Editor's note: The Post Independent's sister publication, The Aspen Times, is partnering with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association this winter to provide firsthand accounts and weekly updates on the Roaring Fork Valley's world-class athletes. In this installment of "Athlete Spotlight," New Castle's Alice McKennis talks about the World Cup season's first speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta.
So it begins. The first races of the season are finished, and we are on our way to Europe for the next two weeks for more racing in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Val d' Isere, France. Tough life!
The first races in Lake Louise, Alberta, were a mixed bag for me. I had one terrible downhill training run where I skied like I was from Texas. Sorry, Texas people: You have great barbecue, but I can't say your state is known for your skiers. My second downhill training run was going great, but then I decided to try sitting back and got compressed and flew into the A-net at 60 mph. It was a direct hit with my head into the fence, but luckily I was mostly unscathed. I had to take the next day off and miss the final training run due to some swelling and pain in my left knee, not to mention the whiplash that I am still experiencing.
Finally our first downhill race day arrived. I was so excited to finally get going after a long summer of training in the gym and on snow. I had bib 27, but unfortunately the weather was bad - lots of fog. So after sending 26 racers, I was held in the start for more than an hour. I was standing in the start watching it dump snow - not ideal conditions for downhill racing.
Finally, they sent one forerunner, and then it was my turn. As soon as I went out of the gate, I knew I had no chance. With all the new snow on the course, my skis were sticking and not gliding at all. It was kind of like that feeling you get spring skiing when the snow is melting, and you nearly crash after skiing through a puddle because you think you are 5 years old again and it is a great idea to ski through puddles, but you end up nearly pre-releasing when your skis come to screeching halt in the puddle and you look like a total dork.
I may be exaggerating a little, but I still tried and had no chance. Five seconds out. Ouch, not fun. Of the next five girls to start, all who have been top 10 in World Cup races, only one managed to finish in the top 30. Yikes. That is ski racing though, sometimes the weather is on your side and other times it is totally out of your control and you get hosed. On to the next race.
Day 2 of downhill racing went much better for me. I had an early start number and came down with a half-second lead that I held onto for the next few racers before being eventually bumped to 11th. It was a solid run with a couple mistakes, but after a frustrating day the day before, I was happy with solid result. I am ready to take the next step, though.
Super G race day was a mixed bag as well. I did really well in sections - top 15 in some splits - but way back there in others. It is a step forward, though, after struggling so much last season in super G. In the next super G, in St. Moritz, I will get in there!
To finish this off, though, I have to mention the historic weekend the U.S. Ski Team had in Lake Louise. We went 1-2 all three days. Lindsey Vonn won all three days with Stacey Cook earning her first podium results in second place in both downhill races and Julia Mancuso placing second in the super G. Both Lindsey and Julia have been on the podium a lot, but to see Stacey get up there was really inspiring, Stacey is the same age as Lindsey and Julia and has been at this sport as long as anyone. She earned her podium results every step of the way; Stacey has worked so hard, and in a sport that sees so many prodigy children that people obsess over, it is great to see an older racer that has been at it for a while get up there. Way to go Stacey! You deserve it!
Anyway, until the next races I'll keep my fingers crossed for more snow in Colorado. I want to ski some powder over Christmas!