Getting up at 3 a.m. is part of what it takes for skier Ainsley Profitt to improve her skills on the slopes. She accepts that fact.
Profitt has been nominated to the U.S. Ski Team for the 2018-19 season, the first alpine athlete from Wildwood’s Hidden Valley Ski Resort to receive such honors.
“I just flew back from my first official training camp with the U.S. Ski Team,” Profitt said recently. “I traveled over to Saas Fee, Switzerland with my six other teammates for a three-week training block.”
While in Switzerland, Profitt trained in three of the racing disciplines – slalom, giant slalom, and Super G – alongside other national teams.
“Most European National teams end up on that Swiss glacier for some of the best quality skiing during the summer months without having to travel down to the Southern Hemisphere,” said Profitt, who is with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy from Lake Tahoe, California. “Sometimes training in Switzerland can be brutal as it calls for 3 a.m. wake-ups to ski on the firm morning snow that is rock hard and mandatory for race training, but I think it’s all worth it to see the sunrise from the top of the glacier. That is truly spectacular.
“Switzerland gave me the opportunity to make great strides in my skiing. Being away from the constant racing scene gave me the chance to really focus on strengthening my fundamentals.”
On the development team with Profitt are Keely Cashman, of Strawberry, California; Cecily Decker, of Saranac Lake, New York; Nellie-Rose Talbot, of Vail, Colorado; Nicola Rountree-Williams, of Edwards, Colorado; and Zoe Zimmermann, of Gilford, New Hampshire.
Athletes accepting their nomination to U.S. Ski Team receives a high level of world-class program support, along with access to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence and benefits such as elite coaching; sports science, sports medicine and high-performance staff; and education opportunities.
An official team announcement regarding its final roster will be made later in the fall.
“At the beginning of every race season, the U.S. Ski Team releases a document that states all of the criteria needed to make it onto the national team,” Profitt explained. “The document looked at my previous season’s results to determine that I qualified. The criteria stated that the women in my birth year must have a top 450 world rank and a top 10 age world rank [only women in my birth year]. I am 253rd world rank and in the top 5 worldwide for my age.”
Naturally, Profitt was thrilled to be nominated.
“I was extremely excited to learn about my nomination,” Profitt said. “Ever since I was 8, I dreamed of being ‘one of the fast kids’ who raced on the U.S. Ski Team. I always looked up to the team. Watching Lindsey Vonn fly down a course at 80 miles per hour was extremely thrilling; my younger self just hoped I had the guts to go that fast.”
Profitt lives in St. Peters.
“Being from the Midwest presents challenges for ski racers; the hills are short and the seasons are shorter,” Profitt said. “I was lucky to have Hidden Valley Ski Resort as my home hill. They were always so supportive of the Hidden Valley Ski Team, letting us set training courses every day of the week and on any of the runs. That made all the difference for me.
“I trained every night at Hidden Valley until I was 12 and it allowed me to be competitive with the girls who came from tougher mountains where they could train six to seven months a year compared to my much shorter [season of] two months. I know many ski teams that face challenges with their home hills, but I am so thankful for the ski team and the hill having a good relationship because without them I would have never made it to the next step in my career.”
When anyone asks where she’s from, Profitt said it always makes for an interesting reaction.
“Getting to tell people that I am from St. Louis, Missouri, and seeing the surprise and confusion on their faces is very humbling,” Profitt said. “People expect the occasional Minnesotan to make the USST, but no one ever expects me to say Missouri and that makes me even more proud in what I’ve accomplished in the sport.”
As a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s Development Team, Profitt can stay affiliated with her current ski club, Sugar Bowl, out of Lake Tahoe.
“Being able to have both USST coaches and my club coaches to work with is very helpful,” Profitt said. “Having more eyes and ears on my skiing allows me to see problems and focus on changing them in a more productive manner.”
Marjan Cernigoj, the USST women’s head development coach, holds many camps and training sessions to help prepare the development team for the major races like nationals and NorAm’s. Brandy Barna and Brett Jacobson are Profitt’s club coaches from Sugar Bowl Academy.
“[They] work with me on the smaller day-to-day things,” Profitt said. “All of my coaches work on snow with me, and we discuss race technique together. When I am back home here in St. Louis, I work with my trainer, Brett Fischer, at Elite Performance Academy. Brett helps me make large gains in the gym, so I can execute on snow.”
Profitt’s last ski season went very well.
“It was my first year entering the FIS [Federation International Ski] circuit, so I knew I needed to bring the heat,” Profit said. “I competed in NorAm [North American] Cups and the NCAA circuit. I was the youngest in the field and was racing against girls with five to 10 more years of experience than I had. Some even competed in this year’s Olympics. Luckily, I was able to embrace that challenge.
“I snagged my first podium at the very beginning of the race season down in New Zealand followed by my first victory at Snowbird, Utah, in January. This season I was able to put myself on the radar as one of the serious competitors in the sport. I am extremely happy with the past season, and now I am trying to critique my skiing and build my strength, so I can be even more dominant in the seasons to come.”
Once the race season starts in the states, Profitt mostly competes in the NorAm race circuit and NCAA university races. NorAm races are a selective race circuit that only the top racers from Canada and the U.S. are allowed to compete.
“The NorAm circuit has extremely tough competitors,” Profitt said. “Many NorAm competitors have raced in the World Cup and raced in the Olympics earlier this year.”
To become a top skier requires year-round training. Profitt puts in the time necessary to become one of the best.
“I work out every day. To perform at the top level of ski racing I have to be extremely strong, agile, and have good endurance,” Profitt said. “Whenever I am not skiing, I am in the gym. To bend my skis and to be able to stand the G-forces I create while speeding down the hill requires a lot of explosive strength, stamina and agility, which means I usually do a little bit of everything.
“Weight lifting and plyometrics are usually my go-to workouts along with endurance-building workouts.”
Because of her workload with skiing, Profitt left Incarnate Word Academy after her freshman year.
“My schedule has become too demanding to stay at school here in Missouri,” Profitt said. “I now attend online classes that allow me to travel.”
Profitt takes classes through the University of Texas at Austin.
“They offer very flexible classes that are also NCAA-accredited,” Profitt said. “UT High School allows me to take classes throughout the whole year, which gives me the chance to take a break during the peak of race season, January through March, and then continue with my studies throughout the summer.”
Although she will be able to graduate next year, Profitt is unsure about a college choice.
“Right now, my goal is to make the Olympic team in 2022,” Profitt said. “I’m not sure where that will lead me, but I am currently looking for the right path for me to achieve that goal.
“I hope to compete in World Cup races and the Olympics. My goal is to break onto the World Cup circuit sometime within the next two years. To consistently have a spot on the World Cup circuit I must be in the top 30 in the world. I still have a long way to go before I reach the title of ‘best in the sport,’ but every day I am working hard, trying to prepare for the World Cup and ultimately, the Olympics in four years.”
You can follow Profitt’s progress online at Facebook: @ainsleymproffit or Instagram: @ainsley_proffit.