DH: Hi Guys, this is Devon Harris. Welcome to Keep on Pushing Radio. I am your host of course and you know what we do here. We share ideas and insights that are going to help you live your best life. So if that’s something you’re interested in, you know you’re in the right place. Today we have an amazing guest. This guy has one of the most illustrious careers out there. He has been a competitive skier for over twenty years, nine of those years were spent on the US ski team from 1983 to 1992. And he is considered Colorado’s most decorated skier.
During that time the guy has bagged six US national moguls championship and he is added a pro championship just for fun. He has won twelve individual World Cup titles and was the overall World Cup champion in 1988 and he repeated it again in 1989.
Of course he’s an Olympian, two time Olympian, 1988 and 1992, where he won a bronze medal in moguls. One of the coolest guys you will ever meet and I am so happy to be able to welcome Nelson “the moguls man”, I call him, Carmichael to the show. Nelson welcome man good to have you.
NC: Hey! Thank you so much Devon, yeah thanks for having me. It’s exciting to hear and see your podcast, yeah it’s exciting so thank you.
DH: Yeah man it’s great to have you. The last time I saw you we were in Kyrgyzstan and actually we had Tom Whitaker on the show before and I always recount the story of the day we went skiing in Kyrgyzstan. I admit that I am king of the bunny slope, that’s my comfort spot right there. I was on the bunny slope felt good I wanted something a little bit more challenging and I saw you coming off the hill. I’m like “Hey how is that hill over there?” And you go “It’s fine, a little steep in some places.”
DH: Me with my type ‘A’ personality should have deduced that if you think it’s steep in some places it may be a little too steep for me. But I didn’t, I ran up on the hill, I got on the ski lift I’m like ‘hmm’ bad idea. [laughter]
DH: It was disastrous! And Tom Whitaker was so kind he stayed with me until the ski lift closed and we got rescued. I mean it’s just so unfair to you because Caroline, your wife, she just gave you hell. But no hard feelings man.
NC: [laughter] Yeah, you did alright. I know we were busy with the kids that day too. You wanted to go up there and make some turns to see if you could do it, which is awesome.
DH: I guess you have to stretch out of your comfort zone a little bit.
NC: Yeah that’s true.
DH: But you know Nelson, when I look at the Olympics I would argue and I am guessing that there are other people that would agree with me, that skiing has changed and has grown way more than any other sport. There are so many different styles and disciplines. Perhaps the most revolutionary of them is your discipline moguls.
DH: When I look at Bobsledding and the history of bobsledding it goes back more than a hundred years, back to 1890. But moguls man you were instrumental in the development of that discipline, you were right there at the genesis of it.
First of all what does it feel like to have this really unique place in the history of your story? What were the dynamics that existed back then that gave rise to moguls?
NC: Well, I mean I feel like I was part of the second wave of the genesis of the sport. In the seventy’s it had a big heyday. Freestyle had a big popular heyday where a lot of people wanted to do freestyle other than racing. That was kind of the other competition at the venues at the time. You could do Alpine, racing around the gates. But this idea of freestyle that you could do whatever you want, you could do mogul runs and you could do jumps and you could kind of create and showcase your own style for judges that was a whole new wave.
And it got really, really popular in the seventies and I was pretty young then. I wasn’t a part of that but I would hear stories about it and some of the coaches that I started to work with they were involved in that era.
NC: So when we came through it was kind of a whole new push to become an Olympic sport. So that previous wave in the early seventies was professional it was just kind of wild and crazy and they were out for prize money and win cars and get on TV. It was just all about having fun.
But they ended up being popular, and as that kind of faded down a little bit there were some concerns of maybe it was a little too wild and crazy and hey we need to have some more training and we need to take this more seriously and maybe we can someday get into the Olympics with this sport.
NC: So that was more of the era that I was with, so it became under their wing of the ( F.I..S.)The International Ski Federation. Just like the other big disciplines like Alpine racing. So we got under their umbrella and had a World Cup season then started to have world championships within a calendar year and kind of developing this idea still of maybe we can get in the Olympics.
NC: And when you were at eighty-eighty I was there also with freestyle and that was the first Olympic year, it was a sport at the Olympics. But it was a demonstration sport. It’s what they did during that time. We don’t have demonstration sports anymore during the Olympics because it was a little too confusing. And now sports or either a new sport. It’s either in the Olympics or it’s not quite in the Olympics and it just comes in as a medal sport if it does.
