Last call for Leever: Vail skier announces retirement from sport

Vail’s Alex Leever competes in his final professional ski race at the U.S. Alpine Championships March 29 at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

VAIL — After a five-year career in the NCAA, 15 World Cup starts — including a spectacular 24th-place finish in the slalom at the world’s premier slalom event in Schladming, Austria — and a national team nomination and a start to the 2021 World Championship, Vail’s Alex Leever is finally putting storage wax on his skis for good.

“I have decided that tomorrow will be my last race as a professional skier,” he wrote on Instagram ahead of the US National Championship slalom in Carrabasset Valley, Maine, where he finished seventh.

“It’s hard to put into words what ski racing has meant to me. It’s been the lifeblood of my life since I was six, and it’s crazy to think I won’t be on that path anymore.

A ‘combination of factors’ went into the calculation and timing of the 26-year-old’s decision.

“The way forward was going to be difficult. As I didn’t score this year, I didn’t have a place for the World Cup next year,” he said. His only option was to win no more World Cup starts (for the 2023-24 season) independently via the NorAm and Europa Cup circuits, a grind he knows all too well.

“So I just wasn’t ready to commit for several years, hoping to get a NorAms title with a lot of good riders,” he said.

As the next generation of skiers emerges, Leever’s discernment was grounded in tangible experience of what it takes to excel at the top.

“It takes total commitment to ski the World Cup. It’s enough to devote all this time to an uncertain future – for the first time, the advantages have not outweighed the disadvantages,” he said.

“Just watching some of these young guys come in and have great success, I don’t want to say I lost my confidence, but I was like, ‘Oh man, do I have that top speed that they have? ?’ The answer at least at this time was “no”.

With a career characterized by reaching beyond others to make the cut, Leever’s tone expressed both the introspective self-confidence that fueled his blossoming outside of the U.S. Ski Team pipeline while always acknowledging – with a careful analysis betraying his mastery in quantitative analytical finance – the layman of the land.

“I’m not saying I couldn’t make it, but again I was like, ‘Am I going to do three, four, five more years and hope to make it when I don’t know if it will one day happen?” he asked rhetorically.

“For all these reasons, it was the right time.”

The decision is bittersweet to some degree.

“Obviously it’s sad to finish this chapter because I’ve been skiing all my life, but I’m also very excited for the future,” he said, noting his excitement at finally putting his two business degrees to profit.

Overall, Leever leaves satisfied.

“Yeah, I failed to achieve all the goals I had when I was a kid. I wasn’t an Olympic champion, but I also went a lot further than I could reasonably expect,” he reflected.

“Of course, there are happy and sad feelings – all at the same time, but, from afar, I’m happy with how it all ended.”

Leever considers scoring World Cup points while not a member of the US Ski Team to be his greatest sporting achievement.

“The fact that I showed that there is a way forward for guys and girls who don’t fit the traditional mold of being world-class as teenagers and being put into that development pipeline . I showed that there was another way forward,” he said. “That you can go to school, be an independent athlete, and you can do all of those things and get to the top. .”

Leever has good reason to be proud of its forward-thinking heritage.

“Five years ago, nobody else was really going the independent route. There were a few guys here and there, but looking now there are several groups of established independent teams, guys and girls skiing after college to the World Cup,” he said. said from the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, where he had just watched many close friends compete in the giant slalom.

“I was a bit of a pioneer in that way. I can live vicariously through my friends who have followed the same path I started and who are more successful than me. So, I’m really happy to see that.

Leever intends to stay in Denver and glean advice for next steps from other former pro skiers turned pros.

“I lined up a few calls with them to pick their brains,” he noted.

“My CV is a bit lacking. Right now it just says, ‘Ski racer; hire me please!'” he joked.

He is already becoming a weekend warrior, with plans to race the World Pro Ski Championships in Taos in two weeks, as well as all the races next season.

“It’s my plan to scratch that competitive itch,” he said, laughing at the thought of filling the two-day training void by working on his “daddy bod.”

He will also be busy tracking nephew Jackson Leever, a promising athlete from Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Alpine.

“He began his adventure in ski racing. I think I’m going to follow his career pretty closely, give him tips and advice because that’s the next one to come,” Leever mentioned. “It’s quite amusing to see him following a bit of the same footsteps as me.”

The late-flowering Leever is a picture of patience, one that didn’t win at 11 and 12 but “grinded and shoved around, slowly improving each year until the end result was something quite impressive”. Summing up your career in a single post or theme yields simple – but hard to follow – advice.

“You don’t have to be the best at something at the start. If you work hard, you will get there,” was his advice to the next generation. “You will be quite surprised how far hard work will take you in this sport.”

Leever credited his coach of 12 years, Peter Lange, who he describes as “a father figure”, for forming his opinions on how the world works and how to treat people.

“He’s a master at putting things into perspective and telling you that ski racing isn’t all that important, that life is about relationships and people, not trophies and rankings.” , said Leever.

“It’s hard to think like that sometimes because obviously everyone is captivated by your results, but it reminded me that the people you meet are the ones you will remember.”


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