Arctic Challenge / Challenge Journal / Motivation / Training

Chemmy Alcott: Ten things that nobody ever tells you before you have a skiing career

By Chemmy Alcott

Ever considered becoming a professional skier? We can see the appeal - there’s bucketloads of glamour, a life spent outdoors avoiding a desk job, and, of course, getting paid to do what you love.

However, if you haven’t got a mind and body of, well, steel, you may want to reconsider. Professional skiing’s not for everyone - and if you dedicate your life to the sport, here are ten things you can expect. Take it away, Chemmy...

  1. You’ll discover at some point that you can ski faster than you can drive. I’ve hit 92mph during a World Cup training run, and obviously, the legal limit is 70mph.
  2. You’ll have to sacrifice your sleep, but it’ll be worth it as you watch the sun rise at the top of the mountain. I’ve often had to get up at 3.45am, but watching the sun rise from Saas-Fee is absolutely wonderful.
  3. Expect a rollercoaster ride. Literally. Your career will never be straightforward; sometimes it’ll go far better than expected, and at other times, events outside of your control will work against you.
  4. You could spend more minutes in hospital than racing. I had 1,028 minutes of surgery on my right leg, and before Sotchi this year, I raced for four minutes.
  5. On the other hands, months of rehab can be forgotten in a couple of glorious minutes on the piste. That’s all it takes.
  6. Ski racing fast-tracks life skills that you never thought you’d master; for example, you have to learn to overcome adversity, and it really improves your personal skills such as confidence, resilience, and determination, because you do have to face a lot of hurdles and overcome them. You must be prepared to accept that in order to push yourself to succeed, sometimes you’ll push yourself too hard, and you’ll fall. It’s about picking yourself up and carrying on.
  7. I never realised that my competitors would become my best friends. The sport is about pushing your own personal limits, so you form very close bonds with the people you’re racing with. The 'danger' aspect also means there’s a lot of respect for your peers. Skiing is a mental game against a mountain, not another person, so rivalry’s minimal
  8. You definitely get spoiled! I’ve recently retired, and now skiing for fun, I’m thinking back to all those times we got to hit the pistes before the public. We basically had private pistes, prepared perfectly for us.
  9. You will become a scientist and a snow mathematician. Skiers know there are 100 different types of snow, and we have skiing structures in place so we can ski accordingly.
  10. You will learn how to Tetris-pack your car - you’ll have loads of gear - and excess luggage and checking in for flights will become your enemy.


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