We had the chance to speak with Alice McKennis, World Cup alpine ski racer specializing in downhill & super G. Alice snagged her first World Cup downhill victory last Winter, shortly before shattering one of her leg’s tibial plateau into 30+ pieces. She spent the Summer recovering, rehabilitating and training, and now has her eyes set on Sochi. She hit the slopes again in November and is officially back in action for World Cup races! From her first time on the slopes, to her mindset while overcoming injuries, right down to her guilty TV show pleasures, here’s what we learned about Alice!
When and where did you learn to ski? Have you ever tried your hand at snowboarding? I learned to ski at Sunlight Mountain, just outside of Glenwood Springs, CO. My Dad taught me to ski there when I was 2 years old. I have never tried snowboarding! Maybe some day…
How old were you when you realized you wanted to compete? What was running through your mind during your first race? I think I was probably around five when I started thinking about racing. I had seen older kids race and thought it was pretty cool. In my very first race at Sunlight, I remember racing a Giant Slalom. I got a little close to a gate and ended up hooking my ski around one of the gates, I was really stuck and a gate keeper had to come help me. Thinking back, it is a pretty hilarious picture in my mind of being five and getting stuck in a GS gate. I probably did not love ski racing that day.
Which athletes did you admire most growing up, and who do you look up to now? I always looked up to Daron Rahlves growing up. He was and still is the man. I remember watching him race at Birds of Prey and meeting him once and being in such awe. Nowadays I look up to athletes that are stand up people and give back, I like the type of athlete that is more concerned with creating a legacy that helps others rather than trying to be a celebrity.
What has been your most memorable moment in skiing so far? My first World Cup victory last season in St. Anton, Austria. I have always dreamed of being a World Cup winner and to have it happen will forever be one of my best memories skiing.
What is it like overcoming huge setbacks (specifically with regard to your broken leg and tibia plateau injuries) to achieve the level of success you have? Do you have any advice for others who are struggling with similar setbacks or injuries? Having broken first my left tibia plateau (three years ago), then my right tibia plateau and tibia this past season has given me such a greater appreciation for the small things in life. You often don’t realize how much you love something till you can’t do it. My love for skiing has been the one motivating factor to push myself through the struggles of rehab in order to return to skiing at my best.
When I got back on snow this fall after 8 months of rehab after the first turn I knew all my work at recovering had been worth it. I love to ski and even when it hurts me, I keep coming back – I must have an addiction! Winning in St. Anton last winter was more than a victory for me. I was able to show myself that no matter how hard the struggle is to recover from an injury, I still can be the best if I have faith in myself.
My advice to an injured person or someone experiencing a setback is to keep things in perspective, it can always be worse! Chances are someone else has had a more severe injury than you, a thought that helped me pick my head up on tough days when I wanted to give up. Always remember the progress you have made – it may not seem like much day-to-day but when I look back to 8 months ago, I remember how far I have come.
What’s the most interesting or unique place you’ve skied so far and why? Sochi, Russia. It is close to the ocean, it’s in Russia (not a place you normally ski), there’s lots of security, and there’s really good skiing! Rosa Khutor is a really fun mountain – not many people up there, so you can get freshies wherever!
What’s the next place on your list that you’ve been dying to ski but haven’t yet? Alaska! I want to go heli-skiing in Alaska, really bad…
What’s your training regimen like, both in season and out of season? Skiing might be a Winter sport but for me it is year round! We normally get the month of April off to do “Active Rest” then we ski in Mammoth in May, Chile in July, Chile in September. When we are not on snow it is time spent in the gym, which can be up to 6 days a week. I like to mountain bike a lot in the summer as a way to have fun yet still be working hard at getting in better shape.
In just a few sentences, what does the road to Sochi look like? Extremely challenging, rewarding, exciting! Making the Women’s Speed team for Sochi will be challenging because of how fast our team is and the limited number of start positions at the Olympics. All in all it is rewarding and exciting to work hard from something you are so invested in.
20 years from now, what do you want to be remembered for? Being one of the best Downhillers in ski racing history. Also as a good ambassador to younger generations of athletes.
If you weren’t a professional skier, what could you see yourself doing instead? Something outside! Raft guide (love rafting), ranching (grew up on a ranch), something with horses, ski bum.
What 10 songs to have you been listening to while hitting to slopes or training lately? Better Dig Two (The Band Perry), Cruise (Florida Georgia Line), The Longest Road (Morgan Page), Dancing on my own (Robyn), Call your Girlfriend (Robyn) Punching in a Dream (Naked and Famous) Any man of Mine (Shania Twain), Mouthful of Diamonds (Phantogram),
Rapid fire! What is…
your all-time favorite ski film? Hot Dog
your go-to breakfast before a big day on the slopes? Cereal (it’s fast)
your go-to meal after an intense competition? Some sort of probably gross tasting protein shake/bar
your go-to après drink after a long day on the slopes? BEER!
your favorite run or mountain? Ruthie’s Run, Ajax. Early morning, going really fast!
your favorite thing to do for fun, outside of skiing? Spending time with my family or boyfriend.
your guiltiest indulgence? TV shows Downton Abbey and Nashville
the weirdest thing you’ve seen from a chairlift? A dog chasing a racer down a slalom course in Chile. We named him Turbo.