With the start of this winter’s ski season already in the rear view, Stefanie Fleckenstein is on a roll.
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum entered the holiday break after a successful couple of weeks in Panorama, where she continuously found herself atop the podium in both the NorAm Cup and FIS event — a trend she’s hoping to keep up as the season progresses.
“I was pretty happy,” said the 20-year-old. “I didn’t expect a ton out of the slalom disciplines but they ended up being some of my best results. It’s good to see that I’m still able to compete in all five disciplines, I’m not just making my way into speed — I still have some game in the other disciplines.”
Throughout the 11 days of racing from Dec. 10 to 21, Fleckenstein picked up a first-place-finish in a slalom event, in addition to two second-place performances, in giant slalom and super G, and a pair of bronzes in super G and alpine combined.
Optimal conditions throughout the competition helped as well, she added. “The snow was hard, so you really could podium or win from any bib position, it was amazing snow,” she said. “The hill is pretty challenging. It looks easy, but then there’s a lot of rolls and there’s a lot of terrain, and it’s notoriously dark — there’s never really sun — so I think it’s more that you just have to battle it out the whole time, and I think I’ve gotten better at that over the year.”
Now in her second full season as a member of Alpine Canada’s Development Team, Fleckenstein says she’s pleased with how her season has progressed so far, despite holding slightly higher expectations for herself in some of the earlier races. “I think my skiing has improved a ton, so that’s really setting me up, hopefully, for the rest of the year,” she said.
The impressive list of results at Panorama comes following an appearance at the Lake Louise World Cup earlier in December. At the season-opening race, “I made a lot of improvements from last year. There’s still a long way to go but it was a big jump from last year,” Fleckenstein said.
She also credits the Lake Louise event with changing her approach to the season, following a tragedy during NorAm training. A 17-year-old German skier competing in the men’s race suffered ultimately fatal injuries after crashing into a fence during a training run.
“Seeing how quickly things can change and how lucky we are to be able to be doing this everyday, I had a new respect for the sport,” Fleckenstein said. “You think about crashing, you think about maybe you’ll blow your knee or maybe, I don’t know, break a leg or something, but you never really think that could happen. That was difficult to deal with at first, but I think it changed everybody a little bit.”
After the Lake Louise races, Fleckenstein began taking things “more day by day, just having fun and focusing on me. I think it was a game changer because I had some of my best results after that.”
Next up, Fleckenstein will head to Europe, where she’s gearing up to compete in the Junior World Ski Championships, in addition to a few Europa Cups, where she’s aiming to land in the top 10.
“It’s a way bigger field,” she explained. “The Europeans are very competitive, so if I can get some good results over there, then World Junior are in January, so hopefully (I can) set myself up nicely for that. If I can just keep up my workouts and stay healthy and keep the positive attitude I’ve had through the beginning of the year, I think that it can definitely go well for me over there.”
To see a full list of Fleckenstein’s results, go to https://data.fis-ski.com.