03/19/2015 09:17 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Canada's Dustin Cook caps breakout ski season with World Cup victory

At a crossroads just a few months ago, Canada's Dustin Cook proved to himself that ski racing is exactly what he should be doing with his life.

Cook capped a breakout season by winning the men's super-G Thursday at the season-ending World Cup finals in Meribel, France. The top 25 skiers in each discipline qualified for the finals.

Among the men Cook beat for his first career victory was runner-up Kjetil Jansrud. The Norwegian claimed the season's overall super-G title.

"I absolutely went into today wanting to win," Cook told reporters on a conference call. "It just really kind of eases my mind that this is what I really should and want to be doing for as long as I can."

Cook finished .05 seconds ahead of Jansrud, the reigning Olympic super-G champion. Roger Brice of France was .08 behind in third.

Cook had never finished in the top 10 in a World Cup when he won a surprise silver in super-G at the world championship Feb. 5 in Vail, Colo. He backed up that result with a World Cup bronze March 8 in Kvitfjell, Norway.

The 26-year-old grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que.

After finishing outside the top 30 in most of his 2013-14 races, Cook wondered aloud to a friend last summer what his future was in his sport.

"I don't think I was actually that close to retiring, but I was at the point where I was questioning what I should be doing," Cook recalled

"We were having a couple of beers. I said 'I'm having second thoughts about this. I'm not really sure I want to keep doing this.' He said 'You've got to give yourself that chance because you've been doing it for so long. Just give yourself that opportunity.'

"The question that struck me the most was: 'What else are you going to do?'"

Super-G combines the turns of giant slalom with open sections of terrain for speed. Cook races downhill, but excels in both giant slalom and super-G.

"They're one of the most challenging types of athletes to manage just because of the training environments required for both of those disciplines are quite different," Alpine Canada vice-president Paul Kristofic said.

"It takes a fair bit of individual planning. Where are you going to train and how much are you going to train of which discipline? Also, how do you organize your support staff around that?"

Cook finished the season ranked fifth in the world in super-G. With a ranking of 30th in giant slalom, Cook didn't qualify for the men's final Saturday.

But his ascension gives Canada's alpine ski team another medal threat on the road to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Former world downhill champion Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., didn't race this season while he rehabilitated from a pair of off-season knee surgeries. Calgary's Jan Hudec, an Olympic bronze medallist in super-G, underwent season-ending knee surgery in January.

Manny Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., finished second in the season-opening downhill in Lake, Louise, Alta., and again in Kvitfjell. Osborne-Paradis was 16th on Thursday.

Cook finished in the top 15 in each of his first three super-G races this winter, which he says built momentum for the back half of his season.

"Those successes I had at the beginning of the year in Lake Louise, Beaver Creek and Val Gardena, even though they weren't podiums, to me, those were huge results," he explained. "They backed up what I was doing in training."

Ski racing is not a cheap sport. Cook helped his bank account by earning $51,000 in World Cup prize money this season.

"For sure, it sets me up to be a little bit more financially free," he said. "Hopefully sponsorships will open up and that kind of thing."

Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Erin Mielzynski of Collingwood, Ont., will race women's slalom Saturday. Marie-Pier Prefontaine of St-Sauveur, Que., competes in Sunday's giant slalom.