Though Alexa Dannis ’22 began her collegiate skiing career only two weeks ago, she has wasted no time in finding success. In her first race at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont on Jan. 10, Dannis led Brown by finishing fifth in the slalom. Then, Saturday she won the slalom race at Crotched Mountain in Francestown, New Hampshire with an exceptional time of 1:30.90, leading Bruno to fourth place overall. For these standout performances in her first two college-level races, Dannis has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: What got you started in skiing, and when did you become competitive?
Dannis: I started skiing when I was about three. (National Standard Race) is a public course that’s up on the mountain, so I did that a couple times with my family. My parents don’t ski which is actually kind of weird for a skier. I just did the NASTAR over and over again and forced my parents to let me ski race.
I grew up in New York, so it wasn’t the best skiing, and then I moved to New Hampshire and went to (the Holderness School), which is one of the only schools that’s a real school but also has a good ski team. It was either that or a ski academy but I opted for (Holderness).
You led the team in both slalom races so far this season. What do you attribute your early success to?
I took a gap year last year so I was just in Aspen, just skiing the whole year, … which is pretty helpful.
You picked up your first win in a college-level race at Crotched Mountain. What does that mean to you?
It was really awesome. College racing is a lot different from individual racing, … because you have to race for the team, so it’s more about finishing. In the past I’ve sometimes done really well in a race and then crashed in the next race, but in college you have to finish so that the team can do well. So that was a little bit different for me. But I just skied conservatively and smoothly. I’m really excited for how the season’s going to go.
Brown finished fourth place in the first slalom race at Crotched Mountain. How do you feel about the overall success of the team?
I think we’re definitely on the up. We have a couple of people injured right now but they’ll be back soon, so I think we’re going to do even better in the upcoming races.
What do you consider the keys to a good race, including pre-race preparation?
Visualization, and just being in the right mindset. Just treating it like training and not giving it anything extra, but being prepared and having your equipment ready.
What’s the most difficult part of skiing for you?
The most difficult part is definitely the amount of time you have to put into skiing. It takes hours to tune your skis and to drive all the way to the mountain. You have to inspect the course, and take some free runs and warm up, and then all of it boils down to one minute on the course. You can mess up an entire day and have to go home because you’re one inch to the left instead of to the right and you straddle a gate and you fall, or you just mess up and get off your line. So the toughest part is that it could all be over within a split-second decision.
What do you enjoy most about skiing?
I like the competition and the feeling of your skis slicing the snow and going fast… Also, I like when your teammates are supporting you in competition and (that the entire ski community knows) each other.
What are your goals for the rest of your freshman season?
We definitely want to make Nationals this year, which seems pretty attainable when we get the rest of the team back. A personal goal would be to keep doing well in the races.
The women’s skiing team will return to the slopes this weekend at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.