CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Giant slalom is Tommy Ford’s race. The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships, set for Sugarloaf later this week, are his event.

“It will be nice to defend my GS title,” Ford said, hesitating to allow room for the punch line. “Of course, a couple other guys have won it since the last time I did.”

Ford can smile now, having emerged from the darkness of a career-threatening crash that cost him almost two full seasons.

His last national giant slalom came in 2011. He hasn’t competed for a U.S. title at all since 2012, the result of a spill while freeskiing at La Clusaz, France, in January 2013.

He broke his right femur, the longest and strongest bone in the human body. Four to six months and multiple surgeries typically are required before a patient may begin physical therapy in earnest.

“It definitely could have been worse,” Ford said. “Luck was on my side.”


Ford has never needed much luck when competing on the national stage. In 2006, he won four gold medals at the U.S. Junior Championships.

That led to a place on the U.S. Ski Team, where he made his mark with a staggering eight national titles between 2010 and 2012.

In addition to two giant slalom championships, Ford has three combined titles, two super G victories and a slalom win.

“I think it’s just that it’s the end of the season,” Ford said of his trademark success. “It’s the national championships, so everybody is fired up. Everything else is done and everybody’s energy is up.”

Ford’s fire was stoked for long-term success in 2013. He was a year away from his second Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, after participating in the 2010 Vancouver giant slalom.

He stuck around for some freeskiing in the Alps after a World Cup race when the worst misadventure of his career intervened.


“I was in an area I didn’t know that well, some tough terrain, went off a corner and hit a tree,” Ford said.

Head-on motor vehicle collisions or car-pedestrian crashes are most commonly associated with femoral fractures.

The rehabilitation process from Ford’s accident was every bit as grueling.

“It also tore up my quad muscles quite badly. I had to learn to walk before I could think about skiing,” Ford said.

Ford, a native of Bend, Ore., used the time away from the slopes wisely. He resumed his studies at Dartmouth College.

There was also the not-so-minor matter of restoring his mental sharpness and not letting the upper half of his 5-foot-11 frame remain idle.


“I put a lot of energy into rehab,” he said. “I did upper-body workouts like it was my job.”

He returned for portions of his fifth season in World Cup this winter, with a top result of 21st at a giant slalom in Slovenia.

Most of Ford’s energy has been focused on the developmental NorAm circuit. That season concludes Monday in Waterville Valley, N.H.

“If you win the NorAm overall, you can enter any World Cup race next year, so that is the goal,” Ford said.

The tour recently brought Ford to Sugarloaf in what amounted to a test run for nationals.

“It was windy. It was cold,” he said. “Sugarloaf is always an adventure. That’s why I love going there.”


Ford will be well represented behind the catch fence at the finish line.

Besides his friends from nearby Dartmouth, his mother’s family is from the Northeast.

“GS is usually my strong event. I have some good speed in slalom and super G also,” Ford said. “We’ve had a great team all year. We have some strong, fast skiers. It’s nice to be around that crew. They always push you to go faster.”

Ford turned 26 Friday.

That sense of urgency as he enters the prime of his career, combined with the comfort level of competing for national bragging rights on a course he enjoys, should outweigh any lingering voices in his head from the trauma in Europe.

“First it was about getting comfortable and then eventually starting to build speed,” he said. “It’s been tough and frustrating at times. It’s been a steep curve. It’s still in progress.”

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