USST Rossignol athlete Paula Moltzan plans to take Olympic momentum into the upcoming season
The Minnesota native pulled off stellar performances despite a season-long injury and hopes there’s more to come for 2022-23
By Shauna Farnell
2021-22 persistent injury didn’t slowdown Moltzan
Did anyone notice that Paula Moltzan’s left ski pole was taped to her hand for the entire 2021-22 season? Clearly, It didn’t slow her down.
Nearing the end of July, only a few days after getting pins removed from her hand following bone fusion surgery in May, the 28-year-old from Prior Lake, Minnesota, has never viewed the injury or recovery as a setback.
“I broke it in a training incident in December,” she says. “I didn’t even crash. But I hit the base and caught my left hand. Consequently, I raced all season with my pole duct-taped to my hand.”
However, this is just the latest of many examples of Moltzan’s grit.
Moltzan’s early racing history
Moltzan’s father taught her how to ski as a young child and like fellow Minnesota native Lindsey Vonn, she took her next step at Buck Hill under the guidance of Erich Sailer before moving to Colorado at age 16 and joining Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
After one year in Vail, the U.S. Ski Team nominated Moltzan as a rookie at the end of the 2009/10 season. During the 2012-13 season, Moltzan skied to 3 top five results on the Nor-Am circuit. However, even though she made her World Cup slalom debut in 2012, she couldn’t complete two runs among the sport’s top racers until the 2015 World Ski Championships at Beaver Creek, where she finished 20th in slalom. Only a few weeks later, she went on to win slalom gold in the Junior World Championships.
Focusing exclusively on slalom for the next couple of seasons, Moltzan only scored in only one World Cup race – 25th in Flachau, Austria, in January 2016. Consequently, the U.S. Ski Team did not renominate her for the 2016-17 team.
Released from USST, Moltzan attends UVM
Not to be deterred, she started racing for the University of Vermont, where her then-boyfriend and now fiancé – Ryan Mooney – also attended as a student-athlete. Moltzan notched a handful of wins on the university, Nor-Am and FIS circuits, earning a start in the 2018 Killington World Cup, where she finished 17th.
In 2018 while attending and competing for UVM, she re-started her World Cup career as an independent racer with Mooney as her technician. Moltzan followed up her success in Killington with a 15th in the World Cup slalom in Courchevel, France, a 12th in Flachau and a 16th in Maribor, Slovenia.
Her efforts propelled her back onto the U.S. Team for the 2019-2020 season, but she again struggled to find consistency before COVID-19 suddenly ended the season.
Moltzan finds her place with the world’s best
Moltzan added giant slalom to her repertoire in 2020-21, kicking off with a bang, a 10th place in the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria.
A month later, she landed her inaugural World Cup podium in the parallel event in Lech/Zuers, Austria and narrowly missed a medal with fourth place in parallel at the 2021 World Champs in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. She also became a steady force in slalom with a smattering of World Cup top tens.
Last February, at her first Olympics, she nabbed eighth in slalom and nearly helped the U.S. Team to a medal, taking fourth in the Olympic team parallel event.
Ryan Mooney is important now and forever
Throughout this resurgence, Mooney continues to be her serviceman and travel companion.
“He’s the one who makes the comebacks happen,” Moltzan says, adding that she and Mooney’s wedding is scheduled for Sept. 8 near their home in Charlemont, Mass.
“It’s been a busy summer of wedding planning and working out,” Moltzan says. “We’re really excited to get our friends and family together for a long weekend.”
Looking back on the 2021-22 season
Looking back on last season, Following the Olympics, Moltzan wrapped it up with a slew of consistent finishes and World Cup points in both SL and GS, as well as her first U.S. nationals slalom title and a runner-up in GS.
In addition, in April Moltzan displayed a riveting performance in her first ever World Pro Ski Tour appearance. Specifically, in Taos N.M. at the tour’s final stop, Moltzan handily won the WPST parallel super slalom and was on her way to another top spot in the parallel GS when she crashed and suffered a concussion in the final round. Nonetheless, Moltzan finished as the event’s overall champion, earning $51,300.
“On paper, it looks good,” she says of last season. “From a skiing perspective, you always feel like you had much more to give. But we’re a sport of milliseconds, so it’s hard to beat yourself up too much. I’m proud of my first Olympic performance. I’m really happy with how my GS progressed. Learning to do two events is not easy, but it’s been a fun experience. If you’re in a rut in one event, you’ve got the other to pick you back up.”
Not looking to add speed events
That said, Moltzan has no aspirations to add speed to her schedule (although she was a solid top 10 finisher in super G during her early Nor-Am days).
“I don’t have the mindset to be a speed skier,” she says. “Going into it as a 28-year-old is not the best career move. I like to watch it, though.”
Moltzan is looking forward to 2022/23
Moltzan, for the first time in years, will head to an on-snow camp in New Zealand and train through the end of August, returning to do some last-minute preparations before her wedding in September. She’ll then head to Europe to train with the U.S. Tech Team and has a modest outlook for the upcoming season.
“Not many people get a second chance at the World Cup,” she says. “I’d like to pop into top seven in slalom and top 15 in GS. I have never been a short-term goal maker. It can detract from the process. So I’m planning on building on last season’s results, ensuring I’m only taking steps forward.”