Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Ski legend Krista Schmidinger back to aid new owners of Bousquet Mountain

Snow is groomed at Bousquet ski area in Pittsfield last winter. Local ski legend Krista Schmidinger is returning to the Berkshires to help the new owners of Bousquet this coming season.

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The face on the other end of the Zoom call was familiar. But it had been a long time since I had either seen or interviewed Krista Schmidinger.

Schmidinger, the Lee native who skied for the United States in the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics and competed on the World Cup circuit with her sister Kim and Pittsfield's Heidi Voelker, is back on our radar screen thanks to her involvement with the new owners of the Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield.

"The programs really launched my ski career," she said. "My twin sister and I were there daily for years in the 70s and the 80s before we went to ski academy."

Krista Schmidinger competed in two Winter Olympics, the last to be held just two years apart. In 1992, she was 12th in the downhill and the second American behind Hilary Lindh, who won a silver medal. Schmidinger was 11th in the combined and the top American finisher in the event.

In 1994, she was 27th in the downhill. Picabo Street won silver that year and Lindh was seventh.

Schmidinger had four top-10 finishes in downhill on the World Cup tour.

Schmidinger said that she reached out to Mill Town Capital and offered up her services to the new owners in whatever she could do.

I Zoomed with Krista from her apartment in Basel, Switzerland, which happens to be right in the heart of the Alps.

"Interestingly enough, just before I started working with Bousquet, I had planned to move here," she said. "We actually moved here at the end of July, sat in quarantine for 10 days and then were released. We were in an AirBnB place, but then we moved into our apartment."

Krista Schmidinger joins her siblings in the ski industry. Twin Kim is married to Gunther Jochl, who owns the Sugar Mountain Resort in North Carolina. It is 2 hours from Charlotte, 3 1/2 hours from Raleigh and about 4 3/4 hours from Atlanta. Kim is the vice president and director of marketing and merchandising. She also handles media requests. Younger brother Erich is the resort's Ski Area and Resort manager.

But back to her Bousquet connection. In the ball sports across America, you often hear how AAU basketball, travel baseball and prep school hockey are pricing some middle-class families out of those sports. In skiing, there are the huge resorts in New England, Colorado and Utah. Schmidinger said that there needs to be a place for Bousquet because the next Krista and Kim Schmidingers, Heidi Voelkers or Mikaela Shiffrins need to start someplace.

"Absolutely. It definitely doesn't happen as much, in large part because these larger companies have been buying out ski mountains, and making skiing quite a different landscape these days," Krista Schmidinger said. "There are a handful of family-run resorts, and that's probably why I wanted to be involved. It is a homegrown, local ski area. These are important values, qualities and philosophies to have. If I can be a part of a small ski resort, continuing it's legacy of champions. Heidi, myself, my sister.

"There [are also] deep roots of racing and skiing in the Berkshires and particularly Bousquet. A lot of these kids have gone on to race collegiately. They learn life skills. To have these home roots and this is where I'm dropping my kid off for the day is nostalgic, and I'd like to get it back."

Whenever I get to talk to a world-class athlete in any sport, I usually ask about the state of his or her sport.

Krista Schmidinger said that while getting from the top of the hill to the finish line is the same now as it was in Albertville, France, for the 1992 Winter Olympics, much of the sport has changed.

"The landscape has definitely changed," she said, quickly adding that in some ways, alpine skiing has become more like baseball or other sports that use a lot of advanced metrics.

"Obviously, I haven't had my hand in it as much as I had in the past, drilling down about what kids are doing these days, how they're doing it and coming up with statistics and all these different approaches," Schmidinger said, "as opposed to when we were younger, it was like go out on the mountain and go figure it out, go have fun, learn skills, just ski for the afternoon, learn gates. That was what was important."

It has been almost two decades since Krista Schmidinger raced on the World Cup circuit. So I asked her if she could have imagined racing at speeds that the Shiffrins of the world now go?

"Oh, for sure," she said with a smile. "Maybe not right now."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.


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