Q&A: Chip Knight Rejoins the U.S. Ski Team

Courtney Harkins
2015-05-25 08:48

Chip Knight is a name many ski racing fans know. He competed in three Winter Olympics (1998, 2002, 2006), won national and World Junior Championships titles and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team for over a dozen years. Impressive.

After leaving the Team post-2006 Olympics, Knight headed to Williams College to finish out his degree. While there, Ed Grees, head coach of the Williams Ski Team, encouraged him to get back into the sport and serve as the assistant coach. “What began as a part-time activity grew into a rekindled passion for ski racing,” said Knight. “I loved working with younger athletes to help them achieve their goals and fostering a healthy team environment in what is otherwise a highly individual sport.”

With a reawakened passion for ski racing, Knight returned home to Stowe, VT for two years where he coached J2s and served as Alpine Director of Mount Mansfield Ski Club in Stowe, VT, before taking over as Head Women’s Alpine Coach at Dartmouth for the last five years and their Director of Skiing for the last three years.

When the position of Alpine Development Director came up at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, Knight was first on many people’s minds. And the position hit close to home for Knight, as he credits an effective development program to his success on the World Cup circuit for so many years.

We sat down with Knight to ask him a few questions about taking over the role, where he sees American ski racing heading in the future and his overall plan for the U.S. Ski Team.

Chip Knight races in the 2002 Winter Olympics. 

USSA: How does it feel to be back at the U.S. Ski Team?
CHIP KNIGHT: It feels great to back at the U.S. Ski Team! There is a tremendous amount of positive energy rippling out as a result of the success of our elite athletes, the new air of transparency and collaboration between USSA, the regions and clubs. 

USSA: Why is this job so important?
CK: We have great champions in this country—from Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety to Mikaela Shiffrin—but we are lacking depth coming up through the ranks. We have talented juniors, but not enough of them. We need to groom a broader range of elite-level junior athletes that can break through at the highest levels of our sport.

USSA: How does the U.S. Ski Team development stack up to other powerhouse countries?
CK: Our development is good but not great. There are two metrics we are looking at currently: Hodler Cup results at the World Junior Championships and age-group world rankings. At this season’s World Juniors, we had fantastic performances by Paula Moltzan and AJ Ginnis, both of whom won medals in slalom, but those were our only top-10 results at the event, so we finished ninth as a team in the Hodler Cup. In the junior age-group world ranks, we currently rank third for men and fifth for women, but we still have a ways to go to catch the frontrunners—Austria and France.   

Chip Knight (left) answers questions on a panel with USSA CEO Tiger Shaw (middle) and EVP of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner (right).

USSA: What would you like to change?
One of our country’s biggest areas for improvement is in stressing fundamental skill development all the way up the pipeline, from the youth ranks onto the national team. Proficiency in slalom and giant slalom as a junior has been the necessary component of long-term athletic success at the World Cup level.  We must continually focus on those technical basics as our athletes grow and move up the pipeline so they have a strong foundation from which to build and launch themselves down the hill with speed.

USSA: What are your major goals for the coming season?
For the coming season, I primarily will be working to get know our clubs, coaches and athletes at a national scale throughout the development ranks. In the process, I’ll assess where we are as a country and how we need to prioritize our efforts going forward. My long-term goals are: weaving the pipeline structure together—from U14 and U16s, through the regional and national training groups, up to the D Team—and broadening the base at a regional level.

USSA: Favorite memory of being a part of the U.S. Ski Team?
CK: I have so many fond memories that it's hard to pick just one. However, one day that stands out was at Wengen in 2002 when we had five Americans—Bode Miller, Erik Schlopy, Sacha Gros, Tom Rothrock, and myself—all finish in the top 30 in a World Cup slalom. It was a huge achievement for us at the time and a concrete sign of the growth we had achieved working together as a team with our coach Jesse Hunt.

Thanks, Chip!


The U.S. Ski Team relies solely on the support of the American public. Click here to support the team.