NC: But anyway in 1988 it was a demonstration event and so the timing of it just happened to work out for myself that I was in kind of that second wave of let’s see if we can make this a true international sport. Let’s get into the Olympics and so I was part of that demonstration event in Calgary.
NC: Then in 1992 they decided ok that’s moguls let’s make it a real medal event and we’ll do that in Albertville, France for the ‘92 Olympics and I was still going then that’s when I went to the second Olympics.
So I kind of see myself as a little bit of a start of the sport, but really kind of the second wave started the sport.
DH: Well you know what? You are definitely part of an important leg of the sport because through your effort and those of the other people that you were racing with or against at that time it became an Olympic sport, so kudos!
DH: So let’s go back to the beginning Nelson. I know you were born in New York, correct? New York State.
NC: Yeah when I was pretty young. I was actually born in Ohio. Columbus, Ohio but just for a couple years so I don’t really remember it too much. And then our family moved to Buffalo, New York and then Niagara Falls, New York, all when I was in grade school. And then we moved out to Steamboat Springs, Colorado just out a grade school. So I was about twelve when we moved back here.
DH: You learned to ski where? Where did you learn to ski?
NC: I learned to ski in small hills in Western New York, Kissing Bridge, Holiday Valley. Little places in southern Ontario. Our family would go a couple times a year, and we were just part of the small hills in western New York.
NC: We never ventured out west or did a big ski trip. My parents were twice a year kind of skiers, would drag my sister and I and we would —
DH: So was that something that you really took to from the outset or you just kind of grew into it?
NC: Um, you know I played hockey when I was really young and that was of course big in that whole area as well and saw my yeah, my friends were playing hockey. We would do it on pond, and we would do it at the lake.
NC: My life had started to revolve around hockey in the winter even at that young age. That’s really what I loved, then when we moved to Colorado a change of job for my dad, and we didn’t come out here for skiing in other words.
NC: We came out here for other means and there wasn’t hockey at the time. I was kind of bummed, I thought wow! This is a winter wonderland and all this snow—
DH: And no Hockey! [laughter]
NC: No Hockey, Yeah. This was in 1977 we moved back here. But they said hey we have lots of ski programs, so kind of skiing do you want to do? So I kind of scratch my head and thought well I kind of know how to ski, we have been a few times —
NC: So I guess I’ll sign up for skiing and I was in the ski race program at first and just started from there really because there wasn’t hockey. [laughter]
NC: My second love that became my first love and I just changed into it. A lot of people say hey you started late you know? Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen years old getting into it. But for me it was kind of an extension of just winter sports and it ended up being a good fit.
DH: Yeah, so I’m assuming that when you just started out were you a Alpine skier? Downhill skier? What discipline did you do?
NC: Yeah, Yeah. So I did downhill skiing really good choice at that time for kids to get into it for a program. I think my mom wanted to get me into some program you know not just kind of be out there, recreation. But it’s like hey you know you can take a real program and have a group of kids you could be with, and have a coach and at least have some direction. At the winter sports club which is an organization here in steamboat.
At the time they had either Nordic jumping the big long jumps, or across country skiing, or Alpine racing so those were really good choices. And I thought well the nordic jumping and across country that seems I don’t know how to do that at all.
NC: So I guess I will do Alpine racing because I sort of know how to ski. I thought I could navigate the gates and learn how to stop a little bit better. So yeah, I just did Alpine racing at first. Did that for really only the first year and during that time the free style program was just starting up.
NC: So there was a coach that had moved to town, Bart Smalling and his brother John and they were kind of from that era I was talking about, that seventy’s era.
NC: But they weren’t competing anymore, they wanted to start a freestyle program which moguls was as part of freestyle. So they wanted to start that up within the winter sports club they said hey we know you have Alpine racing and you have these Nordic events. But we’d like to show kids freestyle skiing and start a program with freestyle.
NC: Eventually they said ok and I was watching them they started up that next year and so I told my parents hey I would like to switch and do freestyle and do moguls instead —
DH: What was it about freestyle and moguls? Cause you don’t strike me as a wild child. So what was it that free styling thing about moguls that drew you to it?
NC: I think there was just more going on, Alpine racing is very challenging but to me it was just always around the gates, around the gates. Whether you are doing slalom or giant slalom, downhill to me it was kind of just gates, gates, gates making the same turns. Where as the freestyle I saw ooh, they can ski moguls and they can ski where they want and how they want.
