Ski cross remains a relatively new FIS sport, making its Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. But alpine skiing has seen many of its successful athletes transition to the action-packed sport, and several current athletes on the Canadian Ski Cross Team grew up competing in the alpine disciplines.
Louis-Pierre Hélie was an alpine speed skier, making 30 World Cup starts, including an Olympic start in 2010. Mathieu Leduc is also a former alpine skier with a career-best eighth-place finish in Åre, Sweden in 2014. Brady Leman and Kelsey Serwa both made the switch to ski cross in 2008 and Georgia Simmerling was officially named to the senior ski cross team in 2013.
Now Brittany “Britt” Phelan is the latest alpine skier to make the transition to ski cross. She is the highest-ranking alpine athlete to make the switch, and this makes her a promising candidate to join her female teammates on the podium. Alpine Canada Alpin caught up with Phelan to ask her about her transition and to share experiences from her latest training camp at Hotham Alpine Resort in Australia.
What made you decide to transition to ski cross?
Brittany Phelan: Since ski cross took off in popularity in 2008 or so, and when I saw Kelsey (Serwa) make the switch, I was always intrigued by the sport and loved watching it. When ski cross became part of Alpine Canada Alpin, a lot of people suggested I make the switch thinking I’d be a really successful athlete on the circuit. After the 2014 Sochi Olympics I began to consider making the switch more seriously. At the time, I had a pretty good world ranking in slalom (22nd) but I went into the season with a big injury and slowly slid out of a top-30 ranking on the World Cup circuit. In January 2015 I tore my calf muscle training slalom, which proved to be the tipping point for me in switching over to ski cross. I felt like it was a sign and my heart and head were being pulled in another direction.
How has the transition to ski cross been?
BP: The transition to the ski cross team has been an amazing experience and a pretty easy transition. The Canadian Ski Cross Team is a world-class team with a great culture of inclusion. The ski cross team has been really welcoming and from day one, they’ve been really helpful. Lup (Louis-Pierre Hêlie) and Kelsey have both made the switch to ski cross and were helpful in teaching me the new techniques and sharing their tips for the transition.
My first ski cross camp was at Sunshine in Banff, Alberta, and we spent a lot of time training giant slalom and working on the pump track. It was such a refreshing camp for me working on new techniques and being surrounded by new people.
I just came back from 17 days on snow in Australia and I wasn’t ready to leave winter or the team, which I think is a great sign!
The ski cross coaches have been really patient and supportive teaching me the techniques to be successful – there’s a lot more to learn than I thought but I’m loving the new challenges! I’m 100 percent happy with my decision and have no regrets about transitioning to ski cross.
What are your ultimate goals on the ski cross team?
BP: What I’ve always loved about racing was the skiing aspect. I always wanted to be the best skier in the world so this is giving me a new perspective on a sport I grew up loving so much. I’m excited to master skiing even more through a new aspect of ski racing.
My ultimate goal is to be named to the Canadian Ski Cross Team and join my amazing teammates Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa on the podium at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. I believe that I can be a force on the ski cross circuit, and I’m excited for new challenges and a refreshing change to my ski career.
Interview courtesy of ACA
Editor’s note: If you’re wondering what kind of chances Phelan has in ski cross this year, don’t forget that she threw a stylie 360-degree spin off the jump after sliding out on her hip while racing against Mikaela Shiffrin at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Cup Moscow City Event, so at least she’s comfortable in the air.