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Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum taking flight

Fleckenstein looks to reach World Cup while balancing NCAA and NorAms

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Stefanie Fleckenstein is working overtime to grasp at her FIS World Cup goals.

The 22-year-old Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus is preparing for a second season with the Colorado University ski team while also heading out to NorAm Cup events as she looks to snag enough points to get back on the World Cup tour.

At the most recent set of races at Vermont's Burke Mountain, Fleckenstein started the weekend with a sixth-place showing in the Jan. 2 giant slalom and followed it with a 10th-place finish in the Jan. 3 giant slalom.

After not completing the Jan. 4 slalom, Fleckenstein looked to regain her mojo, entering the FIS-level Colorado Ski Cup slalom at Winter Park on Jan. 6 and ultimately coming away with the win.

"I literally flew into Denver last night, drove up here this morning at 5 a.m. and now I'm about to pass out I'm so tired," she said with a chuckle shortly after completing the race. "I figured I would try this one out and get some confidence back, which was really nice."

Fleckenstein went on to win the next day's giant slalom as well.

Heading back west benefitted Fleckenstein, as the conditions during the NorAms were challenging.

"Out east, it was like a skating rink everyday. It was basically sheer ice. I come out here [in Colorado] and it had snowed a little bit so it was super soft," she said. "In the first run, I was having a hard time figuring it out, but in the second run, it went a lot better."

The transition back to Western skiing was beneficial for Fleckenstein as she'll start her sophomore season with the Colorado University Buffaloes later this month. In her first year, Fleckenstein posted eight top-10 finishes in 14 starts, including two sixth-place showings.

"It's definitely a different experience than what I've been used to in the past, but it's such a team dynamic that I've never really had before. You're not really just racing for yourself, you're racing for your whole team because you get points all together," she said. "It's a new and exciting thing for me."

The college coaching style, Fleckenstein added, is different from what she's experienced here, so she's acknowledged there's been some challenge shifting gears.

"I spent four years being told exactly what to do and how to do it and when to do it. When I got to school, there's sort of a freedom to it. You get to decide what you're going to do and when you're going to do it," she said. "For me, it's been OK. It's been working out pretty well, but I do miss more of that hands-on [training], just because I am so used to it."

With no development team inside Alpine Canada, Fleckenstein's full-time options with the national team were essentially World Cup or bust. After qualifying for World Cup downhills through the NorAm Cup in 2017 and 2018, Fleckenstein wasn't able to make the jump permanently. She's racing this season with an eye towards making it back, even though the NCAA circuit is focused more on technical events than speed.

"At school, I do a lot more GS and slalom and it has really helped me," she said. "I'm in the top 15 standings in both GS and slalom right now, but my focus is more on speed and I am trying to get a downhill and super-G spot."

In December, Fleckenstein earned a second and a fourth in the NorAm Cup downhill in Lake Louise without any prior training in the discipline so far this season.

"Hopefully I can carry that confidence into Panorama for the finals," said Fleckenstein, adding that she won't have the chance to race much downhill before the championships in late March. "That's going to be the biggest struggle for me, transitioning from a full slalom and GS program and then just jumping in to the NorAms."

With no NorAm Cup or other development team under the Alpine Canada banner, Fleckenstein is responsible for much of her own organization, though the national body is able to offer some support at times.

"They have been helpful in getting equipment and helping me manage myself when I'm on my own," she said. "I do end up going to NorAms by myself most of the time. It's hard being alone all the time, and there's so much that athletes don't do, mostly because their coaches organize it.

"I've had to book flights, find accommodation, figure out how I'm going to get to each race, and that's an added pressure on top of performing, going to school."

Fleckenstein is currently studying communications, though she hasn't yet selected a specialty. While student-athletes tend to look at their coursework as preparation for their post-competition career, Fleckenstein views it as integral to the business side of her current pursuits.

"It translates to what I was doing before I came to school—having to talk with different sponsors, figuring out how to promote myself in beneficial ways," she said. "I think ultimately, it will help me in the future as well.

"It's really important to learn how to talk to those kinds of people, and how to be shot down and know that it's not personal, it's just that you have to find the right fit with a sponsor or someone who's going to support you."

While Fleckenstein's schedule is packed, she's proud of herself for making it all work to this point.

"Trying to manage school while I do speed and tech and college and NorAm circuits is actually really hard because I end up going to school about half the time," she said. "My grades haven't dropped yet, so that's a bonus."

At Burke Mountain, Fleckenstein's sister Katie, meanwhile, placed 41st in the Jan. 3 GS and jumped to 29th in the Jan. 4 slalom. As well, fellow WMSC alum Ella Renzoni took 23rd in the Jan. 2 race, slipping just one spot to 24th in the next day's contest.

There was also a men's giant slalom on Jan. 5 that saw WMSC grads excel, with Brodie Seger hitting the podium in third, brother Riley placing sixth and Asher Jordan notching a seventh-place finish. Cameron Alexander, meanwhile, took 23rd while James Crawford was 25th.

The men then shifted to Stowe Mountain Resort. In the Jan. 6 giant slalom, Brodie Seger took 12th while Riley Seger was 15th and Cameron Alexander took 32nd.

Brodie Seger then won the Jan. 7 giant slalom while Crawford placed third and Riley Seger was just off the podium in fourth. Qs well, Jordan took 21st, Alexander was 31st and Nathan Romanin nabbed 57th.

Full results are online at www.fis-ski.com.

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