Charlie Raposo, Great Britain’s highest-ranked giant slalom skier, understands the misconceptions people may have about his chosen profession.
Giant slalom is one of the six disciplines that make up competitive alpine skiing, a highly technical, ultra-fast descent through wider-spaced poles than those that make up a slalom run.
The discipline hinges on extreme focus as competitors battle over the margins of hundredths of seconds.
“It’s interesting how people perceive what we do. They perceive it as, Charlie’s off on holiday, he’s going on a ski holiday,” said Raposo.
Unsurprisingly, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth, and for the 25-year-old, who is representing Great Britain in the World and European Cups, the giant slalom discipline ranks among the highest athletic achievements.
He added: “This is a sport that is on the limit of what the body’s capable of.
“There’s probably no sport where as much force is coming directly into your body, through the ski, into the boot, into your hip and back.
“Everything you do for an entire year is judged in 20 minutes, and that’s if you make it to the finish line.
“There’s not many sports that have as much failure versus success for even the best athletes, because it’s so easy not to finish.
“It’s all down to that margin of risk to error. Finding different outlets to deal with that, and the solitary environment, and enjoying the journey is something I put an emphasis on.”
Born in London, Raposo started skiing when he was seven, and by 11, he was regularly taking part in competitions and starting to focus on racing full-time.
At 14, Raposo moved to the US to study at Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont, having made the giant slalom discipline his priority in a nascent ski racing career.
He explained: “When you’ve done something for 15 years, and you’re 25, you’ve done it for more than half your life – 15 years are more than most people have done anything, even by the time they’re 35.
“It becomes a massive part of your identity, and you very rarely go a day without thinking about it.
“I can’t even really go on holiday. I know if I wasn’t training, I’d lose my mind.”
Inevitably, Raposo’s ability to train practically is impacted by his access to snow, and he estimates that he spends about 120 days of the year skiing.
Staying 100% game ready, under the circumstances, requires an added level of mental creativity.
He added: “If I’m doing an interval on a bike or a treadmill, I’ve skied every World Cup slope 700 million times in my head, and that’s how you’re constantly ticking over, despite the lack of ski days.”
Preparing for the 2021/22 competitive season over the summer saw Raposo spending as much time developing his mindset as training physically.
Within his team, focus has been placed on greater ownership and accountability in Raposo’s racing, with the aim of stepping up and shifting his goal posts to achieve at the highest level.
The impact hasn’t necessarily been on the mechanics of training, but on capitalising on the finest of mental margins.
Raposo said: “I’m not here to ride out a mediocre career and not be consistently scoring points.
“I’ve found a new level this year. I’ve been Britian’s best Giant Slalom skier for seven years, and that’s not enough for me.
“It’s about the extra one or two percent of focus on the slope.
“It’s easy to get under a squat bar for another set, it’s easy to run another interval, but you know how difficult it is when it’s icy and bumpy and fast and dark to ski a different, more aggressive line – trying to push the envelope on snow is where I’m going to make my difference.”
Raposo was delighted to net his first World Cup points of the season on 14 November at Lech in Austria, but the punishing competitive schedules of the World and European Cups leave little time for contemplation.
He acknowledged the uniqueness of his competition schedule, and how home, in Kensington, where he has lived for seven years, feels far away during the season.
Raposo added: “You’ve got to be spontaneous. I didn’t know where we were going tomorrow until yesterday.
“I’m probably going to sleep in seven different beds in the next two weeks.”
Before Christmas, Raposo will race in two European Cup races in Zinal, Switzerland, in a World Cup race in Val d’Isère, and two more World Cup races at Alta Badia, in Italy, before looking ahead to Beijing, and the 2022 Winter Olympics.
He has represented Great Britain since the age of 13, and had his first taste of Olympic competition in the 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival, where he placed sixth: GB’s best-ever male alpine skiing performance at the competition.
Whilst Raposo won’t have selection confirmed until the end of January 2022, being able to compete for Great Britain on the world stage has its own continuing thrill.
He said: “Hopefully Beijing will be my first Olympics but as for the everyday, it’s a real honour to do so.
“It’s probably quite surreal, when I really step back and think about it.”