McKennis still a speedy skier

Jeff CaspersenPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Magic Photography Sun Valley, ID/Special to the Post Independent

NEW CASTLE – Despite carrying one of the lightest offseason regimens in her recent history, Alice McKennis’ alpine ski season is off to quite the start.

The 18-year-old New Castle native, at home in Colorado for the holidays, has already scored four top-10 finishes in a pair of Canada Nor-Am Cup stops.”This summer was the least amount I’ve skied in three years,” said McKennis. “I just wanted to take a break, relax and be at home.”The globe-trotting teen, who trains at Rowmark Ski Academy in Park City, Utah, and makes the road her home during competition season, rarely gets a chance to check in with her family at their ranch in New Castle. That’s what made the summer so special.”I’m really glad I did it,” she said. “It was great to be home for more than three weeks. I had been gone almost two months straight, which was pretty much a record for me.”When I was younger, I was mostly racing in Colorado, which was pretty easy. You just drive there the day before. The past three years, it’s been different. It’s been hard.”McKennis, armed with goals of making the U.S. Ski Team and skiing the World Cup series, still found time for the slopes during the offseason, twice trekking to South America to take advantage of winter south of the equator.

“I went to La Parva (Chile) and trained downhill and super-G a lot. I went to Valle Nevado (Chile) for (giant slalom) and slalom,” she said. “I just got in some really good training. Definitely training in the summer time is crucial to the whole season. It’s worth going down there twice.”Beyond that, McKennis put in plenty of gym time, worked a summer job and toiled on her family’s horse ranch.”Nothing really exciting, but being home was great,” she said. But now it’s back to travel time for McKennis, whose three Nor-Am Cup races this season have yielded impressive results.She kicked it all off by competing amid a loaded field at Keystone in late November. There, she finished 42nd and 51st in two giant slalom races. Things went much better in McKennis’ two stops north of the border the first two weekends of December. She placed ninth and 10th in downhill races at Lake Louise, Alberta, and fifth and seventh in super-G races in Panorama, British Columbia.

“I’m pretty happy about four top 10s in four races,” she said. “Keystone, those races didn’t go so well. It was a harder field as well, pretty much a World Cup field.”On Friday, McKennis made a stop in Vail to ski in the Surefoot Colorado Ski Cup, where she took on fierce competition including some U.S. Ski team members and still came away with sixth-place and eighth-place finishes in two giant slalom runs.McKennis hopes to build on her early-season success and earn a spot on the U.S. Ski Team in the not-too-distant future. “I feel like I’m pretty close,” she said. “I was very close last year. I feel like I’m right in there. I’ve been finishing in front of most of the development team girls. I felt like that’s a good thing.”McKennis, who excels at pretty much everything she does, is also a beast in the classroom. At just 18, she’ll wrap up a degree in business through Phoenix Online. She earned her GED at 16 after a childhood of home-schooling.Her future is bright – blindingly so – but for now, McKennis is just happy to be home for the holidays.”I’ll just see where it goes,” she said. “I’ll be here all for Christmas. That’ll be really nice.”

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