By now you’ve probably heard of skier Lindsey Vonn. But did you know that she has now become the most successful American ski racer in history?
Superstar Lindsey Vonn
Lindsey Vonn has Olympic gold and bronze medals, two World Championship gold medals, seven World Cup season titles in the downhill, five titles in Super-G and three consecutive titles in the combined.
She is only one of two female skiers to win four World Cup overall championships. When she won the gold medal in downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics, it was the first ever in the event for an American woman. Her 75 World Cup victories are an all-time women’s record, passing Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria who had held the record since the 1970s. Only Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden has more World Cup victories (86).
So where did one of the greatest skiers of all time learn to race? The Rockies? The Swiss Alps? Nope. Not even a mountain. Lindsey began skiing on a ski hill with less than 300 vertical feet and almost a thousand miles from the nearest mountain. She learned to ski and race on Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minnesota, a suburb just south of Minneapolis.
Unlike powdery mountain skiing, Minnesota slopes are often icy, especially on race courses. But learning to execute carve turns on ice also provides the perfect training conditions for the difficult national and international ski races where icy courses are the norm.
Buck Hill’s Legendary Coach
Lindsey grew up not far from Buck Hill and started racing very young. Lucky for her, Erich Sailer, legendary Austrian racing coach, was there to help her in her early years. Sailer also coached Kristina Kosnick at Buck Hill, who at 17 became the youngest member of the U.S. Ski Team. Kosnick retired from international competition in 2006 with six World Cup victories in slalom.
Back in the mid-70s, Buck Hill was host to the McDonald’s Cup, a head-to-head giant slalom race that featured the world’s greatest skiers of the time including Jean-Claude Killy and Spider Sabich. Legend has it that as Killy drove to the event, he went right past Buck Hill searching for a more mountain-like ski area.
Legend has it that as Killy drove to the event, he went right past Buck Hill searching for a more mountain-like ski area.
Today, Buck Hill is home to the Ski Challenge, the largest racing league in the country with over 1800 racers competing 7 days a week with some of the fastest giant slalom racers in the U.S. A racing league of this size is possible because, unlike mountain areas, Buck Hill offers night skiing and is located in a large metropolitan area.
After 46 years, Sailer continues coaching and developing young talent and future legends on the little hill on the prairie.
–Bob Andersen, long time Buck Hill skier and Ski Challenge racer from Edina, Minnesota.