Alpine skiers go the indie route
After winning the Nor Am giant slalom (GS) title last season, Park City’s Megan McJames earned a much-sought-after spot on the 2012-13 World Cup circuit.
McJames, a 2010 Olympian, World Cup and World Championship veteran, was cut from the U.S. Ski Team this spring due to financial constraints. And McJames had to figure out a new way to continue competing on the World Cup GS circuit.
Fellow Park City Ski Team alumna Hailey Duke went through the same thing as McJames after qualifying for the World Cup circuit next year in slalom.
Together, the pair hatched an idea. They would create their own small-scale ski team.
"We just said, ‘Let’s do this,’" McJames, 24, explained. "It was our dream to race World Cup. I thought, ‘This is my opportunity and that’s why I’m going to keep doing what I love doing.’"
So McJames and Duke created the Independent Ski Racing Team. The team, according to McJames, is a way "to build and customize the ideal training environment to reach the peak of our careers next season." The Independent Ski Racing Team also includes up-and-comers Katie Hartman, a World University Games Super G Champion and University of Colorado All-American, and Lena Andrews, a talented young junior racer.
But the costs of following those alpine dreams are expensive. McJames and Duke must raise $50,000 apiece prior to the season to pay for worldwide travel and equipment expenses. The fundraising organization they’ve set up is called The Athlete Project, and all donations will go directly to the fund their drive for World Cup points this season.
"I feel like, since I worked really hard to win that Nor Am title, I just better take advantage of that spot next year," McJames said. "I have some really fast turns in me still. It’s about making fast turns on race day and having some fun doing it.
"So far everyone has been very supportive; the main problem is the fundraising aspect of it."
Pat Andrews, Lena’s father, who has been involved with alpine skiing the last decade through his daughter and other projects, was brought on board to help manage the logistical side of the ski team.
And there are some roadblocks.
"Our real role is to provide the basic ski service for all the girls," he said. "I’m wearing a lot of hats right now."
That includes preparing for off-season training, casual races and trips across the globe. The team has an upcoming camp starting June 19 in Mount Hood, Ore. From there the squad will go to New Zealand from July 25 to August 22 before heading to Europe the beginning of October to ramp up the season’s preparations.
Asked about the stresses of managing a team with two World Cup athletes and two talented youngsters (one of whom is his daughter), Pat Andrews said "stress" isn’t the right word.
"It’s an opportunity to do something that’s pretty historic," he said. "I would say I’m excited about it and I know the girls are excited about the opportunity to be able to form their own support and their own environment.
"Would I tell you I wake up some mornings and have a lump in my throat? Absolutely."
Andrews acknowledged that there is work to be done, but he hopes the athletes can keep their preparations at the level they have been in recent years.
"We have a good group of girls that are all at a very high level," he said. "To be involved with that group of athlete on a day-to-day basis is a pretty overwhelming thing.
"We have a list of about 100,000 things to do and we are on No. 53 right now."
For more information on the Independent Ski Racing Team or how to donate to the cause, go to http://www.athlete-project.com .
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