Athlete Spotlight: Noah Hoffman
(Reprinted from TUNA News, by Jen Santoro)
One thousand hours. For U.S. National Team and World Cup skier Noah Hoffman, that’s what it takes to be in the game. That’s nearly twenty hours per week of bounding, running, cycling, strength training, roller skiing and skiing—not to mention keeping a good relationship with all the people who support a ski career.
A child of running parents, Hoffman began running at eight. In his hometown of Aspen, running naturally led to Nordic skiing, and he became hooked on the social environment.
“I was involved in cross country running and all of my friends cross country skied. I got to hang out with my friends—it was purely social.” Hoffman continued to run through middle school, but as a high school student he was torn between soccer, tennis, and running.
“I tried to do cross country, soccer and tennis, but those are all fall sports in Colorado,” he says. “I ended up playing Varsity second doubles in tennis.” He soon found out that tennis is not the best dryland training for Nordic skiing. When his best friend qualified for Junior Olympics in Lake Placid and he didn’t, a fire was lit.
“I went from not training at all to five-hundred hours a year,” he explains, “and I was lucky to be in a sport where hard work pays off.”
By senior year of high school Hoffman had prioritized. He gave up soccer and tennis and worked out a deal with the cross country coach. He was able to swap some running workouts for roller skiing. Running about two days a week and on weekends he still managed to win the Colorado State Cross Country Championships.
“I had a great coach, and I feel like I was able to pay him back.”
From then on, it was Nordic skiing. Hoffman vaulted to the national level and trips to the U18 Scando Cup in Finland and Sweden as a 17 and 18-year-old.
“I got crushed,” he admits, “it was eye-opening, but it made me want more.” Hoffman didn’t give in. Perseverance paid off, and he had enough success as an U20 at World Juniors to be named to the U.S. National team.
Like every successful career, there are ups and downs. Hoffman is thankful the national team allowed him the time to find success, and that one down year didn’t ruin his chances.
“I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, my first year as a senior, but I had success at the U23 Worlds.” That was the beginning of a breakout year in 2011 that put him in an unlikely position.
“I had a top-15 finish in a race during the 2011 Oslo World’s pre-camp,” he explains. “I hadn’t expected to be a World Cup skier that year, but I ended up there and then at World Championships.” He finished in the top 30 twice that year, cementing his spot as America’s current top distance skier. He also finally felt like he belonged at that level and has continued to race in Europe every year since then.
Having barely missed the national team criteria for an “A Team” skier, Hoffman has to rely mainly on the support of sponsors and the National Nordic Foundation. With two training sessions per day, meals, stretching, and sleep, he also has to make time for the administrative aspect of being a full-time athlete.
“People don’t realize how time consuming and how much work it is to solicit funds,” he explains. Hoffman has his own personal sponsor in Thoughtforms Builders, a New England-based builder of custom homes. He also relies heavily on the National Nordic Foundation (NNF).
“The NNF is the vehicle the community uses to support us,” Hoffman says. “We could not be doing what we are without what they are doing. They are a reputable and safe organization doing the legwork.”
That support has allowed Hoffman and the rest of the team to have increased support in the last few years. He credits this new level of professionalism with the sudden increase in podium results for the U.S. Nordic team in recent years.
“There’s no more ‘spaghetti dinner in the neighborhood’ for fundraising. Having the money for a competitive wax staff with the ability to do it right, it’s crucial,” he says, “and NNF has made it possible to have an incredible wax staff. Every additional tech we have brings it up.”
Hoffman also credits coaches Jason Cork and Chris Grover with the program’s steady improvement since 2000.
When he’s not training, Hoffman is well known in the ski world for the relationship he keeps with the public on his various blogs and social media outlets.
“I feel so much more connected with the skiing public than my European counterparts,” he says. “They can’t believe how public we are with our training and all that, but we have to be role models because that’s why people support us. It has value, even though it’s challenging.”
Although his family is still in Colorado, Hoffman has based himself in Park City for most of his professional career.
“I have been in Park City since 2009, so it’s my seventh summer here. Not only does it have everything—Center of Excellence, mountain biking, roller ski trails, etc.—it is also my training environment.” Hoffman regards Park City as an “office” of sorts, and associates it with hard work, while home and family are his time off.
A focused athlete who sees skiing as an opportunity for more than just competition, Hoffman relishes the ski community and its people.
“Not only does skiing open doors to the obvious things like seeing the world or college, or learning about yourself, there is another aspect that drives me—the people are amazing. They’re uniformly smart, passionate people, my best friends in the world.”
With what skiing has taught him, Hoffman plans to eventually move on to other things in the future. Those plans run the gamut from mathematics to behind the scenes in the theater. For now, though, he is putting the finishing touches on his most demanding training season yet. He leaves behind some sage advice for the young skiers who are lining up behind him.
“Stick with the things that make you really proud of yourself or excited.” For Hoffman, that pride comes from training as hard as he can and believing he is the fittest athlete. No matter what the source of pride for an athlete, he advises, “always have something to hang your hat on.”
This article originally appeared in the TUNA News, December 2016.