Trudy Mickel earned her way to her first World Cup of her young career, and the stage couldn’t have been bigger.
The 17-year-old from Durango, who now calls Steamboat Springs home as she trains with the United States Ski Team, finished 15th in the dual moguls event March 18 at Megève, France. She scored 160 points in the International Ski Federation (FIS) standings for her biggest FIS point total of the season and most since her first- and fifth-place finishes at last year’s FIS Junior Ski World Championships in Italy.
Because Mickel, who found out about her World Cup selection only eight days before the race, had yet to accumulate any World Cup points, she drew Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Grand Prix champion Perrine Laffont in her first race down the course. Laffont, 19, beat Mickel, but putting down a clean run was a victory in itself for the World Cup rookie.
“I am ecstatic with the entire trip and experience,” Mickel said. “This may not have been a trip with my best result, but I am proud to say I put down a solid run with immense pressure and learned so much throughout the week.
“This trip has been full of learning and a huge step in my athletic career.”
Laffont finished second in the Megève event, while American Jaelin Kauf was the winner. Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada was third.
When Mickel, daughter of Alex and Molly Mickel, looked across the starting gate at Laffont and down the course surrounded by media and cheering fans, she felt a sensation like nothing before.
“When I stepped into the gate, I felt a whole new kind of nervousness, excitement and awe,” she said. “I couldn’t help but smile as I stood in the gate of my first World Cup, skiing against the Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Grand Prix champion and representing the United States on the other side of the world.
“I have done it. When I crossed the finish line, it didn’t matter that I had lost because a new fire of passion and love for mogul skiing had been lit.”
Mickel’s mother, Molly, was in France to watch her daughter. She noticed the unfading smile on her daughter’s face during the entire trip to France and the increased passion for a sport her daughter has already dedicated so much of her life to.
“To be paired against the gal from France on her home turf and to jump on in and have to dual side-by-side, she did great,” Molly Mickel said. “Top to bottom and she didn’t blow out or crash or anything like that. With that pressure, the cameras and lights and all that, she really did amazing.
“Her attitude was great, and she was glowing. She knew it was quite an honor to be there, and she had the hugest smile on her face. She’s got a fire under her, a new flame. She already had a big one, but she has another one now. She knows what she wants to be doing, and the sooner the better. She’s ready to dive in.”
Trudy Mickel started her season at the Australian New Zealand Cup in late August. She competed in three races at an FIS event at Winter Park in December before she dove into the Nor-Am Cup circuit in January.
Her best Nor-Am result of the season was a fifth-place finish in dual moguls Jan. 28 at Val St-Côme in Quebec, Canada. Mickel had six top-10 finishes on the Nor-Am Cup circuit, including five in a row to end the tour. She finished the season in eighth place and was the top 17-and-under woman in the U.S.
Five days after her race in France, Mickel was back in the U.S. for the national championships at Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire. She finished 14th in moguls and 11th in dual moguls.
The former Durango Freestyle Ski Team member moved to Steamboat in 2017 to train full time with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
After her first-place finish in moguls at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships last April, Mickel was named to the United States Ski Team. Her training in Steamboat paired with the resources of the national team have helped her take the next step forward.
“She’s been skiing with skiers that are on the national and World Cup caliber,” Molly Mickel said. “They’re all kind of on the same track and are so incredibly dedicated. It’s not even just the focus on the hill, but in the gym and everything. It’s all measured. Every single day has a goal and purpose. While the U.S. skiers are all competitors and going for the same thing, they are all great supporters of each other.”
When Mickel moved to Steamboat, it was with the goal of being ready to try to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Now, she hopes to compete in more World Cup events during the 2018-19 season to test herself against the best.
“I am just getting started,” she said. “It’s time to get back into the gym, on the trampolines, jumping on the water ramp and back to work to prepare for next season. Competing at the very top level of the sport against the top-women mogul skiers in the world has only made me hungry for more.”