Middlebury College skier gets slot on Canadian team
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College senior alpine skier and Toronto, Canada, native David Donaldson has earned himself a starting spot on the Canadian team in every FIS World Cup giant slalom race next winter.
Donaldson recently capped off the most impressive winter of competition for any Eastern collegiate skier by placing second in the Audi Coupe Nor-Am Cup giant slalom standings.
As a result of his dominant performance this winter, Donaldson will join professional athletes like Ted Ligety and Bode Miller in World Cup events in locales ranging from Beaver Creek, Colo., to Alta Badia, Italy.
But before he can take advantage of his newly earned spot on the tour, Donaldson, an economics major and history minor, will have to finish four more months of coursework at Middlebury as well as the summer German language program.
Donaldson said the timing is ideal.
“Securing this spot enables me to compete in World Cups and still finish school. It allows me to ski on my own terms, and that’s the biggest thing,” he said, adding, “Over the past five years, since going to school, it has been my dream to clinch a NorAm giant slalom or slalom — or both — spots. I feel like I’ve been within an arm’s reach a few times and haven’t done it, and I almost failed to do it again. So it’s hugely fulfilling.”
Donaldson, who grew up training at Georgian Peaks and was a member of the Ontario Ski Team, began his collegiate racing career at the University of Vermont, where he won the NCAA giant slalom national championship title during his freshman year in 2009.
After pursuing skiing outside of college for several years, but failing to make the national team, Donaldson returned to school at Middlebury in 2011. However, NCAA restrictions prevented him from competing for the Panthers until the 2012-2013 season, his final year of collegiate eligibility.
Middlebury College ski team head coach Stever Bartlett spent two years watching Donaldson progress as an athlete in his program.
“David worked hard in the early season making a few changes to his style and technique, and then found a good balance between racing, school and rest,” said Bartlett. “He really found his confidence this season, and that certainly was another factor in his success.”
In NCAA action this winter, Donaldson won five out of the six giant slaloms, plus two slalom races on the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) circuit. At the NCAA national championships, hosted by Middlebury, he finished as runner-up in the slalom event, missing the win by just three-tenths of a second. Donaldson was the most consistently successful EISA male athlete this winter.
Heading into the final races of the tight Nor-Am Cup battle, Donaldson sat in a distant fourth place in the giant slalom standings. The Nor-Am Cup is one of the Continental Cup series dominated by national team athletes who aspire to the professional ranks.
But Donaldson, the college skier, won his first Nor-Am ever in the second-to-final race of the season, and he found himself suddenly catapulted to the top of the standings over national team athletes from both Canada and the U.S.
“I think it almost proved to those people, for more than just me, that there are a lot of great skiers out there who don’t need to give up just because their national teams aren’t supporting them,” Donaldson said.
In Friday’s final giant slalom of the season, Donaldson led the first run but had a costly error on the second when he fell on his side and slid across the snow before he was able to get back on his feet and complete the course. His sixth-place finish, however, was still good enough to secure second in the standings behind Canadian Ski Team member Phil Brown.
“I was focusing on just making sure I was in the moment, turn to turn, and not anywhere else on the planet. I was in the zone,” Donaldson said of the final race.
The top two North American athletes in the final standings of each discipline of the Nor-Am Cup receive automatic starts to all races on the following season’s World Cup calendar. Donaldson will travel to races in Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Slovenia next year as an invitee to the Canadian Ski Team.
Bartlett said Donaldson has been a welcome addition to the Middlebury team.
“I am proud of his accomplishments and the way he has embraced his experience as a member of the Middlebury ski team and the Middlebury College community,” said Bartlett. “David is several years older than most of the athletes on the team and is affectionately nicknamed ‘Uncle Donnie’ due to his veteran status. In many ways, he provided mentoring for the younger athletes — not only as a fast skier to chase in training, but also as an example of someone who never gives up on his dream.”
The Middlebury College alpine ski team has demonstrated on more than one occasion that its program can prepare athletes for competition beyond the NCAA. After his freshman year with the Panthers in 2011, Rob Cone of Killington was named to the U.S. Ski Team.
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