What Makes a Champ: Resi Stiegler

Megan Harrod
2016-04-04 10:18

From local ski hills to the PyeongChang Olympics, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) encompasses all athletes that share a passion for skiing and snowboarding. We explore what makes each skier and rider a champion with stories from the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing, next to kids winning a NASTAR medal, landing their first cork 7 or joining a club team. Alongside USSA’s mascot Champ, take a look at how all of these athletes strive to be Best in the World.

As we continue to explore what makes USSA athletes champions, we’re learning more than we ever expected. To be a champion is holistic – it goes beyond the medals and the titles. It’s someone with great character and an undying belief in themselves; it’s someone who loves their sport with an unmatched passion. We are honored to share these stories with you. In this installation, Alpine Press Officer Megan Harrod sits down with Resi Stiegler to discuss #WhatMakesAChamp.

A 14-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team, Resi Stiegler (Jackson, WY) has always danced by the beat of a different drummer. Like a wild horse, she’s visually stunning, fierce and free. She’s grown through the ranks alongside current teammates like Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO), Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) and – more recently – Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO). With a one-of-a-kind vibrant spirit and a heart of gold, Stiegler has certainly not hidden in the shadows. In fact, she shines through. Brightly.

Stiegler says that upon joining the U.S. Ski Team, she was inspired by former teammate Sarah Schleper, who now skis for Team Mexico. “Sarah Schleper was a big (skiing idol) for me,” Stiegler said. “She loves skiing the way I do. She was a fierce competitor, and I loved that to see the fire in her eye.

Coined “La Tigre” in her early days, in her first race on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit – and much to the organizer’s chagrin – Stiegler donned tiger ears attached to her helmet. For her, this act was more than just a fashion statement. It was a statement about being different and finding comfort in being uniquely and undeniably yourself…and having fun while doing it. That statement has carried Stiegler through her career, and it’s a message she loves to share with fans.

“I find everything to be fun,” Stiegler says with a wide smile and a laugh. “I’m not as competitive with others, so I can really enjoy where I am in the moment. Be present. Results affect me less than just having a good time. Of course I want to win every time I go out there, and I work hard to be the best, but I can also appreciate what a crazy, amazing life we are living.”

Stiegler crushes the slalom at World Cup Finals in St. Moritz, proving once again that she belongs among the top 15 in the world. (Getty Images)

Perhaps the best example of Stiegler’s mental grit and undying spirit has emerged over the last two seasons. After being on the team for 13 years, two-time Olympian Stiegler didn’t make criteria for the 2015 season. A slalom specialist, she fought back to the top 25 in the world to make “A” team criteria for 2016, though sustaining a knee injury prior to the Flachau night race.

Diving into a return-to-snow program with coach Bernd Brunner and teammates Thomas Biesemeyer (Keene, New York), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, VT) and Erik Arvidsson (Woodside, CA), fittingly dubbed “#teamresitommyryanANDerik,” Stiegler found comfort in a new family, and inspiration to fight. She battled back to what ended up being the best comeback season of her career, grabbing seven top-15 finishes, two top-10 finishes and was ranked 13th in the world in slalom.

Stiegler shares her thoughts on the importance of #teamresitommyryanANDerik in her comeback season.

Under the counsel of Brunner, who knows all to well what it’s like to fight through injuries and rehab back in his skiing days, Stiegler’s tribe built each other up and propelled each other forward. By the end of this season, this group would go on to collectively snag top-15 finishes in the World Cup, NorAm titles, a Junior Worlds downhill gold medal and numerous podiums at U.S. Alpine Championships.

Stiegler also worked closely this season with another genuine soul: coach Karin Harjo, who became the first woman in World Cup history to set a slalom course. Harjo created something special for Stiegler: a supportive environment where Stiegler could be herself and excel. And excel she did.

Next time you’re watching a World Cup race, keep a close eye on Stiegler in the finish. Whether in eighth or 25th, Stiegler comes through the finish and greets the crowd with a smile, throwing her arms up the air in celebration and laughing contagiously. The reaction? The crowd goes wild. This simple, pure act of joy is an example for all – whether it be her teammates or young competitors – to find joy in what you do for a living and share that joy with everyone around you.

Resi celebrates in the finish at the Aspen Winternational.

We sat down with Resi to discuss what she believes defines a champion.

U.S. SKI TEAM: In your words, what makes a champion?

RESI STIEGLER: I would say there are so many different types of champions – I think it’s a lot of things, but it’s really cool to see good sportsmanship and someone who inspires others – not just a few people – but who really shows the world something magical. Golds and globes are a bonus in my book. I think being a team player and leader makes a champion! To be something powerful that people look up to is a champion. To shine and sparkle. There are a lot of aspects to being a champion.

U.S. SKI TEAM: Do you remember the first time you felt like a champion?

RS: I felt like champion at Intermountain Division Championships. I felt like a star – and that put the taste in my mouth of always wanting to be on the podium and get trophies. From then on, it was always wanting more, and wanting to be better!

U.S. SKI TEAM: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for aspiring kids who want to be sitting where you are today?

RS: Love what you do and WORK HARD, but make sure it’s what you want. No one else can carry you through life. There is more to life after skiing, and it’s important to find yourself and what kind of person you want to be. Go out, explore and find it out…and live your life to the fullest!


Now, we want to hear your answers! Tell us what makes you a champion on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and include #WhatMakesAChamp.