By Todd Brickson, Rowmark Program Director
Italian born Alessandro (Ale) Gandini joined our school and ski academy team for his senior year. Ale is a strong student and an elite ski racer who has proven very quickly to be a great teammate as well. He is quickly integrating into our team and rapidly increasing his English fluency. Ale was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about his upbringing, his choice to attend our school and ski program, and his experience so far.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Venice, Italy. I grew up in Treviso until I was five years old and then our family moved to Cortina.
Do you have siblings?
I have two brothers: Enrico, who is 16 years old, and Clemente, who is 12 years old. They are both ski racers.
How long have you been skiing?
I have been skiing since I was five years old and ski racing since I was eight as part of the Sci Club Cortina. The ski club is organized by age and is mostly based on having fun and freeskiing at the younger ages with some gate training. Then I joined Sci Club Drusce this past season which gave me a big boost and really helped my technique and tactics to be even more competitive.
Did you play other sports?
Yes, I played ice hockey from five until fourteen years old. When it became too difficult to do both ski racing and hockey, I chose ski racing.
How did you get interested in Rowmark?
I heard about it from a friend of my parents, who described a place in Utah that had a school with a great combination of academics and ski racing, so they looked into it and I applied.
Have you ever been to the United States before your arrived in August?
Yes, once in 2004 at three years old I went to Miami with my family, but I was too young to remember it.
How is Utah different from where you grew up in Italy?
Utah is a place with a big city, but not huge, that also has all the facilities and mountain slopes where you can reach everything so fast and everything is so close. It feels like the center of the US. You can do everything here.
Italy is a wonderful place where everything is also close. Every corner has a particular story and a lot of history everywhere you go. Venice is two hours away from Cortina, Bologna is four and a half hours, and Milan is five hours. Innsbruck, Austria, is also close, about three hours.
How is the food here?
It is so different. Much more variety than where I come from. The burgers are so good here, especially with bacon! In Italy you eat Italian food and maybe sushi sometimes.
How is your school in Italy different from Rowland Hall?
In Italy I went to a public school with no connection between sport and academics. There were some good teachers who really helped, but most didn’t understand the time and commitment to do sport at a high level. At Rowland Hall there is a lot more support, but you still need to do your best and work hard. Then it works well.
Is Rowland Hall difficult for you so far?
It’s harder than my Italian school but the organization is much better. It is tough to stay on time with assignments. I can’t be lazy anymore.
How was it to go back to Italy in late September for the Italy Rowmark ski camp?
It was emotional at first. My good Italian friends were only three hours away and I was able to see them one night. Being with an American team in Italy was a pleasure. My friends realized that I was skiing with Americans and they said that was so cool. They know of Salt Lake City and Park City because of the 2002 Olympics. Many Italians know how good the skiing is in Utah.
What are your academic goals?
One thing that is very interesting for me is skiing for a US college with strong academics, possibly Williams or Dartmouth. Another possible goal is going back to a college in Switzerland or Italy. At those schools I would be able to enter the University FIS races but it would be on my own. I don’t know yet, but a US college is very interesting to me because I can continue to pursue both academics and ski racing like I can here at Rowmark and Rowland Hall.
What are your skiing goals?
Reaching the World Cup is a dream. The real dream is racing the World Alpine Ski Championships in my home town, Cortina, in 2021, or in the Olympics in Bormio/Cortina in 2026. Even forerunning these events would be amazing. Another goal is being part of the Italian Army ski team. You have to be very good to make this team, between 30–40 FIS points.
What is your best experience so far over the first three months you have been in the United States?
A long weekend in New York three weeks ago was unbelievable. I went there with some Italian friends of my family who live in Sweden and spend a lot of time in New York because of business. It is huge, spinning around, alive. Mountains of buildings. Great to visit but I can’t see myself living there.
How is your host family?
They are lovely. They include me in everything and give me a lot of support. It has been fantastic. I feel like I am part of the family. The bond will last a long time.
Any difficult experiences so far since you have been in the United States?
Nothing yet! One thing is my first CrossFit workout with my host family at 5:45 am and it was overwhelming and really hard. I hadn’t eaten yet; I wasn’t in the best shape. It was a tough experience. Then afterward the Rowland Hall shower before school was cold!
What are you looking forward to this school year experience?
I want to bring from the United States back to Italy something that will last a long time: good values, taking as many good things as possible, and bringing them back to my country, but not to gain too much weight!