Opinion » Alta States

Alta states

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Riml is the strangest of creatures — a laid-back Austrian coach. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the perfectly bilingual coach who grew up in ski-crazy Solden is like few other Austrians I’ve ever come across in the high-heat atmosphere of World Cup racing.

And at first glance he doesn’t look all that laid-back. A big bear of a man with a few days’ growth of beard on his face, Riml displays the gruff, near-forbidding exterior that we’ve all come to associate with European ski coaches. Even the way he wears his uniform has that utilitarian, “I’m here to work,” aspect about it. But spend a little time around the man, and you quickly get another impression.

Approachable, easy-going — and disarmingly candid — Riml is the kind of guy you feel like you’ve known forever after just a few minutes’ conversation. The kind of guy you could sit at a bar with and shoot the shinola until the wee hours of the morning. Whether conferring with coaches or talking to athletes — or even interacting with W-B staff, for that matter — he projects a sense of understanding that has nary a hint of ego showing.

And when there’s grunt work to be done — poles to be carried, holes to be drilled, material to move from one spot to another — Riml doesn’t suddenly disappear down the hill. “Just that in itself is a refreshing change,” Boyd whispers in my ear.

Maybe it’s because he was badly injured as a 20-year-old racer. “I was on the Austrian Europa Cup squad,” recounts Riml, “and we were invited to Japan for a special race series. Unfortunately I broke my back in one of my first races there.” He shrugs. “That was the end of my ski racing career. So I decided to become a ski teacher instead…”

Maybe it’s because of all the time he’s spent working with North Americans. “I really enjoyed my time in the U.S.,” he says. “It’s totally different than working in Europe, of course. But it definitely has its advantages.” And he certainly got results there. With Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso, Riml had one of the most potent one-two punches on the circuit.