Juggling a dynamic balance of academic finals, uncontrollable weather, and another World Cup, Ali had her work cut out for her in Sestriere, Italy, on December 11. Although she’s a fairly seasoned skier, with four years on the World Cup circuit, Sestriere was a new venue for Ali — and with it came new challenges. While watching the GS, Ali noticed the course looked long and that the athletes were exhibiting more fatigue than normal. “I had my suspicions,” she says, “I took a look at the top girls’ times and I knew that it would be longer than what we had been skiing. It’s always cool to see a new hill and to ski it. I think the elevation there was around 2000 metres high, so it’s pretty high. It was about a minute of slalom, which is fairly long, so it was a tiring course.”
The Canadian team arrived in Zurich a little over a week prior to race day, which gave Ali ample time to acclimate to the time change as they trained on the way to Sestriere. “I think we all had a bit of a tough time this time because we had a 4pm flight so none of us slept much,” she recalls, “We did some easier GS training which was nice because we got to sleep in a little and have some lower intensity days. That helped with adjusting. By the time we were training for the race we all felt pretty good and ‘on’ the new timezone.” Little did Ali know, the intensity of the weekend was yet to come. After a much needed rest day on the Thursday before the race, an unforeseen snow storm battered the hill on Friday, eliminating any probability of on-site training for the athletes. “They canceled all the slalom training for Friday, so we drove two hours to France, trained there, and then drove two hours back the next day. It was a hectic two days, but the training we got was really great so I think it was a good choice to do that.” In addition to the unforeseen change of schedule, Ali was in the midst of finishing up some rather large final assignments that were due that Sunday night. “We were trying to get all of our homework done, and then they told us we were going on this 5-hours-round-trip to get this training for one day. We were like, ‘Ok, I guess we’ll do our homework in the car!’” she laughs. On Saturday, Ali and her teammates practiced back at the World Cup venue, higher on the hill — near the GS course. “It was a bit crazy, but we had good prep going into the race,” she says overall.
Although the fresh snow on the hill made the course a little more inconsistent, she felt that the venue handled the influx of snow well overall and still managed to put on a solid event. Ali’s mental resilience shined through too, as she saw opportunity amidst the constant changes. “The hill played into my strong suits. While the snow was variable, I knew it would hold up well for me,” she says.After a quick warmup and breakfast at the hotel, Ali headed to the hill for inspection. “I feel like when the inspection is first, you get a slow start to the morning and have a bit more time to wake up, which is nice.” Ali felt like she got off to an aggressive start on the first run, and only lost time when she mitigated a small mistake, “I lost some time at the bottom, which I addressed in my second run. But overall, my first run, it was tough snow conditions and a really long course, so I was happy with how I was able to start that. Going into the second run I had a clear focus of what I wanted to improve on.” And with new venues comes a new perspective, “That’s something I’ll definitely work on in this next training block, is staying focused the whole way down the course. The top of both runs were really good. So I know I can ski it, I just have to maintain it down the course.” Ali is still on the hunt for a podium finish, and moves the needle closer with an eleventh place finish in Sestriere — her highest placement of the season thus far.