Snow is now a distant memory for most folk, however, 17-year-old Alex Tilley from Torphins travelled halfway around the world to find some.
Alex travelled to New Zealand with several members of the GB Alpine Ski Team, including fellow Gordon Skier Jo Morrison from Glassel, to train and compete in the New Zealand National Championships and the Australia-New Zealand Cup.
Based at Wanaka on the South Island, Alex and Jo found themselves rubbing shoulders and training on the same hill as several Olympic medal winners and World Cup stars from the ski racing world that included the likes of Lyndsey Vonn, Maria Reisch and Ted Ligerty.
Alex managed to rise to the occasion laying down several career bests that further underlined her Olympic potential with the next Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia 2014 very much in her sights.
Despite winning the Giant Slalom at the end of season British Alpine Championships and being crowned the Best Junior 2010/11 it was, overall, a disappointing season.
Alex was continually frustrated by a failure to bring the exciting progress she’d made in all disciplines in training into the races themselves.
Those few races that she did finish well in were not rewarded by scoring good FIS Points that determine national team selection and entry to major championships including the Olympics.
Alex took last season’s disappointment on-board and made a step change in her approach. During the course of the summer she worked hard in the gym with the assistance of personal trainer Scott Brady from the Banks O’Dee gym and Louise Kochalski of the FeelFab Factor in Banchory.
The increased fitness programme was accompanied by a strict Carb free diet designed to allow Alex to train harder and for longer. She also worked on her mental approach with the assistance of sports psychologist Bryan McCann. All her hard work was rewarded in New Zealand with a return to form.
The first set of races was the Australia-New Zealand Cup at Coronet Peak that comprised a Giant Slalom (GS) and a Slalom. Alex finished a respectable 24th amidst a tough field of athletes several of which were already competing at World Cup level. Finishing eleven positions higher than her start position Alex was rewarded by scoring 38 FIS Points, the first time she’d dipped below 40 Points in any event and the first below 50 Points in GS.
Unfortunately, this was not repeated in the Slalom when she skied out on the 1st run, but it didn’t dampen a great start to the campaign. Alex finished in 5th position the following day in the Super G scoring 75 FIS Points posting another event career best.
The next races were in the New Zealand National Championships comprising of a SG, GS and a Slalom. Alex failed to finish in the Slalom, but did dip below 50 Points in the GS. She was on the podium, finishing third in the SG, but did not manage to improve on the 75 Points scored in the last SG.
The last set of races at Mount Hutt featured the biggest programme and concluded the Australia-New Zealand Cup.
There were 2 SGs, 2 Super Combined (a Super G combined with a Slalom run) and a Slalom. Unfortunately, the GS was cancelled due to a storm.
Alex performed well with her first finish in a Super Combined and scoring 60 Points in a SG which was another career best to top that set a few days earlier. However, without any doubt the result that topped all others was her 3rd in the Slalom.
Alex had only finished one Slalom race in the last twelve months, if she was unable to finish this race it would have had a disastrous effect on her points pushing her towards the back of the field where it is difficult to score.
With the pressure very much on Alex put down two solid runs to score 32 points and podium. It was undoubtedly the pinnacle and rounded off what was a very successful campaign.
Alex is currently ranked third in the GB in Slalom, GS & SG. Her first Super Combined result moved her into 2nd place. It’s all still very much work in progress as she sets about closing the gap on GB number 1 and World Cup skier Chemmy Alcott.
Alex says her goal for this season is to continue to develop her technique and simply to ski well. If this happens then the results will take care of themselves. Alex has recently returned home from New Zealand to celebrate her 18th birthday. She’s now back in the gym before her programme takes her to Zal’Am Zee in Austria for the remainder of the season.
Alex would like to thank her trainers, Deeside Mineral Water, The Ladies Ski Club and the Vaila McDonald Sports Bursary for their support over the years and, in part, for making this possible. Alex is currently seeking a sponsor and would be interested to hear from anyone that may be interested.