Ski Cross saved Chris Del Bosco. This relatively new sport—it debuted at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics—sets four (sometimes six) racers helmet to helmet down a course of jumps, rollers and high-banked turns. Alpine Canada athlete Del Bosco started his career as a teenager skiing in several Alpine disciplines, but following a bumpy and prolonged off-slope fall, he found Ski Cross just as it was beginning its ascension as one of the world’s favourite snow spectacles. We recently spoke to the 34-year-old World Cup champion, X Games gold medalist and two-time Olympian as he was returning home to Montreal after a training camp in Switzerland.
by Ned Morgan
What can you tell us about your plans for the upcoming season?
We’re coming into a World Championship year and our Olympic selection starts this season as well, so it’s going to be busy for sure. I’ve been second overall—four times—so I want to gun for the overall: one more step up.
What do you like about Ski Cross?
The first one down, wins: it’s a pure form of racing, head to head, with lots of tactics involved. It may not look that way from the outside, but there’s a lot of variables like updraft, jumps, turns—a lot of adapting and reacting.
You’ll be competing in the World Cup Ski Cross at Blue Mountain Resort in March 2017. How do you approach a course?
Obviously by the day of the event, you’ve trained on the track and you’ve qualified, so you know where you sit as far as how fast you’re skiing. And you might know where there are potential passing areas, so you have that loose game plan but when you’re in the start gate, you have to have more of a blank slate—because it all changes depending on whether you get the hole shot, or make passes. Every heat is different.
Blue Mountain is a great hill for Ski Cross. We don’t need the same vertical drop that you would in an Alpine event. And the layout has worked really well the last couple of times.
Ski Cross is a free-for-all with four (sometimes six) skiers going pell-mell. How do you strategize in such a environment?
There’s a certain way to have to ski to protect your line…and if you’re behind you get to set some stuff up where you might be able to take a little different entrance into a section and carry more speed out. It all really depends on what’s going on around you. It’s all reaction; you have to be ready for anything.
What are your takeaways from a race?
I’m very self-critical. Sometimes you can be too hard on yourself and forget to keep the good things also in mind. When a race doesn’t go as well, sometimes things just happen—you get tangled with somebody, and there’s really not much you can take out of that. But if you make a mistake on a feature and a couple of people blow by you, you know what went wrong.
In the final at the Vancouver 2010 Games, you had the Bronze medal locked down until you attempted a last-minute pass and fell. Are you sick of talking about it?
No. It was a really cool experience, just on that day, it didn’t work out for me. But I wouldn’t change anything now. Looking back, that’s just how I race. If I can improve my position, I’ll go for it. It works out most of the time. It didn’t work out that time.
Would you rather try for Gold and fall, instead of settling for Bronze?
In Ski Cross there’s no judging—it’s just the first one down. So you can’t ever take it easy. Like if you’re in second and you think ‘I’ve got this locked up’, there’s always the third, fourth, fifth position that can sneak in there. So you’re always going for that next top spot.
I had a pretty poor start in the Olympic final and I pulled into third about halfway down and I was pulling on the guys in front. There was just one last feature and I thought I might be able to get one of them. There were some variable conditions and I locked on edge. And then, well, you saw what happened. But I don’t like to settle.
Before the 2010 Olympics, you experienced some off-slope struggles with substance abuse, culminating in a near-death experience where you ended up passed out and near-hypothermic in a Vail, CO ditch with a broken neck. How did you come back from that?
With a lot of support from my family, my sister. I fought [addiction] for many years until finally I realized there might be an issue there. So I got some help. It put everything in perspective for me. And then a lot of things lined up. Ski Cross was added to the Olympic program, the Canadian team was formed and I got the call. I can’t really explain how it all happened. When I was younger and an Alpine racer, my dream was to be an Olympian. But that ended when I was 18 and got into trouble. Later, Ski Cross came around just when I was trying to put the pieces back together. So I had this amazing second chance.
Learn about the history of Ski and Snowboard Cross World Cup at Blue and a lot more in our upcoming Blue Mountain Resort 75th Anniversary issue.