Megan McJames aims for Olympics
On a recent Tuesday afternoon in Park City, Megan McJames sipped on her latte as she looked out towards the mountains from the window of a restaurant.
Low-hanging clouds and dense fog blocked her view of Park City Mountain Resort’s slopes, but McJames could probably still point in the direction of her favorite runs she’s been skiing them for 23 years, after all.
Born and raised in Park City, the 25-year-old alpine skier has been shredding through the snow at PCMR, Deer Valley, Canyons, Alta and Snowbird since she was just a toddler.
"I started skiing at Alta when I was two years old because both my parents were ski instructors there," she said. "My whole family is a family of skiers, so it was kind of either sit inside or go skiing."
From there, it blossomed into more than a hobby.
"I skied all the time until I was eight, and then I did the Park City Ski Team and went to the Winter School," she said.
At the age of 17, she made the U.S. Ski Team, where she skied for seven years.
During those seven years, she qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, skiing in the giant slalom and slalom events. She would place in the top 30 in both.
But then, just like that, she was cut from the team. Not yet ready to give up professional skiing, McJames came up with a way to keep her dream alive she formed her own ski team.
Along with two other female skiers (Hailey Duke and Katie Hartman), McJames started Independent Ski Racing as a way to continue competing.
This past ski season was the first season for the new team, and she’s pleased with the way it went.
"For me, last season went really well," she said. "I ended by winning the North American (NorAm) Cup overall, and that entitles you to spots in every World Cup event next year. That’s exciting for me because the World Cup is how you make the Olympics."
She finished fourth in slalom, second in giant slalom, second in super G and first in super combined to earn the overall title. Now she’s hoping to replicate that success next year.
"To make the Olympics, you have to be in the top four of your event (nationally)," she said. "I don’t really care which event I’m fastest in, as long as I’m fastest in one."
Financially, McJames said this next season will be her biggest challenge yet, as she leaves behind her Independent Ski Racing teammates to set out on the World Cup circuit.
"I’m hiring my own technician and manager," she said. "So it’s going to be him and I, and my dad for support, and we’re going to travel around and try to have fun and ski fast."
She’s hoping the people of Park City are as supportive of her as they were last year.
"It’s a lot of going out and asking a lot of people to support your Olympic dream," she said. "But I found a lot of support last year, so I just wanted to thank the Park City community for that and ask them to support (me) again."
Though being an independent competitor is tough, McJames said she likes it more as the days go by.
"Being independent last year was really liberating," she said. "It was hard work, but you can do the program how you want to do it. And when you get the (good) results, it’s that much more motivating."
McJames said she doesn’t know what the future holds for Independent Ski Racing, but she’d like to continue helping athletes achieve their dreams.
"Independent Ski Racing has kind of gained so much traction in one season because there is a huge space for athletes who while the U.S. Ski Team is looking for young athletes to develop are a little bit older but are still fast at skiing and want to make the jump to more international competition but are limited financially," she said. "I’m hoping Independent Ski Racing will continue to grow."
But for now, McJames is just trying to enjoy her offseason and finish up her business degree at Westminster College.
"I’ve been going to college in the summertime and taking winters off for skiing," she said. "I’m plugging away slowly but surely. I also love to mountain bike. I just really love the mountain lifestyle. I couldn’t see myself any other place."
To help support McJames in pursuing her Olympic dreams, visit MeganMcJames@wordpress.com/donate .
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