Under the lights in Madonna di Campiglio last winter, AJ Ginnis attacked from the back of the field to earn his first World Cup points. It was, as he put it that night in December, "The best Christmas present I could have given myself." That was the beginning of a breakout season for the Greece-born U.S. Ski Team athlete, which included taking home his first U.S. National title in the slalom at Sugarloaf Resort in Maine.
With just under a month left until the Green Mountain Valley School alumnus ships off to New Zealand for on-snow training, he's on a nonstop workout schedule in order to reach his goals.
Ginnis hops in his car around the same time as most commuters head to the office. He's bound for U.S. Ski & Snowboard's Center of Excellence (COE), driving a Toyota pickup truck, which he owned for years before the car company's new partnership with the national federation.
The American slalom skier decided to live in Park City, Utah, this summer to have easy access to the resources at the COE. He lives with his girlfriend and Dartmouth College athlete Foreste Peterson as well as speed skier Tommy Biesemeyer.
When he arrives just a few minutes later, the American slalom skier eats breakfast.
“Before a workout, I usually have a Chobani yogurt with granola in it, and a banana,” he explains.
This is the start of a long day of workouts that includes weightlifting, slacklining, and cardio. He trains alongside his World Cup teammates like Michael Ankeny, Tommy Ford, and Biesemeyer. Ginnis needs to be properly fueled for any task at hand.
Ginnis spends a good portion of his days in the gym at the COE working with the trainers. He also continues the process of rebuilding strength in his left leg after suffering past knee injuries that have required three surgeries over the last four years.
"A big focus for me this year was to get that left leg up to strength, whether its neurological strength like movements or pure strength," he explains.
One of Ginnis' favorite things about living in Utah is training with his teammates.
"We're all in the same group, and we're pushing each other," Ginnis says. "I think that's the best part about in being in Park City this summer."
Some days, pushing each other means chasing teammates up a mountain on a trail run, which Ginnis says are getting dusty this time of year. That won't stop them from enjoying the beautiful weather.
As with all elite athletes, the work never stops for this American skier especially with the Olympic Winter Games on the horizon. When asked about hobbies, he talks about playing basketball, volleyball, and tennis. His fun times are workout times. But one of Ginnis' non-ski related pursuits is an undergraduate degree in economics from Dartmouth College. This summer, he's taking a class at the University of Utah, which will transfer over to the New Hampshire college.
While he's finding time to focus on his education, Ginnis hopes to compete in his first Olympics this February and has eyes on the prize.
"Obviously, the Olympics are the big goal. In order to get there, there's boxes I have to check off," he explains. "One of those is obviously performing more consistently in the top 30 on the World Cup, just getting in the start gate first run and performing in order to get myself a second run."
He'll start to build consistency for next season with a six-week trip to New Zealand, and before he knows it, the snow will fly in the Northern Hemisphere. While nothing in this sport is guaranteed, Ginnis is going for gold.