Then they can learn how to do these jumps, learn how to do tricks and jump off moguls and you know do tricks and aerials is part of freestyle also. I wanted to learn aerials and do back flips and double back flips, it seems like there was more going on. It was a three dimensional if you will.
DH: Yeah. Define or describe a mogul for those of our listeners and viewer’s who don’t know what a mogul is.
NC: Yes, sure. So ski resorts, they groom the slopes most of the time, most of the places. They have nice clean trails where they will take snow cats they have this groomer behind it that smooths out the snow and makes it very kind of mellow and smooth and nice to turn on
But then in places where they don’t groom the snow, and that might be every night on some runs or every other night they keep it really smooth. But other runs that are little steeper will leave alone,…..these moguls….these kinds of push piles of snow will form up just from people turning over and over and the slope not being groomed by a machine like that. And so the more it gets skied the more chopped up it gets and these moguls just kind of push piles of snow form. The skiers go between them and around them and through them in all different ways, but the more skiing the kind of the rougher it gets.
The more the moguls build up and maybe it snows again and kind of fills the mark in but then skiers will ski on them more and it roughs them up more and so it’s just a natural progression of how moguls or bumps people call them form up on a slope.
DH: So you know obviously, I guess it would be like the difference between driving on a smooth highway and a potted off the road track kind of thing.
NC: Yeah! yeah! Exactly yeah something that’s not taken care of it’s just left to the nature of all the skiers going through there and forms up those bumps.
DH: If my memory serves me right as I was kind of checking you out, researching you. You prefer the more natural kind of mogul versus the more groomed courses?
NC: Yeah so just the evolution of the sport happened to be that they would course maybe set up for competition, but there weren’t moguls on it already. So wasn’t maybe the snow conditions weren’t quite right to form the moguls, are there weren’t enough skiers forming moguls ahead of time.
NC: And so people kind of thought well what are we going to do? We have to get some moguls on this course cause we have a competition coming and so they would take snow cat out and with the blade of the snow cat start making moguls.
And then the skiers would practice during the week maybe before the competition and ski it up more and form the mogul lines that you go through and start forming the jumps that you go off of and so it just was just a way to get some moguls on a slope that maybe didn’t have moguls yet and quickly.
DH: Hmm-Hmm. Right.
NC: So from there it’s really progressed into now the mogul courses that you see on television, if you see a World Cup or you see Olympics. They’re all made by a machine, they are all made by snow cats, and the moguls themselves are made and measured out.
The jumps are the same also measured out and made and produced and the landing areas for each of the jumps. There’s two jumps going down the mogul course the land area for those are all prepared and the motors are actually taken out of those sections so you can have a good landing spot. Then you ski back into the mogul.
NC: So when I skied, when I first competed it was all natural courses all the time. And then this problem arose kind of during those years of hey sometimes we have a course without moguls let’s make some. So it’s kind of a combination sometimes natural, sometimes machine made. And then towards the latter part of my career and especially just after that it all became man made courses and that’s what you see now. So I think just cause what I grew up with was more natural so I like that.
DH: Right —
NC: Now of course so they grow up with machine made courses so they prefer those.
DH: Yes! That make sense. So I read that when you were about fourteen or fifteen your mom was cleaning your room and found a note that you had written saying you wanted to be one of the top five skiers in the world.
Obviously you have way superseded that, you actually became the best, one of the best. Um, when you were writing that down were the Olympics on your radar at the time? Or you just wanted to be just a bad ass skier?
NC: Huh, you know the Olympics weren’t really on my mind and I think that was because where the sport was at the time. It wasn’t quite Olympic yet. I thought maybe it could be but I didn’t have this aspiration in my head of Olympic medalist or champion or person yet.
I really, I think because I started a little bit later as a youngster I always felt kind of behind and so I always felt like I just need to do better, learn the tricks better. Learn how to ski better I always felt like that, I mean even to the end I felt like that.
NC: It was always a bit behind so I was always pushing to try to catch up, catch up you know? Do better and you know maybe one day I’ll be up there with these people. [laughter]
NC: So I think probably when I wrote that note I think maybe the coaches said write down some goals or turn in a sheet with some goals or something like that. So I think that came from there and so I remember specifically that one but we would do that from time to time.
