Marcel Hirscher’s not-so-distant plans include spending two weeks on an island, where he will read books, watch movies and stare into the sea as he ponders this: Does he really want to keep ski racing?
Don’t read too much into it, though. It’s an annual rite for the Austrian standout who has captured six straight overall World Cup titles. After each season, he takes his time to gauge just how much he wants to return to the World Cup circuit.
Sometimes, Hirscher rediscovers his passion by May. And sometimes, it takes until October. But his appetite always returns.
“At the moment, I’m not sure if I’m doing next year’s season,” the 28-year-old Hirscher casually said as he hung out by an outdoor pool during a warm day on the eve of World Cup Finals where he’s already clinched the overall, slalom and giant slalom titles. “I always need a little bit of time to see how is my physical status, how is the mental thing — is the fire still burning? These are a lot of questions. No worries, though, all the years prove it’s always the same.”
All the years also prove he can’t be caught as he keeps setting the bar higher and higher. This season, he became the first man to win six overall World Cup titles. On the women’s side, only fellow Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell has won six championships.
“I just feel like Marcel’s really the one athlete on the men’s or women’s side that’s always there, always, always shows up on game day and probably in training as well,” said American Mikaela Shiffrin, who’s closing in on her first overall title. “He doesn’t win every single race, but if he’s not winning, he’s second. He’s so consistent.”
Hirscher’s surrounded by a coach, ski servicemen and physiotherapists, whose sole task is keeping him running at top form.
It’s an enviable position.
“Marcel has changed the sport, in the way of the team concept,” said Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher for the slalom title last season. “It’s still important to have a team, but it’s really important as well to have individual differences, the way he does it. […] Everything is as close to perfect as it can get with logistics, training, everything.
“To have the opportunities Marcel has, to put in the work he does, then maybe one day we could catch him.”
Hirscher doesn’t compete against racers so much as himself and the course. He could finish in second and may not be the least bit pleased with his skiing.
“I know how fast I can go and if I’m not reaching my 100 percent maximum, then I’m not happy with myself,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve won the six globes or not. I want to be as good as it is possible for myself.”
Hirscher is so unflappable on the slopes that not even a falling drone can distract him. That’s what happened during a race in Italy in December 2015. The drone carrying a TV camera for a broadcast crew crashed to the snow just behind Hirscher on his second run. It led the international ski federation to announce it was banning camera drones from its World Cup races.
For as dominating as he’s been over the years, there is one thing missing from his portfolio — an Olympic gold medal. Pat Graham, Aspen, AP