Steamboat Springs ski cross racer finds success in new training on World Cup circuit
March 9, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Brant Crossan thought this would be his last season as a professional ski cross racer.
“I had a bad season last year, wasn't qualifying for everything,” Crossan said. “I took this season as, ‘Maybe this is the last one. Go out and have fun.’ But, now I'm getting some results, it's a possibility I'll go another three years. I take every year like I'm going for three more years.”
On Feb. 24, Crossan skied into fifth place, his first top-10 World Cup finish in his seven years on the circuit.
In ski cross, fifth place is something you fight for, whereas fourth is last in the final. Crossan won all of his heats except one, missing the final where the top four compete, and making the small final where the fifth through eighth place skiers race for fifth.
“It’s better than fourth,” Crossan said. “You're coming down fighting for it, and you make something more of your day.”
Aside from a 28th placing the day before, Crossan amassed three top-20 finishes in February, including twice at 12th.
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Crossan’s resurgence is the product of a year of changes.
Last year, Crossan switched from his trusted Atomic skis to Solomon skis, and while he doesn’t blame the equipment for his faults last season, he longed for the familiarity of his old skis. It translated into his performance.
As a member of the U.S. Ski team, Crossan found himself bouncing around Europe for training, never firmly planting his roots. It’s common for both the U.S. and Canadian ski cross teams to primarily train in Europe where there are more venues tailored for ski cross. The U.S. Ski team was partnered with the Italian team, but even then, training opportunities were sporadic.
It made for an unpredictable training regimen which added to the stress of trying to make the Olympic team.
Crossan looked for opportunities for a more stable training environment and landed with the Austrian team which boasts 10 skiers to the four, including Crossan, on the U.S. team.
“The ski cross training facility is on the snow, and everything is tailored to just ski cross. It's nice to have that at your disposal for training,” Crossan said. “They're Austrian. They come from the center of the skiing world. They take things more seriously. Everything is more calculated. More structure has benefited myself for this year.”
Crossan lives the life like many World Cup skiers: out of a suitcase, couch-surfing his way through Europe to compete. Right now, Crossan has found stability staying in either Salzburg or Insbruck, Austria.
Most of his coaches and members of the Austrian team speak English, but he’s picked up German ski phrases through Duolingo, a vocabulary app he keeps on his phone.
Crossan is still a member of the U.S. Ski team and is hoping to grow the sport in the states by helping his teammates with fundraising and outreach to Alpine ski athletes. Crossan got his start during his gap year between high school and college when Australian skier Brooke Dunleavy approached him about trying ski cross. Most ski cross athletes start as Alpine skiers, honing their speed.
In the Alpine skiing world, not all coaches are for the head-to-head style competition. They see it as a dangerous way to race. But, Crossan had the support of his coach Jean Bridgewater from Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“I thought it was a great opportunity. He showed a solid affinity for the head-to-head style racing, and he started out on the USASA circuit and was very successful there. And it just kind of blossomed from that point,” Bridgewater said. “With his results in Alpine, at the time, it was pretty apparent he was going to be far more successful on the ski cross side of things.”
Crossan’s passion for the sport fuels him to foster his own path through a sport that lacks the funding and popularity Alpine skiing has. Most of his financial support comes from working at the Steamboat Sheraton every summer, private donors and his mother’s flight benefits as an employee with an airline.
“He's constantly had to find opportunities for himself. Working through all of that hardship has helped,” Bridgewater said. “Some of his recent success could be a culmination to a more structured program, plus, some time in the circuit builds maturity.”
It’s working so far, and Crossan continues to take each race as it comes, hoping to put the United States on the main stage in Beijing in 2022.
“Everyone lives out of their suitcase. Doesn't matter what bed as long as you get to the next race,” Crossan said.