And so I think after it might have been somewhere around my first years of World Cup. Where it was so difficult and I again felt so behind you know? Here I am kid from Colorado which is a great placed to grow up and compete in that whole ski world. But then to go into a World Cup where you have the best obviously in the world from all of these different countries and all these great ski areas.
NC: And so again feeling kind of behind and feeling like I am there but I am behind [laughter]
NC: It was kind of chasing so at the time I thought top five in the world was a big stretch for me you know going in is like zero in the world.
NC: So that was like way, way, way up there. Uh —
DH: But that’s interesting though so as you said you don’t quite remember how you ended up writing that down but maybe your coach had you do it. But you wrote down a goal, um you said something important. It was more than a stretch for you and that’s an important point for all of our listeners and viewers that your goals have to be, you know more than a stretch.
DH: You know we have been using the word delusional, you have to be almost delusional to think that you can be a kid who just started learning skiing and end up been top five in the world. One of the best in the world. Talk to me about the importance of goals to you Nelson and also how important it is to write them down.
NC: Yeah, really, really, really is to be able to stretch like that, so it’s one thing to think of the next trick I want to learn or the next technique I want to learn as I was competing. It is a whole other thing to put it out there as a goal and say wow, where am I going with this? So I learn these things if I perform well and do these things at competition where does that take me? To specify a goal like that just solidifies that idea, put something concrete into it.
NC: Something to shoot for that’s out there. And to me top five in the world was out there when I was starting at zero. Eventually I remember been sixth in the world a couple of years in a row [laughter]
NC: I was close.
DH: You were close, yes [laughter]
NC: But it took a little while, yeah so to write those big goals and I remember we would do them from time to time often we would write these down and fill out a whole sheet of goals. And some of them might be really specific techniques things or speed I want to be, this kind of speed on these kind of courses. Or I want to learn this jump or kind of specific smaller goals. But then they would always ask on these sheets where we make our own of those big goals of world champion, Olympic champion or I want to be three time this or two time that.
NC: Or I want to win more World Cups than anybody has or something you know? Yeah you could put up these outrageous ones on there. And I think it would just be an important exercise to really, to really yeah stretch and throw it out there and to even think about what may be possible.
DH: Yeah, you had something to work for knowing that it is possible as you say. If you do some of the smaller and go after the smaller goals that they kind of add up over time, though. Because that’s one of the thing that most people tend to forget, the fact that you dream a goal and you write it down doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen overnight.
You have to keep on pushing, you have to keep working at it, hitting those smaller ones. Sometimes getting really close like top six, not top five.
DH: But I think taking solace in the fact that you know, I’m getting close I was at zero now I’m at top six so you can get there. Um, for most athletes you know winning, well before I get to that talk to me about your first overall World Cup title. So that was in 1988.
NC: That was in 1988 yeah, what I remember the most was I wanted to qualify for the Olympics so that was of course the Olympic year that ’88’.
NC: I believe we had a two-year selection period, so in other words the events in 1987 also counted towards Olympic qualifying of ’88’. I was really, really small in ‘88 there were two of us from the US in that event in Calgary. So I knew that it was really, really tight. And yeah before that I was probably sixth in the world and behind a couple skiers from the US on that top six.
NC: And so I knew I had work cut out for me and so my goal at that time was really to make the Olympics in ’88’. And so I worked really hard going up into 1987 and had a pretty good year in ‘87. But I made it then behind those two other skiers and so knowing that I needed to jump up some more in order make it. So going into 1988 season I thought really this is it, I have to give it my everything I have and prepare the best I can.
Train the best I can, perform, compete the best I can. And then maybe those results would come I really just wanted to make the Olympic team. And so I think I ended up going into that Olympics leading the World Cup which I’ve never done before.
NC: Had my first wins on the World Cup during that early season of 1988 and it was just a drive to make the team. I had enough points after the Olympic, so the World Cup season goes the whole year long and the Olympics is kind of in the middle of it.
NC: So you can imagine these events leading up to the Olympics and then we started taking breaks, the Olympics don’t count for the World Cup they were separate events point wise.
NC: Then we had a few more World Cups after the Olympics so I had really enough points to stay on top and ended up doing fairly well those World Cups after the Olympics. And ended up winning that season. It was really just a byproduct of them wanting to get to the Olympics in 1988.
NC: Winning that season.
