Olivia Giaccio: World-Class Mogul Skier
A junior at OHS, Olivia Giaccio, is climbing to the top of mogul skiing. Isabella Samutin (contributor and Social Editor) caught up with Olivia to find out more about her life as an internationally competitive athlete in the interview below.
Pixel Journal: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Olivia Giaccio: I am 16 and a junior at Stanford OHS, as well as a mogul skier on the US Freestyle Ski Team. I grew up in Connecticut, but now live in Utah. I have also lived in Vermont and Colorado. This is my second year at the OHS, and I absolutely love it.
PJ: When did you learn to ski?
OG: I learned to ski when I was 2 years old. When I was younger, my family and I lived in Connecticut and we would travel to Killington, Vermont, where my parents would snowboard. When [my siblings and I] were old enough, my parents put us in ski school every weekend so that we could learn how to ski with others our age.
PJ: What is your favorite place to ski?
OG: I love skiing in Park City, Utah, and Telluride, Colorado, but a few weeks ago during a trip to France, I skied at Val d’Isère, which had some of the best snow I’ve skied in a long time.
PJ: Favorite name of a run?
OG: This one’s tough because I don’t think about names of the runs too often, but I like the ring to “Outer Limits” on Killington. On Deer Valley (Utah), the name of the mogul course which they held the 2002 Olympic Games is named “Champion,” which is neat to train on as an up and coming mogul skier.
PJ: How did you get into competitive skiing?
OG: Actually, it was a bit of an accident. My brother and I would go to ski school in Killington every weekend, but when we grew older, the ski school said that they couldn’t help us develop further. However, my brother and I really enjoyed skiing with other kids each weekend, so they recommended us for the Killington Ski Club across the way. My mom signed up my brother and I for a random program, so I could have easily been a snowboarder or a racer; it was just a chance that I ended up in mogul skiing. From there, we progressed from skiing around the mountain to learning how to ski moguls, and later, competing in our first event. As time passed, I fell in love with the sport, especially the thrill of competition. I love how everything is dependent upon your personal performance. Although it takes a team to support you and help you develop, when it’s time to perform, it’s all up to you.
PJ: Why are you passionate about skiing?
OG: I love mogul skiing, as well as skiing in general, because of the thrill it brings me. There is nothing quite like the feeling of smoothly carving through a freshly groomed trail, or the feeling of the soft snow underfoot as you sweep through deep powder. As for mogul skiing specifically, I find it to be very rewarding. Mogul skiing is also enjoyable because of the fact that there is always something I can improve upon, whether it be my skiing technique, jumping technique, or speed (the 3 categories I am judged on in competition). When I finish a run in which I know I performed to the best of my ability, the feeling of satisfaction is amazing. At this point in my career as well, I have put so much work into excelling at my sport that performing my best is gratifying; it makes all of the time and hard work worth it.
PJ: Do you see this as a long term career?
OG: Although I would love to stick around in mogul skiing forever, the upper age range for competitors is in their mid-to-late 20’s, so this won’t be a long term career. The timeline is relatively short when compared to many other sports. For this reason, it is extremely important that I attend Stanford OHS, as this will give me a great platform to build off of once my mogul skiing career is over.
PJ: What does your training regimen look like?
OG: My training varies throughout the year, depending upon the season. During the summer, the biggest part of my training consists of jumping off of a ramp into a pool with skis on in order to perfect my jump technique. Every few months during the off-season, I also travel to other locations to fulfill my on-snow training needs. This past summer, I traveled to Whistler, BC; Perisher, Australia; and Zermatt, Switzerland. Throughout the year, I also work on my strength, power, agility, and overall fitness about 5 times a week in the gym. During training days in the winter, I’ll train on snow in the mornings and go to school in the afternoons. Depending upon where I have time during the day, I’ll get in a gym workout after training. The time I spend training varies throughout the year; on an average spring day where I’m not skiing, I might spend 1.5-2 hours in the gym, but on a heavy training day where I am skiing, I will probably spend about 5-6 hours total on improving in my sport.
PJ: What is the hardest part of your sport?
OG: I think the toughest part of my sport is the mental side. If you are getting frustrated, you can let it eat you up or you can choose to rise above it and keep pushing through. Mogul skiers spend months and years devoting a decent portion of their life to training for competition – but it is all training for one 30 second run (maybe 2-3 runs if you qualify at the top of the field), so you want to ensure that everything is in order when it comes time to compete. However, this tactical and strategic part of my sport is also what makes it so fun.
PJ: How much do you travel?
OG: As I mentioned earlier, I travel to find snow every few months during the preparation season. When I am training in those places, I’m generally there for 2-3 weeks. Last competition season, I mainly traveled around the United States and Canada. If I continue to perform this year, however, I will have the opportunity to travel and compete around the world. I also have a chance at competing in the Olympic test event in South Korea, and World Championships in Spain later this year!
PJ: Where is your favorite place you have traveled for competition or training and why?
OG: Last year, I competed in my first World Cup event in Deer Valley, Utah. I didn’t have to travel far for the event, but the venue is one of my favorites. Mogul skiing is a pretty obscure sport, so generally the audience is small. However, at Deer Valley, hundreds of people hike up the mountain to watch us compete at night under the lights. I also made my first World Cup final there, so the whole experience was magical for me. This year, I have earned the opportunity to begin my season with by competing in a World Cup event in Ruka, Finland, which is where I am at the moment. The atmosphere differs when compared to places I’m used to skiing, mainly due to the fact that there’s only a few hours of sunlight per day. I am really enjoying it here so far though!
PJ: How do you balance OHS, training, and competing?
OG: Balancing school and my significant pursuit is definitely tough, but I love attending school at the OHS, so my appreciation for the education I am receiving motivates me when working on my academics. I think that enjoying the process is crucial in achieving success. Otherwise, the biggest thing that I utilize to get all of my schoolwork done is time management. In my case, I often have limited time to get things done, so I have learned to complete schoolwork in unconventional places, such as in airports and on road trips to events. Although at times the workload may become stressful, I appreciate everything OHS has given me thus far, and I am excited to see what it has in store for the future.
PJ: What are your plans after you graduate OHS?
OG: After I graduate OHS, I’d like to continue mogul skiing for a little while longer, but I’d like to figure out a way in which I can do so whilst still going to college, even if it’s for a semester per year. I’m not sure where I’d like to go to yet, but I do know that I want to continue to study English, philosophy, and government, as those have been my favorite subjects throughout high school.
Editor's note: Follow Olivia's travel, training, etc. at www.oliviagiaccio.com
Edited for length and clarity.