Alyson Deane started skiing at the young age of 3½ and started racing at 8. Alyson’s dreams to participate in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, were dashed when she broke an ankle, which frustratingly restricted her from competing. Each year, Alyson satiates her love of speed by competing in the Alpine skiing event at the Thredbo Masters and InterClub Races. She talks to us about her continuing love of skiing …
Tell us about how you first developed a love of skiing?
My parents took me on a skiing holiday when I was 3 to New Zealand … I really had no choice at that stage but to love skiing, and the holiday is what gave my parents a bug for skiing. We would subsequently go skiing every season at Thredbo.
What started as the occasional weekend and odd week in the school holidays quickly became every weekend and all school holidays being spent at the snow, with overseas trips to America starting soon after.
I very quickly got faster and faster as a skier and when I was 8, my instructor said to mum and dad that there wasn’t much more I could learn from ski school and that I should definitely go into ski racing. This was when I really discovered my passion for skiing and joined the Thredbo Ski Racing Club.
Alpine skiing, commonly known as downhill skiing, incorporates four different disciplines including: slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill. What separates these styles, and why do you have a particular love of downhill racing?
Slalom and Giant Slalom make up the technical events of Alpine ski racing. Slalom involves short quick turns through a course of gates/pole (40 – 60 gates for a woman’s course) and Giant Slalom involves skiing between gates set at a greater distance than slalom, making the turns larger and faster.
Super G and Downhill make up the speed events of Alpine ski racing (Super G is faster than Giant Slalom).Downhill involves the highest speeds and therefore the greatest risk of the Alpine events.
Out of all the disciplines I competed in, my specialty was Downhill. The speed, the space and the risks associated with it are just phenomenal – it’s a real rush. I also enjoyed Downhill because it was a discipline that not many girls competed in. I guess I was always trying from a very early age to be one of the boys and trying to beat them!
I soon realised how much of a risk Downhill can be, when I was competing in a downhill in Cortina, Italy. I crashed and tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in my knee, but I didn’t let this stop me. I became even more determined to achieve my goals and was back skiing four months after surgery.
Eighteen months later, unfortunately another injury, a broken ankle, ended my career. I broke my ankle on a Giant Slalom training course at Thredbo and was devastated, as I had been selected to go the Olympics.
What is it about the allure of ‘being on the mountain’ that you so enjoy?
Having the feeling of wind in my face, the sparkle of the snow as the sun shines on it, the freedom I feel as I ski down the hill and the challenges I encounter as I’m skiing.
Even now I’m constantly putting pressure on myself to try and make my turns better and faster. I do have to admit that I have become a bit of a fair weather skier – if it’s bad weather, I would prefer to be inside Apres skiing!
You participate annually in the Masters competition and the InterClubs races at Thredbo … how do you normally perform in your age category?
My results over the last few years have been to place 1st in my age category and 2nd overall.
You and your husband, Brenton, have five children. Does the whole family ski?
Brenton and I have both been skiing from a very young age. Brenton also almost grew up in the ski fields, as his family owns accommodation in Perisher Valley. We both have a passion for our children to grow up skiing, as it has been such an important part of our childhoods. All five of our children ski very well. There is nothing better than sharing our passion with our children and see them enjoy it and do well at it.
How often do you visit the snow each year?
We spend a week at Perisher every year with our children as our family holiday. Brenton and I also go down for a couple of weekends throughout the season, so that I can race.
I was surprised at how easily my young children took to skiing a few years ago on a trip to New Zealand. Is this in part due to children having a lower centre of gravity, which helps their balance?
Children certainly pick up skiing reasonably quickly. In part, this is due to their lower centre of gravity, but also due to their lack of fear. Kids are just incredible to watch skiing. It makes me laugh when I see them flying down the hill.
When I finished ski racing, I didn’t want to give up skiing altogether, so I started coaching eight to 10 year olds – and they were just amazing! I actually coached Brenton’s cousins, both of whom ended up on the Australian ski team.
People can continue to compete in Masters up to 80 years of age. Do you see yourself taking on the mountain at age 80?
I‘d love to continue skiing as long as my body lets me. Old injuries aside, this should be for many years to come. Hopefully Brenton can keep up with me!
What advice would you give to people wishing to pursue a career in skiing?
Unfortunately, Alpine Ski Racing is a very hard sport to get into and stay in (as there is not a lot of financial support or sponsorships).
My advice would be to train your hardest and become physically and mentally the strongest you can be. I was once told by one of my coaches that training and racing is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.
Thank you Alyson.
Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 66 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus