Exploring The Synergies Between Downhill Ski Racing & Mountain Biking with Olympian AJ Kitt and his 14-year-old son, Aksel

Kitt_Family

AJ Kitt is an alpine ski racing legend. A World Championship Bronze Medalist, he was the first American to compete in four Olympic Winter Games, and was a staple on the U.S. Ski Team for over a decade. We recently got the opportunity to chat with AJ and his amazing 14-year-old son, Aksel, himself an aspiring young downhill ski racer, about their training during this unprecedented time and the synergy between downhill mountain biking and downhill ski racing. Here’s what they had to say…

What does your training regimen look like in Covid19?

(Aksel) “I’m excited for the season. With Covid19 the season is TBD, including how training will happen and how racing will happen.”

(AJ) “This year we’re probably going to focus on getting good quality ski training in and working hard because next year he’ll be a FIS-age racer, which is the international ranking system. Hoping that maybe we’ll see a couple of competitions/races in Europe.”

A typical season for junior ski racing includes four qualifiers and then the Western Regional Championships. Age groups are bundled into 2 ages per group. Aksel is currently on the oldest end of that, so last year the goal was to qualify for Regionals for this age group; that was his main objective for the year. But this season the goal is to not just qualify, but be in the hunt of race day. He qualified for the Western Regionals 2 years ago and was on track last year but chose to race in Europe instead in order to compete at a different level, but sadly that trip was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Next year Aksel’s season goes into another older age group where they advance to race with the international ranking system (FIS). So, you’re really moving from youth sports to competing with adults. So, this year is a great opportunity to get established and move into that next level with some momentum.

Working with Dad as a coach

AJ coached him until last year and now Aksel has been accepted into Mt. Hood Ski Academy, one of the premiere ski academies for downhill ski racing, where the athletes live and train together during the season while also attending school. AJ grew up back east and went to a similar school there living away from home and training. Mt Hood Academy is known as one of the best programs in the country, with great coaches and a nice customized program where attention is focused on each kid’s needs specifically.

(Aksel) “Working with my dad was great. Whether we were on-snow or off-snow we could talk about anything, including, of course skiing. He is always there for me to talk fundamentals and strength. We are always studying ski videos. Because of the high level of skiing he achieved, he’s been able to share so much and that information is obviously really helpful for me to have.”


Askel is triplet with two twin sisters Ayden & Ava. His sister, Ava Kitt, also races. Everything is a fun competition, so they’re big on bragging rights, of course, and very competitive around the house. But at the end of the day, they go to the same races and are always there to cheer each other on.

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Mountain Biking & Downhill Skiing

When he was a professional Ski Racer, AJ Kitt always used mountain biking as a training tool, finding that mountain biking provided essential interval training with the speed and pitch changes, technical challenges, and the rest between climbs were all similar to downhill skiing.

(AJ) “Mountain biking is an ideal cross training tool for downhill skiers. It provides you with great cardio training, and you’re in the same mountain environment as ski racing. Plus, the adrenaline and excitement are pretty similar to ski racing. The two go hand in hand. It’s interval training. You get to the top then turn your bike around and head down, picking lines, balancing, initiating and finishing turns.”

The Importance of Bike Maintenance

(AJ) “Maintaining our bikes is essential to our enjoyment of each ride; keeping the chain and shifting running smooth and precise, and making sure the tire pressures are dialed in for whatever the conditions are that day always makes for a better experience. We bought Aksel his first bike at Dirty Fingers (bike shop in Hood River, Oregon), those guys specialize in repairs. They’d let him hang around the shop and watch, and he learned a lot. Plus watching YouTube videos on maintenance and repairs and he’s now able to do a lot of the work on his own. I usually do the post-ride wash down while Aksel does the tuning.

HandlebarJack_on_handlebars


We use the Handlebar Jack on my ebike to protect the display when doing regular maintenance. We strap those things on and quickly turn the bike upside down and it’s so handy.”

(Aksel) “My goals for the offseason were getting 30 days of skiing in and to get really strong and really fit.”

(AJ) “Aksel uses mountain biking as his primary tool for fitness, and then spends a lot of time in the weight room, as well. The intangible factor that mountain biking offers is going down hill really fast. Picking lines and managing terrain are so similar to ski racing, I think it’s going to pay off for him this season. On the mental training side, you can’t really overstate how important it is. Everyone can do the fitness training but when you get on snow if you are not comfortable with speed, then it takes time to build that confidence. So being able to use the mountain biking during the summer to enhance that experience and level of comfort has been really important.”

 

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Last month Aksel Kitt moved up to the mountain to begin his training for the 2020-21 season. We are cheering this amazing kid on from afar!

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