DH: That’s awesome and again instructive I think for all of us. Because here it is you started just wanting to be top five, but then here comes what I am going to describe now as a bigger goal to get to the Olympic Games and that causes you to stretch even more, work even harder. Be even more focused to get there. So I understand you know, the kind of mindset that you need to have to get to the Olympics and to compete at a really high level. Is it a let down to go from the Olympics back to the World Cup circuit in the same season? What’s the mindset like there?
NC: Yeah, that is kind of a difficult one which I didn’t foresee that would be the case until it was happening.
NC: Because you are gearing up, gearing up, gearing up. Doing World Cups leading up, leading up and then the Olympics come and of course it’s this big thing. The biggest ever in my life at the time, so then you go back to World Cup it’s still a big thing but there is that where’s all the —
DH: Where are the cameras and the lights?
NC: Yeah, where is all the attention and all the action? Exactly and realizing that you are back from kind of this huge break this big thing that you just did back on the World Cup. But in the token the World Cup is still a big thing and I wanted to finish that season strong. So it’s yeah it’s a little bit difficult but as a skier I always like that idea it’s the season.
NC: It goes to all these different places around the world and competing in these different venues and the weather and everything that goes along with it and taking that whole season. That’s the season along champion I always liked that idea I think maybe from appreciating other sports that do a similar thing that way. We have this giant event in the middle but I kind of like the idea, it was little bit of a let down but also I liked that idea that concept of the World Cup—
DH: It proves consistency over a long period of time
NC: Yeah and who can sustain that whole year long calendar and come out on top at the end of it.
DH: You are right that does require different level of mental strength and mental effort. So here you are, you are going to Calgary leading the world and the World Cup the same guys you’re going to competing against at the Olympic games. You end the year on top of the world as well but you came out of Calgary without medals. What happened there?
NC: Yeah so that tough, what happened also is my father was killed in a car accident just before the Olympics. We were in Japan we were doing two World Cups in Japan and those were the last two before the games. And right after the first one I got the horrible phone call from my mom and explaining what happened he was killed in a car accident. And it just —
DH: That must have been crushing. I’m sorry to hear that.
NC: Yeah that was crushing and it still is. I was kind of on a little bit of auto-pilot maybe through the Olympics as far as in my head and not really wanting to be there and in mourning for sure and just kind of lost. But again there were so much training and so much buildup and I was able to get through most of it automatically.
NC: But it was a tough time for sure, as you can imagine. So we had two, I am trying to remember. We had two months in Calgary because it was such a small field there was only twelve men skiers total. They wanted to keep these demonstration events very small and not have that many athletes, it’s not the full field. Maybe a full field of World Cup or Olympics now would be sixty or seventy men, but you know twelve. Pretty small and a short time frame event. We had two runs and the first run was just to seed the skiers to go on reverse order for the second run.
NC: It would come down to just that second run for the results for the medals and so I did alright, actually I won the first round. And so I went last in the second round and we waited and waited and waited and waited, I remember [laughter]
NC: I don’t know what was going on TV or with the scoring. I think we took the last run about 4:30 to 5pm, I mean really, really late nobody really expected it.
NC: So I won the first run and waiting for all this stuff and then went in the second run, everything was going on fine but I just kind of skipped over a mogul little bit too far than I expected and ended up kind of landed this bump a little bit too far and not quite in control and I just spun out and immediately I was on my back. And I though Oh Man [laughter]
NC: This is over, I’m on my back
NC: Yeah, yep. So that was that, I ended up tenth. Couple other people crashed and so out of the twelve I ended up tenth in that Olympics. It was heart breaking for sure, I mean to got in there leading the World Cup and first Olympics. Then I lead the first run and then end up crashing on the second round. Everything just floods back and I feel like I don’t want to be here anyway. My dad just died and my family is all there and it’s like ‘ugh’. It could be this amazing great thing or it could be this horrible thing.
NC: And so —
DH: Adversity man, adversity strikes us and obviously leading into conquering one of the worst things that can happen to kind of get that news that your dad got killed obviously it was a shock to the system. Then to be leading half way through and to be crashing so it’s kind of hilarious in a way. Because when people watch ‘Cool Runnings’ they think only the Jamaican bobsledders crash.[laughter].
But you are proving that’s not so and often times we talked about the crash and how big a failure it is. So talk to me about the crashing, the expectation that you were going to win in Calgary and you didn’t. You failed. Talk to me about that failure and how do you deal with failure?
NC: Yeah it was devastating in a lot of ways. Because there’s so many emotions feeling great to be there, to have made it.
