Stateside skiing is helping to improve Ipswich skier Alexa
Stateside life is suiting Ipswich skiing star Alexa Eliff down to the ground, but she can't wait to catch up with old friends at the English Alpine Skiing Championships, writes Tom Harle.
The 15-year-old is permanently based at Burke Mountain Academy, in the picturesque northern state of Vermont, where she’s out on snow four days a week and pursuing her passion.
The teenager fell in love with the sport on family holidays to a chalet in the Swiss Alps and since cutting her teeth on her hometown’s dry slope from age eight, progress has been meteoric.
Eliff, who won England selection in 2017, parted company with Olympian Chemmy Alcott and her academy C2C in the process but has relished the new challenge.
“The academies I attended in England were both really good but I found myself wanting more,” said Eliff, ahead of competing at the largest British Alpine event on the calendar.
“I decided to take the risk and I moved across a year or so ago and it’s been an absolutely amazing experience.
“The quality of coaching so high and the amount of time we get on the slopes is great, but it’s also been so well organised on the academic side.
“In the UK I think I would have been held back by GCSEs and other pressures. I feel like I’ve improved my slalom skiing a lot and I’m better all round.
“I missed the English Championships last year because I couldn’t get the time off school, but I’ve been twice before and the atmosphere is always brilliant.”
The English Alpine Championships, where Dave Ryding started his career before competing in the World Cup, is one of the biggest annual competitions in the skiing calendar.
Having appeared at the 2016 and 2017 editions, Eliff returns to Bormio, Italy to go for glory in the slalom, giant slalom and Super-G events when action begins on February 17.
The Dolomites resort is known for its particularly challenging hill, with some of the steepest sections on the circuit offering the young hopefuls a rigorous test of their talent.
Eliff hopes to use the competition to propel her into British ranks next year – but will also revel in the chance to renew friendships from her home country.
“I’m very excited for the Championships,” she said.
“I’ve known some of the people who’ll be competing for a very long time. Being in America I try to keep in touch with them for as long as I can, but it’s tough and I can’t always talk to them.
“There’s a good sense of camaraderie in Bormio. I know I’ve got things I need to improve on - I struggle with the mental side of competition and my speed skiing needs to improve.
“My aim is to get on the British team next year and, while I don’t like to look too far ahead, to become a World Cup skier.”
Snowsport England is the national governing body for skiing and snowboarding in England, aiming to inspire as many people as possible to try snow sports. Find out more about Snowsport England’s affiliated clubs, athletes, competitions, coaching and campaigns here: www.snowsportengland.org.uk