Ski Racer Wife Paula Moltzan and Ski Tech Husband Ryan Mooney Make for a Great Team
by Brian Pinelli
In the sport of ski racing – where success or failure is often determined by tenths or even hundredths of a second – the role of a racer’s ski technician is absolutely critical.
A top-notch ski tech spends countless hours tuning, sharpening, waxing, grinding and ultimately predicting, and advising upon the best pair for the given snow and weather conditions. The rigorous work is usually conducted during late hours before early morning races and often in a dingy basement. It can be a thankless job.
Paula Moltzan’s trusty ski technician happens to have another equally as important role and responsibility. Ryan Mooney is both her ski tech and husband.
“It is definitely a more unique situation – I think we might be the only duo of husband and wife out there on the [FIS Alpine] World Cup Tour,” Moltzan told Team USA in an interview. “He knows exactly how I like my skis for whatever type of snow there is.”
The 2023-24 FIS World Cup season is the second that Mooney is meticulously preparing Moltzan's GS and slalom skis as her serviceman and husband. The couple married in September 2022. Their relationship as ski racer and ski technician extends back further.
“He’s been my serviceman for so long; I think since 2016, so it would be weird if he wasn’t doing my skis,” she says. “You obviously trust your coaches and servicemen, but when it comes to your life partner, there’s another layer of trust there.
“I try to be very professional when I talk to him as my technician and then after the ski day and training, when we’re at home making dinner, he’s my husband and not my serviceman. At the same time, it’s hard not to talk ski racing all the time when your life revolves around it.”
Mooney happily assumes yet a third important contribution to their relationship.
“He is an insanely talented cook, so he does the skis and a lot of the cooking too,” Moltzan informs.
With a pair of slalom races in Levi, Finland, up next, Nov. 11-12, Moltzan and Mooney are once again traveling across Europe and North America in search of speed with teammates on the U.S. women’s tech team. They’ll go to battle at 22 GS and slalom races, spread across 13 resorts and 10 countries. The busy calendar includes two upcoming races on U.S. snow – roughly a two-hour drive away from their Massachusetts home – in Killington, Vermont, Nov. 25-26.
A member of the U.S. Ski Team since 2012, Moltzan, 29, grew up in Prior Lake, Minn, while Mooney, 27, hails from Charlemont, Mass., where the couple reside when not hopping around the globe. They met during a training camp in Chile and both enrolled, not coincidentally, at the University of Vermont. Moltzan captured an NCAA slalom title as a freshman in 2017, while racing for the Catamounts. Mooney retired from competitive racing following the 2019 season.
“Ryan was a really good ski racer and he just happened to fall into my lap as my technician. I honestly think that If Ryan and I weren’t together, he’d still be ski racing,” Moltzan says.
“He is kind of my point man with everything. We’ve been together for 11 years, so he knows me pretty well.”
Moltzan, a 2022 Olympian, finished seventh in last season’s world cup slalom standings and 11th in GS, her best career performances across both disciplines. She charged to her first career podium, finishing second behind U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin, at a night slalom on Dec. 29, in Semmering, Austria.
The Minnesota ski racer proceeded to win world championship gold, alongside U.S. teammates Nina O’Brien, River Radamus and Tommy Ford, in the mixed team parallel event in Méribel, France, last February.
Shiffrin, who now possesses 88 career FIS World Cup victories, says Moltzan is on the verge of her first career world cup triumph.
“I’m really excited to watch Paula to race – there is a lot of potential there, especially after Semmering last year,” Shiffrin said, before this season’s opening races in Soelden, Austria. “Her next podium is just a matter of when and I’m also very excited for her first win.”
Moltzan is striving to help deliver a formidable Team USA 1-2 punch with Shiffrin.
“I would love to have plenty more 1-2s with her, in both slalom and GS – that is the goal and the plan,” Moltzan says.
As the world cup season kicked off in Soelden on Oct. 28, Moltzan clocked the second fastest, second run, only behind GS race winner Lara Gut-Behrami. It propelled her to 11th place after a disappointing first run, while displaying her speed, tenacity and finely-tuned Rossignol skis.
When not perfecting his wife’s racing skis, boots and bindings, Mooney also serves as a photographer for the U.S. Ski Team. Moltzan says that she and her husband attempt to plan much needed breaks from their work on the mountain, when possible, and spend quality time together.
“I just love to ski, so when we have time off, we’ll go freeskiing and touring together. We also hike and bike a lot – we love food and wine, so we do like to find space between the ski racing world and our personal life,” Moltzan says.
Moltzan continues her focus on carving quick and precise turns on icy slopes in search of world cup podiums, while starting to look ahead to the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. Her husband appears content with the art of delivering the fastest skis possible, day in and day out.
Moltzan says there is “no secret sauce” to cooking up success.
“Communication is obviously huge in any relationship, but especially so when you’re dabbling with two different things together.
“There’s definitely been plenty of hiccups in our career – we’re very much opposites. I’m very much a spitfire that can run hot and he’s as a cool as a cucumber, and that’s why it works out so well.”