No offseason for McKennis |

No offseason for McKennis

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
World Cup Finals in Schladming, Austria - March 11-18, 2012
Mitchell Gunn | Mitchell Gunn

The word offseason doesn’t exist in the vocabulary of a World Cup skier.

Much of the winter’s snow has melted off Colorado’s peaks, but New Castle’s Alice McKennis and her fellow U.S. Ski Team members aren’t in the midst of an idle summer.

McKennis just left New Zealand, where she and her teammates put in some training time on the snow at Mount Hutt.

Next, it’s off to Park City for a spell and then to Chile for another training camp. She’ll mix in a little time in her home state here and there ahead of the forthcoming season, which begins for McKennis with December’s World Cup stop in Lake Louise, Alberta, where she burst onto the World Cup scene back in late 2009 with a 10th-place downhill finish.

“I will be spending time in Park City and home in Colorado for the rest of the summer when I’m not skiing,” relayed McKennis, who turns 23 years old on Aug. 19. “I am really happy to be able to spend more time in Colorado this summer. I have missed my home state.”

She’s certainly made her home state proud in recent years, racking up a number of top-10 downhill finishes on the World Cup circuit and making the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Games.

McKennis’ accomplishments during the 2011-12 season revealed the young speed specialist’s moxie. Her previous campaign was cut short by a tibial plateau fracture suffered during a super-G training run crash in January of 2011. McKennis’ ski tips crossed in Saalbach, Austria, and a nasty spill followed.

After months of rehabilitating the left leg injury, McKennis returned to the snow with a flourish. Her most gratifying achievement of the season came in February: a 10th-place downhill finish in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“I was struggling up to that point and finally put it all together,” said McKennis, who notched multiple top-10 finishes this past season. “Feeling like myself again racing felt really good. I knew I had it in myself. It just took some time to get it all together again.”

Up until that point, the injury and a lack of on-mountain training left McKennis lacking confidence.

“I only had 10 days of gate training in before the first race, while most of my teammates had around 40 days, so I didn’t feel that comfortable, but enough so that I was ready to race,” she said. “I started off the season with a great finish in Lake Louise, but after that, I struggled a lot mentally to be able to pull everything together again.”

Eventually, McKennis unearthed the confidence that spurred her to previous World Cup success.

“When February rolled around, I was finally able to talk myself into believing in myself a lot more and it all came together in the Olympic test event in Sochi,” she remarked. “I had a good run there and, after that, I had the confidence in myself to ski fast and enjoy racing again.”

McKennis bounced back to become a big contributor as part of a historically dominant U.S. Ski Team women’s downhill crew.

“I am really pleased with how last season went,” McKennis said. “To have my best World Cup race season ever after an injury was really special. I didn’t get that much training in before the season, so I learned a lot about myself and how, even if things aren’t perfect from the beginning, you can still be successful.”

McKennis is inching toward 100 percent on the health front. She had a plate and screws removed from her leg in April, and underwent a procedure to repair the cartilage damage in her knee from the 2011 injury.

“I spent four weeks in crutches, so I was pretty limited on the activities I could do this spring, but I am feeling good now,” she said. “I was in Park City training in the gym at the U.S. Ski Team Center of Excellence for part of May and all of June to get strong again before getting on snow in New Zealand in mid-July. I am still limited on the amount of skiing and training I can do right now, but I’m way ahead of where I was last summer and I’m really looking forward to our training camp in Chile in September, where we will be training downhill and super-G.”

McKennis’ goal is to reach the podium this season, something she knows is within her reach.

“I feel like I am close now to getting on the podium,” she said. “It just takes the right day to do it.”

Given what she’s already persevered through, it’s impossible to doubt the speedy skier who’s always on the move.

Said McKennis: “It sounds cliche, but one of the biggest things I have learned is that when you are confident and believe in yourself, you can overcome a lot of difficulties that might lie in your path.”

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