NC: Putting that big goal out there a year ahead of time and then making it and there you are with everybody. So on that side it feels wonderful, it feels like everything’s happening just fine. Then on the other token yeah , to crash and burn and be out of it.
Feels like now what? Is this all worth it? What am I doing? You know, I’m so depressed and lost and do I continue? What’s really going on? It’s so many emotions, and then I think friends and family all been there too is really tough. Because they don’t know what to say or what to do. People say I am sorry or you are doing great or you are such a this or that. You are a good skier, you are such a great competitor. Keep going or they don’t know what to do or what to say and I don’t either.
NC: It was really, really tough and I was thankful, I was grateful that we did have the rest of the World Cup season and I thought if I could just kind of do my thing and stay in there and I still have that goal of that World Cup season. And I think without that it would have been really, really tough.
NC: If that was the end of the year for me I mean, I might have just stopped altogether.
DH: Yeah that would have been a bad way to end the year for sure. But I think the fact that you went on to compete in the rest of the World Cup circuit and won. The fact that you are telling the story as well, just reminds me that failure is not fatal. It’s not fun for sure [laughter]
DH: It is going to happen but it’s just one of those things that all of us has to deal with along the way. But here you are, here I am telling the tale of our failures. Not many people can say they failed on the world stage. Wow! Here both of us are after the fact —
NC: I think that, yeah it’s true. And I think more and more as we get older, we realize that more and more that failure is such a big part of life and that’s okay. It’s okay to have those failures and it’s even better to have those failures because then we learn and we move on and we hopefully don’t do those things again.
NC: I wish I knew that more when I was younger, I think I was twenty-two at the time and instead of been so devastated to think hey that was a huge failure but that’s okay I am in the arena. I am doing this thing, I am here to compete and failure is par of it. That’s okay let’s go.
DH: Yeah you know sometimes certainly into my early years I think about that too. You don’t pause long enough to smell the roses. You are so focused on the goal on that end point that you fail to recognize all the other wonderful things that are happening around you even in the midst of adversity.
DH: You know,um —
NC: If you put your self-worth on it, I think that’s a hard one too, especially being young. If we have a good result at the end of the day we feel like Oh we are worthy, we are something.
NC: If we don’t then we are not worthy and that’s a hard lesson to learn. That it doesn’t matter. Your family, people love you anyway and it doesn’t matter. —
DH: You are absolutely right, again I want to stick a point here long enough so that this sinks in our audience that hey your self-worth should never be wrapped up in that end goal that you are striving to achieve because you are still worthy. In fact if you are striving to achieve a worthy goal it means that you are a worthy person. You are valuable to other people and that trophy isn’t the be all and end all, for sure.
DH: How long was the space between the Olympics in Calgary and the next World Cup ski race?
NC: It was quick, we didn’t stay for closing ceremonies we went on to the next place, so it was huh —
DH: You missed a great party man.
NC: Yeah [laughter]
NC: Yeah I know. I would have liked to party with you there.
DH: Yeah the closing ceremonies were great. So you had devastating result and you had to get right back in.
NC: Yeah we were already back in Europe I believe that year. We were already back at it and had maybe three, four events to finish that season. I think all through March we were already back to it.
DH: Then you obviously repeated again in ‘89 and then you are off to Albertville where it’s now a full Olympic sport. You are obviously still one of the top skiers in the world you end up with a bronze. Was that a let down for you?
NC: Yeah a little bit. Yeah when you won again it goes back to those goals of course Olympic Champion, Olympic gold medals that has the ultimate ring to it.
NC:I always thought Olympic bronze medalist that okay too but it doesn’t have the same ring. It’s not a very healthy way to look at it. It’s a little bit kind of a spoil brat way to look at it.
DH: That’s a competitive nature in all athletes I think.
NC: Exactly, yeah. Exactly, cause people would say oh congratulations and that’s so great and how does that feel? I would tell them bronze, silver and gold sound better[laughter]
NC: That is the competitive nature —
DH: That is true, that is true. The fact of the matter is as an Olympian you are in an elite club and as a Olympic medalist it’s even more rarefied air. —
NC: Yeah it really is and I had to be reminded of that actually right when it happened. The president of the ski association for the US was with us. He was our team leader for those Olympics and he was with us on the ride to the medal ceremony which was just down in the ski village where we had the event.
