Profile: Travis Ganong, World Cup skier, SNU student


Courtesy photo

SNU student and US Ski Team member Travis Ganong studies Ski Business Resort Management. He is also an entrepreneur.

Phoenix Larsen, Editor

World Cup skier and SNU student Travis Ganong hits a gate during a downhill run.

There is a certain type of magic in the hills of Lake Tahoe that produces athletes of high caliber. When World Cup skier Travis Ganong isn’t competing in the downhill and super-g events for the United States Ski Team, he can be found at home working on his degree at Sierra Nevada University.
Rick and Jan Ganong, Travis’ parents, didn’t exactly have World Cup aspirations for their son, but the athleticism and ambition showed itself early on. At an age when most kids were learning how to run, Travis was shredding the mountains with his siblings.
“He would wake us up early in the morning in the winter when it was raining outside, looking ugly, and say, ‘Mom, dad, it’s time to get up and go over to Squaw. It is time to go ski.’” It would be a horrible day weatherwise and without exception he would say, ‘That was the best day of skiing ever!’ And he still is that way. It is almost laughable at times,” Rick Ganong said.
When Ganong was 4 years old he joined the Mighty Mites team at Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley). At 9 years old, he joined the resort’s ski team. Rick Ganong remembers the moment he realized his son was destined for greatness. It happened while they were on a ski trip with Travis’ uncle. Travis made a clean run through the double-black Avalanche Chutes at Mammoth Ski Resort when he was only 10 years old.
“We stopped to make sure he was safe and saw him come through this really rocky and icy tree area just down the fall line looking very comfortable. We looked at each other and went, ‘Wow, he does know how to ski,’” Rick Ganong said.
Ganong’s progress continued, and he joined the U.S. Ski Team his last year in high school. He has been a member of the team for 17 years. He attributes much of his success to the Palisades Ski Club. With a strong Olympic legacy of coaches and athletes since the 1960 Winter Olympics held at the resort, the club has produced more U.S. Ski Team athletes than any other club in the country.

Travis Ganong proposes to his fiancee, Marie Michele Gagnon. (Courtesy photo)

When he isn’t traveling 8 months out of the year for training and tours, Ganong lives in Tahoe City with fiancé Marie-Michele Gagnon, a member of the Canadian Ski Team. The Quebec native is also a World Cup alpine skier. The mountain-loving couple met at the Nakiska Ski Resort in the province of Alberta, when they were at a lower-level race 15 years ago. On Sept. 14 of this year Ganong proposed to her on a top of a majestic mountain near Zermatt, Switzerland.
“We went on a hike and it was raining super hard that morning. We decided to still go and have a great time,” Ganong said. “He brought a picnic without me noticing. It was a wonderful view, and the sun came out and there was no rain.”
The couple have not set a date for the wedding. This year both will be competing in the World Cup series, starting Oct. 24 in Soelden, Austria and ending in Courchevel, France March 20. And beyond World Cup skiing, both Ganong and Gagnon have their sites set on Olympic glory. If they qualify, they will head to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Bejiing in February. The power couple share the same disciplines of downhill and super-g skiing.
For these athletes, training takes place year-round. Dryland training is something they can do anywhere in the summer, and it usually consists of trips to the gym, hiking, biking, or other outdoor activities in the Tahoe Region. For ski training, they usually travel to the southern hemisphere where there is snow. In the past Ganong has trained in Chile, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Ganong credits much of his success as a skier to his fiancé.
“She is one of the best skiers in Canada. Their style of skiing is much more regimented than ours. I never went to a gym a day in my life until I joined the U.S. Ski Team. She taught me how important it was to go to the gym and how to be a professional athlete,” Ganong said. “She taught me how to train hard, how to eat properly, and how to rest properly. All those tiny things that were missing have helped me go from being ranked 100th in the world to the top 10. That all came from her because she led by example.”
Ganong is pursuing a degree in ski business and resort management with a minor in global business at SNU. Tim Cohee, a member of the business department and chair of the ski business program for 17 years, has been one of Ganong’s champions. Cohee is also a family friend whom Ganong has known since he was a child.
With 43 years of experience in the ski business, Cohee is a ski mogul Ganong feels privileged to call a mentor and friend. Currently, Cohee is owner and operator of the China Peak Mountain Ski Resort in Lakeshore near Fresno, California.
“Tim was always an inspiration or role model for me. He is very respected for what he has been able to accomplish. He was able to turn these mom-and-pop ski areas into these nationally recognized resorts. He is a really smart guy who knows when to take risks,” Ganong said.
“I look up to him and he has been very helpful in setting up this whole program with SNU to get an education and managing the logistics behind it because it is not traditional. Every time I have an issue or want to try to fit in a class, I reach out to him and he makes things happen. He is a good friend and a good person to have on my side.”
SNU works with Ganong around his busy competition schedule as he makes progress toward his degree.
Not only is Ganong a professional skier, fiancé, and student, he is also the co-owner of Pacific Crest Coffee Company in Truckee with his good friend and former professional snowboarder, Ralph Backstrom. Ganong credits his ability to handle such a load to his mother, Jan Ganong, a former speech pathologist.
“When I was young, before I was on the US Ski Team, I would be traveling for two to three weeks at a time. I would be home for four or five days and then travel again, so I missed a lot of school,” Ganong said. “Luckily, my mom worked at the school so she could get all my assignments from my teachers so that when I came home, I could do two to three weeks of schoolwork in one week. I think that taught me how to manage my time well.”
Ganong says that if he stays healthy and competitive, he will continue skiing with hopes to make it to the 2026 Winter Olympics. With his degree from SNU, he hopes to operate and perhaps one day own a ski resort. Cohee thinks Ganong has what it takes.
“He is smart; he is a good writer. He is one of those guys that has a really good perspective on being a world class athlete and knowing that it does end. He knows that he needs to take care of himself so when he graduates and gets done ski racing, he has a plan,” Cohee said. “When he graduates from here, he will be highly sought after by every ski resort in America. I would kill to have a guy like that work for us or run my place.”
When Ganong treads the mountains for his last time as professional skier for the US Ski team, his journey in the ski world will change directions. He holds the team in high regard and feels deep gratitude for how they have supported him for the last 17 years, equipping him with training, coaches, and ski technicians.
Both his fiancé and father echo that being passionate about what he does is one of Ganong’s greatest strengths. It has enabled the wobbling toddler on skis to become the man of the mountains the world sees today.
“I think if you know what you are passionate about, you shouldn’t worry about all the details. Keep that focus. If you figure out what really motivates you, what gets you excited in life, and then you try to form everything around that simple idea, you’ll never feel like you have a job the rest of your life,” Ganong said.