By Hannah Follender
Last summer, for the first time, Alpine Ski Racer Resi Stiegler had to learn what it takes to be an independent athlete.
After over a decade on the U.S. Ski Team, including seven World Cup Championship starts and two Olympics, Resi did not qualify for the 2014-2015 U.S. Ski Team.
Resi was dropped from the team when she failed to qualify top 25 in the world for slalom, her event – a requirement for remaining on the team at her age.
Despite falling short of the U.S. Ski Team criteria, Resi still qualified to compete on the World Cup. But she would have to compete as an independent without the funding and training support of the US Ski Team.
Left with the choice to either walk away from her ski career or fight her way back onto the team, Resi chose the latter.
Without the US Ski Team’s financial support to train and travel, Resi had to do her own fundraising to pay for travel and on-snow training costs. She estimated that travel alone, to compete on the World Cup circuit, would cost between $50,000 and $80,000. Res spent much of last summer soliciting corporate and individual sponsors to fund her 2014-2015 competition season.
“It’s hard to explain to most people how skiing everyday is a job,” says Resi. “You have to raise the bar for yourself and you have to work really hard, otherwise you’re directly letting your sponsor down when you’re the ‘sole’ member of your team.”
Between fundraising efforts last summer, Resi completed daily dryland training at Mountain Athlete in Jackson, WY to prepare for the winter. At Mountain Athlete she joined professional freeskiers, snowboarders, snowmobile racers and hockey players – all training together and pushing each other in preparation for their winter competition seasons.
“I was down when I found out I wasn’t on the team,” she remembers. “I knew I needed to get as strong as possible to get ready for the next season.”
At Mountain Athlete, she built more than physical strength.
“I was so stoked on not only the amazing workouts, but the mental toughness I gained from them,” said Resi, “Ski racing is such a mental sport…It all comes down to the mind, what you are fighting with inside, and how you can use that to your advantage.”
Resi went into the 2014-2015 racing season physically and mentally strong, as well independent and self-supported. Her work paid off, and she finished the World Cup tour with five top 30 finishes and two top 15 finishes.
In May she was invited to rejoin the US Ski Team.
Looking back, Resi wouldn’t have asked for a different situation going into last season. “I learned a lot about running a team and what it takes to get something like that to work well. I very much enjoyed all that I learned and I feel like I came out for the better.”
Her spot on the US Ski Team means Resi will have the financial support she lacked last season, but not much else will change.
“Now that I’m back on the A team it doesn’t change much as far as my mindset. I’m still working hard to get back on the top step. I had a little set back at the end of last winter but I’m working hard this summer to make sure that doesn’t bother me at the beginning of the season. I am really looking forward to having that extra support, and the elimination of any of the stress I dealt with last year.”
Resi’s “little setback” was an end of season ACL and meniscus tear in her right knee. She’s come back from far worse injuries before, however, and is undaunted. Resi has since been intensively rehabbing and has no doubt that she’ll be able to compete at 100% this winter.
Resi envisions a long future for herself in skiing, as both an athlete and a mentor. “After skiing, I’ll always be involved in the ski world, I love to give back so I’ll probably do something along those lines. I plan on skiing till the next Olympics, and I will keep going if my body holds up and I’m still loving the sport, I don’t like to think about when I’ll need to stop.”