Hitting the Slopes and the Books

 

Currently enrolled in her senior year at Middlebury College, Ali has plenty of experience in dealing with the pressures of balancing academia with the career and life of a pro athlete. “It gets overwhelming at times. I have to write everything down. When I’m in school I’ll plan out my day, which is unusual for me, but I feel like I have to write it all down to make sure I get everything in,” she says. She also credits her family for how much their support helps her stay organized, as they help her “with the stuff that’s time consuming but needs to be done, like rides to the airport. They take away a lot of the ‘life’ stress so I can focus on school and skiing.” Ali admits that it can feel like a lot at times, but she’s glad she didn’t choose one over the other in regards to school and skiing.

When she’s in the thick of it, Ali says the hardest part is missing class for travel and races. All of her professors have a mandatory attendance policy, but they usually work with her once they understand her schedule. Overall, Ali says that her professors' support has been key and she’s more than willing to do whatever it takes to keep extra work off their plate and on hers. “Sometimes I have to do extra assignments or go out of my way to text my assignment to someone and then have them print it and bring it in. But for the most part, the school has been super supportive,” says Ali.

Juggling dual careers is bound to come with a number of “close calls,” like the time Ali had to dash from the Leader Box at a race to take an online quiz. “It was online school at the time because of COVID and I asked if I could take the quiz in the second section (of the class), because the first section was the one I was in, and I was going to miss that one for sure. My professor did me this favor by letting me take it later, so I was like ‘I can’t miss it now!’ I was so torn because I was in the Leader Box. I was like ‘I’m so happy but I’m going to miss this quiz!’” she laughs. “Then someone came down and beat me so I was like ‘Ok, cool I can make it.’ I ran back and while I was taking it I was shaking — I couldn’t even read the questions because that was the first time I had been in the Leader Box and I was so excited,” she recalls. Like anything else there’s some give and take, but Ali really does give it her all in trying to “make it work” and she knows that her professors appreciate her efforts. When she’s on the road, Ali will grab lunch after skiing and do homework until dry land training. After dry land and video review with coaches, it’s more studying until dinner and then an early bedtime. Two of her teammates are also in school and she says that “it’s nice to have a couple people to do it all with.” Last year when the team was in Finland, she was the only one in school, “everyone went out to see the Northern Lights and I stayed to study for an exam!”

When her schedule allows, Ali races NCAA as a member of Middlebury’s Alpine Skiing roster. “It’s definitely two different environments. With college, we are more of a unit because we are all competing as a school. You can win the weekend as a school and it’s more like a team sport in that way. It changes the dynamic on the hill a little, versus competing (in the) World Cup individually. Both environments are fun, but NCAA is a little more light-hearted,” she says. She credits collegiate skiing with helping her find her career footing her freshman year, as she was coming back from her injuries. “I was a bit too serious. So coming into that environment with people that were really there to just have fun and enjoy the sport was awesome,” she recalls. But that’s not to discount her experience on the national team, “we have a really great group of girls and it’s fun in its own way.”

Currently a student of economics, Ali hasn’t decided how she intends to capitalize on her degree just yet. “I always knew I wanted to go to school and have something for after my career,” she says. “Next year I’m going to take the year to focus on skiing and after that, if I’m feeling like I need something more, I’ll find something remote I can do.” While the addition of academics can be stressful, Ali is pleased with her decision to pursue college and the opportunities she knows are coming, “For me, it was definitely a net positive and I would do it again if I had the choice.”

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