So it was couple hours just after the hill and I was excited but also like there is second and first still out there. I made a couple mistakes and there it went. He reminded me just what you said right then about how rare this is and be proud of everything that happening because it is so rare. It’s so exceptional and he really kind put it right back to me —
DH: The thing I notice with us as human beings especially when you are ultra-competitive is that we have a tendency to beat ourselves up. Things didn’t go quite the way we wanted it, we intended. The only thing we can think of is to belittle and berate ourselves as opposed to looking on all the ……so we messed up on one thing but we did ninety-nine thing really great.
DH: But that one mistake we allow to over shadow the ninety-nine things that we did great. So yeah, I have not been anywhere near the podium yet so congratulations
DH: And I have tried three times!
NC: I know you have done that three times.
DH: So that’s awesome. It’s kind of interesting because here we are talking about how special winning even the bronze is. But for you winning the World Cup titles was even more special to you.
NC: Yeah and again I think that comes from been a skier and knowing that’s the sport, I had this championship kind of mindset. Always during those strong years. And so in ‘88 as I said I won that year as a by-product of just wanting to make the Olympics that meant I had good results. I hung on and won that year and it were exciting for sure and then going into ‘89 to be able to defend that I thought wow now I am in the position where you go in and do your best to defend the title.
DH: Yeah the bull’s eye is on your back.
NC: Yeah, yeah a little bit yeah yep exactly. But then I didn’t have that Olympic Champion kind of bulls eye so [laughter]
NC: I could still be a little bit under the radar. And it still kind of had that feeling that I am behind and I have got to fight because the Olympic champions are there and there is always younger kids of course that are better and stronger and faster.
NC: And they are all starting to come up and so I am trying to keep these young kids at bay I felt like I am still trying to catch up with these older people that I feel like are still really, really good. And to be able to defend the title so that was where it all came together really. I felt it was that ‘89 season and I just really wanted to be very, very consistent.
I didn’t really have a number in mind like hey I have got to be top three every weekend or top five every weekend or win a certain number of races I just thought being really, really consistent and so that came into the training a lot of just train, train, train to be consistent. Kind of no matter what I had this idea that I was prepared and I was ready and I could do a consistent run almost every time.
NC: That was the most important to me cause I knew I had that whole season to go. In order to win that season that’s what it would take.
DH: Yeah and you know its interesting cause it again that you felt like you were behind, you were always trying catch up. Certainly there were what I am going to describe as your peers that you were competing against, that you somehow felt that you were behind them. And then you mentioned the young kids were coming up while you were trying to hold off.
Do you realize now, you probably weren’t thinking about it then that those young kids probably felt like they were behind you?
DH: Trying to catch up
NC: Yeah I suppose so. I didn’t think of it that way at the time I just thought they are naturally so good. [laughter]
NC: And they are young and they are just feeling it and going and gosh, yeah I am sort of in the middle here how do I chase and also keep them at bay? And stay in there?.
DH: I think what is great about that line of thinking there is that it kept you hungry, it kept you motivated and I think any trick, any mental trick that we can use to keep ourselves going working hard, working consistently as you just said to produce the results —
NC: Yeah for sure, yeah for sure. I think looking back it was a good spot to be in. I didn’t want to feel like I had won everything and now I just have to go down and ski and it would automatically happen. I never felt like that and I didn’t want to feel like that. I felt like —
DH: Complacency, complacency you are right. If you become complacent then you are on you way to failure. Absolutely.
NC: Yeah, Always something to chase and push —
DH: So I know as I said earlier you have had any amazing career but I also know that you enjoy giving back. You give a lot of free moguls clinics in steamboat,
DH: What other causes are you involved in?
NC: Yeah really around here there is so much to be involved with here and around the country some too. Like we did the military tours which was really fun and we gave back in that kind of a way and international way those are fun too. But to be able to do things locally so yeah I do these free mogul clinics up on the ski area.
Just for visitors that come and they may be good skiers on the smoother slopes but they want to learn more about how do I tackle these bumps and stay in control and kind of learn stretch in their ability a little bit and push themselves to go down something steeper and harder. And so I do these free clinics any body can show up and I just show them two things and spend about a hour with them and I send them on their way with somethings to work on. I also do things with the winter sports club here that I mentioned so when I was a youngster here and I was involved in the club and a kid in the club. They had lots of fundraisers and ski days and functions to be able to help raise money for them.
