PARK CITY, Utah — Bethel native Troy Murphy is on the road to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Murphy, a mogul skier, is ranked by the International Ski Federation as eighth in the world and the top American.

Mogul skiing combines racing down a series of small mounds on a mountainside in a serpentine fashion with two jumps from which competitors perform aerial maneuvers.

It was that very love of flying through the air that brought Murphy to the attention of Jeffery Yingling, the head coach at Gould Academy in Bethel when Murphy was in middle school.

“My parents were both skiers, but not very avid skiers I would say,” Murphy said. “I actually got into it because as a kid growing up, we were actually really into motocross riding, like, dirt bikes.”

Motocross similarly involves launching into the air during runs.

“We were riding the track we had behind my grandfather’s house one day, and the head ski coach from Gould Academy saw me riding and suggested that I try moguls, that’s kinda how it happened,” Murphy said.

He decided to give it a try.

“I did the weekend program at Sunday River for a couple weekends and just got hooked; and the rest is history from there.”

Mogul skiing is not only a race, but involves judging, as well. Competitors make their way down a mountain covered in bumps as quickly as they can while judges are watching the skier’s technique in navigating the moguls. This accounts for 60 percent of the athlete’s score. Twenty percent of their score is based on speed, and the other 20 percent on their aerial maneuvers.

Murphy is well known for his feats in the air.

“I’ve always kinda like had this natural love for jumping so that’s probably my strong suit,” he said. 

Because jumping accounts for only one-fifth of the overall score, though, Murphy has been emphasizing his skiing. 

“We ski every month of the year, the skiing has been kinda my focus lately,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he put “a ton of time,” into the mogul section, which has since “paid off quite a bit.” Murphy said that when he did not have the financial means to go ride moguls and mountains, is when he focused on and developed his gymnastic ability and “focus on jumping.”

Whenever Murphy does have downtime, he uses it go skiing of a different kind.

“We get some time off in April and I’ll go usually with some buddies and we’ll rent an RV and some snowmobiles, and we’ll go to Alaska and just go free skiing for a month,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s time away from mogul skiing also includes some provocative winter activities such as “powder surfing.” There is no binding holding a rider to the board as in a snowboard, rather, “(it) is like surfing on snow instead of water.” 

Murphy recently returned from a competition in Thaiwoo, China, where he took third place on Dec. 21 and eighth on Dec 22.

“It was my second time in China and I had a pretty good result there last year too,” Murphy said. “I got fourth, so I really wanted to come back and do better.”

His third-place finish marked the first time he finished on the podium.

“Yeah, the course was really nice, the weather was really good, and I was skiing well the whole time,” he said. “I was happy to be really consistent, put down a bunch of runs, and come away with a podium.”

Murphy competed Saturday in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where the event was first aired as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics. It has been a regular event since the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

From Calgary, he will return stateside for a qualifying event in Deer Valley, Utah, on Jan. 10 and 11. Murphy will be off to Tremblant, Quebec, for his final preliminary event Jan. 20 before waiting to find out whether he will make the final team.

Murphy, like other Olympic hopefuls, trains at Park City, Utah. Winter Olympians have had to travel to Europe in recent years to train on glaciers because of the lack of snow here.

Training hard, Murphy does not pay particularly close attention to his overall rating.

“I don’t even know what my ranking is. I don’t really pay much attention to that,” Murphy said.

What he does pay attention to, he admitted, is the competition.

“Everyone is thinking about (beating current leader Mikahl Kingsbury) . . . I want to win everything,” Murphy said.

Murphy has not forgotten that his Olympic journey started in western Maine. He has held fundraisers and volunteered back home and wishes to relay how much he appreciates the support from up there.

“Both the Sunday River and Gould communities have been a large part in me getting here, so yeah, thanks everyone for all the help,” he said.

[email protected]

Bethel native Troy Murphy performs a stunt at a moguls qualifying event in Thaiwoo ski resort in China. (FIS Freestyle)

Bethel native Troy Murphy, right, stands on the podium last month at the Thaiwoo ski resort in China after placing third in a moguls qualifying event. (FLS Freestyle)

filed under: