Local athlete skis her way to World Cup start
21-year-old Alex Jenson won the U.S. Selections in December
For the last four years, Alex Jenson has attended the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup event at Deer Valley Resort. She’d go and watch the circuit’s best skiers battle it out at the local resort, as the aspiring mogul skier took in all she could.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Jenson was watching the famous athletes she looked up to, literally, from the crowd and decided she should be racing.
“I think last year was the first year that I watched it and was like, ‘I can totally be there. I am ready for this. I want to be there,’” Jenson said.
Jenson will finally get that chance one year later.
In late December, Jenson, who has lived in Park City for the last half-decade after growing up in Maine, competed in the U.S. Selections competition in Winter Park, Colorado. The winner of the first two days of the three-day event earned a slot to compete in the 2017 World Cup circuit in its two American stops at Deer Valley and Lake Placid.
It was Jenson, competing for Team Park City United, who finished on top. She even opted to sit out the third day because her World Cup start was well in hand.
“It was kind of surreal,” Jenson said. “I was just skiing and having fun. I think that’s what was different this time around. I was just having fun with it and trying not to put that pressure on myself. I was just trying to ski my run.”
Just skiing her run has given Jenson the opportunity to compete in the World Cup stop at Deer Valley for the first time since moving out West. A newly-developed mental attitude of relaxing before the start of races helped Jenson get to this point.
“[My coaches and I] started joking in the start gate, joking at the start of the course,” Jenson said of her routine leading up to races. “We try to keep everything light and not too serious. … By the end of last season, I was finally getting back into a normal mental state. I just think all the pieces finally came together.
“I felt like I’ve been capable of skiing up to this level for over two years now. It was nice to see those pieces finally come together.”
Depending on how Jenson performs at the World Cup stop in Lake Placid on Jan. 13 and Deer Valley in February, her stay on the circuit can be as long or as short as she makes it. Winning Selections was her ultimate goal, at least to start the season, and now that she’s done that, she just hopes to keep this momentum rolling.
Like any athlete who takes a jump to the next level, Jenson wants to perform her best, but to ensure she does so, her routine will remain the same.
“With my coach, we’ve talked about using the same gameplan going into the World Cup,” Jenson said. “Just do what I’m capable of doing, ski my run, do everything I’m trained to do and try not to put so much pressure on myself.”
It’s always been about skiing for Jenson. She always had a little daredevil in here by hitting the jumps in the terrain park or looking for kickers off of the sides of runs ever since she was 6 years old back in Maine. When she was 9, she took up freestyle skiing at hasn’t looked back.
She moved out to Park City five years ago and continues to train with Team Park City United on her mogul skiing. Most of her life is dedicated to skiing, but the 21-year-old also goes to school at the University of Utah, where she is studying biology.
It can be a hectic schedule, especially now that some of her classes are starting to cross with her skiing regime. Some of the classes she needs to graduate won’t be available for her to take, unless she stopped skiing.
“I kind of accepted that I’d be on a different plan for college basically when I chose to go into mogul skiing,” Jenson said. “It wasn’t too hard for me to transition into that.”
But her plan is to continue her skiing career for as long as she can, even if that means delaying school for the time being.
“Yes,” Jenson quickly and adamantly said when asked if she would postpone schooling for skiing. “I will postpone how I go about school. School will always be there. I’m not going to always be able to ski moguls at this level.”
That decision is one that Jenson will have to make down the road, but for now, her mind is focused on the World Cup starts in Lake Placid next weekend. If all goes well there, and at Deer Valley in February, Jenson may become a mainstay on the World Cup circuit. And if not, she plans on racing in the North American tour.
Either way, the end goal for Jenson is still the same: to get on Team USA’s roster.
“If you win [the North American tour], you get named to the U.S. Ski Team,” Jenson said. “So right now, that’s kind of the goal of officially be named to the U.S. Ski Team.”
For now, Jenson is focused on doing the best she can with the opportunity given to her.
When the World Cup tour makes it way to Park City yet again this season, Jenson won’t be watching anymore. Instead, she’ll be the one being watched.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.