Between the coaching stand, the wax trailer, back in the Park City offices, or working remotely- USA Nordic has over 20 employees. This winter USA Nordic will be introducing the incredible people responsible for the organizations success.
First up, wax technician for the Nordic Combined Continental Cup Team- Raphael Bechtiger.
What is you hometown?
I grew up in Angerberg, a small village in the Austrian Alps with more cows than inhabitants. For the last five years I have lived in Innsbruck, which some people might recognize as the host city to the Olympic Games in ’64 and ’76. My “home trails” in Seefeld served as the race course for the most recent World Champs in 2019.
Which sports did you compete in as an athlete?
I was a Nordic skier, first on the Austrian Ski Team and later, for my last two seasons, I skied collegiately in America for Michigan Tech.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment as an athlete?
I had some national success, won a couple national titles as an U18 and junior skier but I’d say my biggest accomplishment was knowing when it was time to call it quits and retiring still with an ever-growing passion for this great sport, which allows me to now call what I love “work”.
How long have you worked for USA Nordic?
I’m super excited for my first season with USA Nordic.
Which teams/where have you worked with prior to USA Nordic?
When I returned to Austria from the States in 2014, I started coaching the State Ski Team (a youth development program of my home state Tyrol) for Nordic Combined as their Nordic skiing coach. A year later, I switched to Nordic Skiing, which I have coached for the last four years up until the end of last season. Simultaneously, I was coaching older athletes at Schigymnasium Stams, Austria’s oldest ski academy.
Ever since its founding in 2017, I’ve also been working as a guide for Lumi Experiences, a company that brings North American ski enthusiasts over to Europe for Nordic skiing vacations.
What is your role with USA Nordic?
Wax tech on the Continental Cup and spirit animal for whoever needs one 😉
What is different about USA Nordic than other teams?
The whole work atmosphere: I’m impressed by the leadership skills of my superiors and their level of communication and how everybody on the team I met so far understands how to work professionally while still managing to make it fun. Spirits are high and work doesn’t feel like work at all really!
What is your favorite thing about America?
When I moved to the States in 2012, I did not know quite what to expect, but the overwhelming kindness and vivid energy of the Nordic community in the US was nothing I could have been prepared for crossing the pond. I came to appreciate the culture, values, and sense of community I got to experience anywhere I skied in the US; something I saw again when I first met the team a few months ago: They couldn’t have made it easier for me to feel welcomed and part of the team already.
A cold IPA and some tacos right at the trails after a nice bike ride with my friends is an American experience I will never pass up on either.
What’s your biggest fear?
Haha, I know my mom’s biggest fear: That I meet a girl I really like and never return 🙂
What’s your favorite junk food?
During a road trip a couple years ago, my friend and I made this list and tried to tick off as many fast food places as possible. At the end we had collected a good many ticks but, being from Austria, anything related to the Mexican cuisine turned out to be our go to food stop.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
During World Champs this year I was co-announcing the cross-country sprint race when the head announcer revealed that I was a big fan of Jessie Diggins’, which made me spontaneously propose to her over the speakers. Haven’t gotten an answer yet though…
What are your interests outside of skiing and working? Do you have any weird hobbies?
I love to mountain bike! And I really enjoy spending time in the mountains, be it hiking, climbing, or skinning up. All these things I try to incorporate into my travelling – I love to go to new places in search for awesome trails and amazing views.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I was fortunate enough to see many exciting places so far, a lot of them I could see myself spending a good amount of time at. But nowhere did I feel quite at home as in the Rocky Mountains.
What is your best memory with USA Nordic?
Nick and I brought the guys on a hut trip through the Tyrolean Alps: It was so cool seeing how their faces lit up behind every corner, hearing their excited cries when they saw a new peak and experiencing first-hand how stoked they were to be in this region I call home.
What is your proudest accomplishment with USA Nordic?
I hope that after this first season I have a lot more to say on this topic. For now, I gotta say I was pretty flattered when the boys thought that, for an European, I know how to throw the frisbee pretty well.
Which competition venue is your favorite and why?
I haven’t been to that many Nordic Combined venues so far so I’m excited to discover new places this season. I’m definitely looking forward to Soldier Hollow though. I raced there myself for Senior Nationals in 2013 and I have lots of good memories.
What is your biggest goal for this season?
I want to become a valuable asset to this team, build good relationships with everybody and provide especially the athletes with the optimum environment they need to develop and succeed. If I can teach them some German on the side, even better!