer racing in crisp daylight or the electric atmosphere of a night slalom?
Definitely night races. It is better for the sport, as more people are watching. The atmosphere is better with the lights as well. For me, mostly all of slalom and giant slalom races should be night races. I don’t think we need new disciplines, we just need to make it more accessible. At the weekend, when it is nice weather, people are going to be outside skiing themselves than watching races on TV. I was when I was a kid! At night, everyone is able to watch.
Does it bother you if race fans outside of Norway try to get under your skin like last year with the Schladming snowballs thrown at you?
I noticed it when I was skiing. I told Marcel straight after that he won it fair and square though as I was already too far behind. If I was closer behind, maybe I would have been thinking about it more. In the end, it was more that it was annoying and a bit disrespectful. I live in Austria, I love Austria, the people and the culture but in the end, it was a couple of people out of 50,000 and I can’t blame the Austrian people. It is life, and you can’t change it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
We have seen many parent-child coach relationships in sport, so what is it like working with your father?
It has been really great. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him or improved at the same rate. He will always be my dad and, at times, it is hard to hear from your dad that things haven’t gone well. Of course, we have small disagreements but that is normal. There have been rough moments, but I would not change anything. Maybe when I have children he will coach them! I have thought about it, would I be able to do the same for my kids? I am not 100 percent sure I could, but he can and it has been great.
What are your favorite races?
I like Kitzbuehel for sure. It is a really challenging hill and I think it is the most challenging in slalom. I think Soelden is the scariest, but Schladaming has the atmosphere with the night race. Those are the three coolest.
Who are your favorite sports stars to watch?
I have been a huge fan of [motocross athlete] Ken Roczen for many years. We are the same age. I had No. 94 on my dirt bike when I was a kid, and he does as well, and still does. He shows emotions and I think that is the way it should be. I also love to watch Jeffrey Herlings – he is going so fast at the moment which is incredible to watch. [Mountain biker] Nino Schurter is another, I watch him a lot on the UCI circuit.
Release courtesy of Red Bull.