As the only rookie on the U.S. Ski Team for this weekend's World Cup alpine skiing season opener in Austria, Girdwood's Kieffer Christianson was treated earlier this week to the traditional haircut given to rookies by the team's veterans.
The moment was captured in a photo on the U.S. Ski Team's Twitter feed, which shows Ted Ligety having a go at Christianson's red hair.
Make your own judgment on how the hair turned out, but clippers aside, Christianson could barely be in better company as he prepares for his World Cup debut.
Ligety is the winner of the last two season-opening races in Soelden, Austria, an Olympic champion who will be among the favorites not just this weekend in Soelden but in February in Sochi, Russia. Ligety and Olympic champion Bode Miller, who is also racing in Soelden, are among alpine skiing's biggest stars -- and the guys Christianson goes to work with these days.
A member of the U.S. development team since 2010, Christianson earned a promotion this summer that put him at the same training camps as the nation's World Cup team for slalom and giant slalom skiers. Since July, he has trained with top members of team in New Zealand, Chile and now Austria.
Christianson, 21, is one of nine skiers -- and the only World Cup rookie -- named to the U.S. Ski Team roster for a pair of giant slalom races at Soelden. He is one of six men, a group that also includes Olympic gold medalists Ligety and Miller.
Christianson, a senior at Dartmouth College, is coming off his best season, one in which he finished third in the overall Nor-Am Cup standings, a North American race circuit one step below the World Cup.
He's the first Alaskan in more than a decade to suit up for the U.S. team for a World Cup alpine race, but he will be the second member of his family to race on the World Cup.
His older brother Charles had four World Cup starts in the 2011-12 season, but Charles raced as an independent -- not as a member of the U.S. Ski Team. He has since retired due to injury.
Kieffer was born in 1992, during the heyday of Alaska alpine skiing. Hilary Lindh of Juneau won an Olympic silver medal that year, and two years later Tommy Moe of Palmer won gold and silver.
But no Alaskan has raced in an alpine event at the Winter Olympics since 1998, when Moe competed in his third and final Olympics. Since then, only two Alaskans have earned spots on the national team -- Christianson and, in 2000, Anchorage's Andre Horton, who didn't make it to the World Cup level.
Christianson's jump to the World Cup team has meant an increase in funding from the U.S. Ski Team. But he still needs to come up with $25,000 on his own, according to mother Cynthia Pickering Christianson.
He recently posted a YouTube video as part of his fundraising efforts, in which Christianson says his goal for this season -- to break onto the World Cup circuit and to race in Sochi at the Olympics.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
• See Kieffer Christianson's YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmXMLWb8z_o
• Universal Sports Network will air the men's giant slalom live online and on TV starting at 3:30 a.m. ADT Sunday.
By BETH BRAGG