Nef skis World Cup one week, Winter Carnival the next
Tanguy Nef '20 skis on the World Cup circuit as well as the Dartmouth alpine team. Courtesy of Tanguy Nef.
Croatia, Switzerland, Austria. For many Dartmouth students, that’s a travel itinerary for a summer break. For alpine skier Tanguy Nef ’20, it’s the countries he’s had World Cup races in since the beginning of January — while taking classes and skiing three carnivals for the Big Green.
When he was recruited to ski for Dartmouth, Nef was on the Swiss national C team. This year, he has progressed all the way to the Swiss World Cup team, and he will be competing in the International Ski Federation World Championships this week.
Nef originally planned this year to be a transition between Dartmouth and World Cup skiing. At the start of the season, he was practicing with the Swiss Europa Cup team, but an impressive 11th place finish at his first World Cup race propelled him to the World Cup team.
Next season, Nef plans to take his senior winter off to fully commit to the World Cup circuit. It will be a transition year into fully professional skiing. But for now, Nef is dividing his time between Europe and Hanover. That means tighter turnarounds between races, sometimes hitting the books instead of following the thorough recovery routines of other elite skiers.
“If I had to do [this] freshman year, I don’t this I could have survived,” he said.
The biggest challenge in coming back to campus after a week of adrenaline-filled racing in Europe has been slowing down. He said that when faced with settling down to do school work, he still “want[s] to live at a thousand percent.”
Nef has negotiated agreements with the Swiss national team and the Dartmouth ski team so that he can continue to ski for both teams.
“He’s been super independent,” men’s alpine head coach Peter Dodge ’78 said. “The Swiss team has been very good, but he’s been handling all the negotiations with the Swiss team.”
Nef credits the social support of Dartmouth and his family with helping him balance the challenges that come with racing on two continents.
“My father was at all the races, and my little brother — I’m calling him all the time,” Nef said.
Nef has found that he has brought a unique blend of American and Swiss styles to the Swiss World Cup team.
“In Switzerland now, I’m just this American guy, and in the U.S., I’m just the Swiss guy. But a lot things that I do [are] referred to as, ‘Oh, that’s the American way,’ when most of the time it’s my way, but it’s also some things that I’m learning here … they think it’s exotic,” he said.
Nef’s laid-back personality becomes evident within a few sentences of conversation, and his coach and teammates say it translates to the ski slopes. Nef won the slalom at Dartmouth Carnival by more than two seconds. To the crowd’s delight, he flipped a 180 as he finished his second run and came across the finish line backward.
“His relaxation enables him to really feel and think about his skiing and apply it, whereas some guys get so amped up they can’t feel and see what they’re doing,” Dodge said.
Nef has certainly looked relaxed when he has been on the hill for Dartmouth. The reigning NCAA slalom champion has won all three carnival slalom races he has competed in this season and had a margin of almost three seconds at the University of Vermont.
“He has really great touch for the snow … in all conditions, he can adapt,” said Kirwood. “Being able to ski with him and watch him ski makes us all better as a team.”
Middlebury alpine head coach Stever Bartlett was more technical when he described Nef’s racing style to the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association blog.
“He’s super-balanced. All of his work is in the fall-line,” Bartlett said. “His feet aren’t swinging, getting really lateral. They’re right underneath him. Super efficient. And it looks like it’s easy. He makes it look like nothing.”
Nef says his experience competing on a collegiate team, not just individually in World Cup races, has changed his perspective on the sport for the better. In Europe, national teams focus on enabling skiers to perform well as individuals. At Dartmouth, Nef found a pleasant contrast.
“It’s special,” he said.
Since everyone’s carnival finish earns points toward Dartmouth’s total, the competitive attitude centers less on individual achievement and more on positive reinforcement.
“When I go back to Switzerland, I kind of want it to be like that,” Nef said.
We are just seeing the beginning of what could be a long career arc for Nef. According to Nef, the criteria to make the Swiss world championship team are the same as those for the Olympic team.
“[Being on the Olympic team] has been a dream since I was, I don’t know, two, or since I knew what the Olympics were,” Nef said. “I don’t think I knew what it was, and I was just already dreaming about it.”
Nef will be 25 when the next Winter Olympics rolls around, the age when most skiers reach their maximum potential.
Even while pursuing a professional skiing career, Nef has the future in mind. He said he is working on a startup with a friend from Switzerland and pursuing a summer internship. Unlike many at the top of the sport, he will have a degree to aid his transition once he hangs up his skis.
Nef will be in Are, Sweden for World Championships next week. Qualifying for the slalom will take place next Saturday, and the final slalom races will take place on the following day.