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Canadian alpine star John Kucera reveals where to find Kitzbuhel's best après scene

What's your favourite hill?

For recreational skiing, it's Whistler, it's a ton of fun. It's massive, lots of snow and there's so many runs to choose from you never have to ski the same thing twice. The runs are exciting for a recreational skier. But for racing, there's a couple of courses in Europe, especially Kitzbuhel in Austria. It's cool to come down to the finish with a couple of thousand fans cheering - who understand what they're watching. Wengen, in Switzerland, is also unique because of its length, about five kilometres long. You try to stay tight all the way and, by the end, your legs are shaking.

What's the most daring run?

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Got to be Kitzbuhel. It breaks down into two parts: the mental aspect and the traditional. You pause to think about the people who have almost lost their lives there. Then, you think of the Canadians who won there, and the cold nerves it took to win [Ken Read, 1980, Steve Podborski, 1981-82, Todd Brooker, 1983] They prepare that course to be tough. It's a course where you have to be 100-per-cent focused or there's a serious chance of getting hurt.

What hill scares you the most?

I'll go with Kitzbuhel again. It has its own personality. I'd never seen it and I was already scared of it. You know the run is going to last just under two minutes, but only two seconds into the course you're going off a 60-metre jump; then at the sides of the course, you're hanging on for dear life.

Where do you avoid?

It's an inherently dangerous sport, but I'd never say I avoid a course. Maybe as a rookie I felt that way about Kitzbuhel.

Where's your favourite backcountry?

The area around Whistler is good and I've heard Revelstoke is good. Mainly, I'd go heli-skiing. Guides go anywhere they can take you. There's fluffy powder and some of the best days of recreational skiing take place there.

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Your favourite après-ski?

The Londoner in Kitzbuhel. I know it sounds like a commercial, but it has a reputation of being a whole lot of fun for Canadians, going back to Ken Read's days. Unfortunately, I can't share those stories with a newspaper.

Where was your a-ha moment, when you realized, "I want to be an Olympian"?

It's hard to identify one moment. I won a 12-to-14-age-group title and was excited because it was in a field with skiers I looked up to. When I finally won a World Cup at Lake Louise, it gave me a huge perspective. It showed me what was possible. When I won a world [downhill]championship in 2009 - I was, what's the word, ecstatic? I was the little guy who'd fought through adversity. It showed me where hard work had taken me. It got me excited about what's to come.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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