NC: They always struggling to keep their prices low so that kids can come in and they don’t have to ski in expensive sport anyway. They are involved in this competition programs you can imagine it’s even more expensive so —
NC: Always lots of fund raising efforts to try to keep the coaching fees low and the travel fees lower. They have scholarship funds, so yeah different events to try to raise money for them. And there’s also another good organization here called STARS which is an adaptive sports program. So people that may have been hurt in battle, they wounded warriors.
They have cognitive issues or other physical disabilities. There is a great program here they go horse back riding or they go water skiing or they will go snow skiing. Ride bikes do all kinds of things and it’s a great spot to do that and people come from all over the country and really learn all the things that they can do. Maybe they thought were out of touch or out of reach before with this ability —
NC: Yeah so that’s a good program to be about involved with too. So it’s amazing how just right around here and steamboat there’s a lot to be able to give back to.
DH: Why is it so important though for you to give back?
NC: I think to help people realize they can do more, they can they can do anything. There’s no limits, there’s no lid. There’s not a top to anything. We can all do whatever we want which is amazing and so I think just to be able to help that or show that in a small way. I mean, if I could give a little time towards that I am happy to do it. It feels natural.
DH: Awesome! Awesome! So skiing, giving back,I know you have a wonderful young family.
DH: How is family life now that you not traipsing around the world?
NC: [laughter] Family life is good. It’s busy. It’s busy for sure. I have one son who is a little bit older and he’s in college Noah. And he’s almost also graduating college which is great with media production.
So he’s excited about that and he snowboards and he loves to do that, he doesn’t compete but he loves to be up in the mountain snowboarding —
NC: Doing his music and his media. Then yeah ,we have two little ones, so Caroline and Caroline won Olympian also with Alpine racing and three Olympics. Very accomplished skier for sure.
NC: So yeah we have two little ones, we have Fraya who is three. And a little guy Hugo who is just seven months. So it’s busy at home.
DH: You have a little Olympic family going on there.
NC: [laughter] Yeah.I know people ask are they going to do Alpine? Are they going to do freestyle? What’s going on? So —
DH: That’s going to be an interesting household once the grow older, especially if they decide to compete.
NC: Yeah, yeah so yeah. Who knows what will happen? Of course we don’t know everyone’s our own individuals aren’t we?
DH: Yeah, absolutely. What else are you up to these days Nelson?
NC: I am slowly developing this clothing line called Nelson Colorado. So its skiing, snowboard. Clothing and some gloves and accessories. Yeah I have always been interested in design and having some business within the ski, snowboard world. The outdoor world so putting this line of clothing together, so that’s the latest venture.
DH: Awesome! So are those clothing and apparel available now?
NC: The gloves are, we have some mittens and gloves that are. The apparel not quite so still working on prototypes and samples, outer wears.
We design men and women, some kids. Offer skiing and snow boarding and pretty performance oriented.
But also direct to the public so the idea is with online sales these days the way they are people can just go direct and really save half the money as opposed to if they went into a retail store and bought the same thing. That’s the program, that’s the idea.
DH: Awesome! Where can we get some of those gloves?
NC: Yeah, so NelsonnColorado.com.
NC: Yeah, yeah.
DH: Alright! Cool. For those of you out there and you love skiing, you love snowboarding. Make sure you check out NelosnColorado.com. He might have some amazing stuff and you are going to look good
DH: Because you are wearing his stuff you going to skate really well.
I’m sure, I’m sure of it. That’s pretty cool.
DH: Wow! Good ,It’s been awesome and it’s great to see you again.
NC: Yeah, you too Devon. For sure
DC: Thank you for all that you do. I am not so sure I will be joining any of your free moguls clinics.
You never know.
DH: You could send me the videos [laughter]
NC: You never know you got to come on out to Colorado.
DH: Yes, I guess so. Congratulations again on all the major accomplishments. Thanks for been such a good example of what it means to set goals that stretches you. Not just to set the goals but to put them work in…. consistently. To push yourselves to achieve them. You have done awesome my friend.
DH: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experiences on Keep On Pushing.
NC: Yeah, well thank you Devon. Yeah it’s an honor, it’s great to see you again and I still tell people stories about sometimes we were together. Of course Jamaican bobsled and they know exactly what I am talking about. It is always exciting, yeah.
DH: It’s all good man. Give my love to Caroline.
NC: Yeah will do. Alright, thank You
This has been a keep on pushing moment.
I am Devon Harris
As always Keep On Pushing!