Is The Next World Cup Wunderkind from New Zealand?
Alice Robinson was born neither into a ski racing family nor in a dominant ski racing country. Despite that, the 15-year-old from Queenstown, New Zealand, has started off her FIS career with quite a bang. After fewer than a dozen FIS starts, Robinson has 16.54 points in giant slalom and scored 36.91 slalom points in New Zealand’s national championship race, where she also took home the national title. Oh, and she also won the national championship giant slalom race earlier this month.
The start to her FIS career rivals World Cup overall winner Mikaela Shiffrin’s beginnings. The American scored sub-20 points in her 11th FIS start. Robinson did it in just her second FIS race. The young gun has already been named to the New Zealand B team and could potentially be named to the A team before the start of the season in the Northern Hemisphere.
“I was actually really surprised,” Robinson shares of her initial success. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect with it being my first-year FIS and everything, but I was excited to start racing and wasn’t really expecting to get as good of results as I was.”
So, where did Robinson emerge from? The Kiwi started her ski racing career at Coronet Peak with the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team, and later on, transitioned to North America, where she joined the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy (SBSTA).
“I decided to go to Tahoe, pretty much because it was the easiest to get to from New Zealand because it’s a 12-hour straight flight to San Francisco,” Robinson says. “The team there was really good. California is pretty similar. I get on with the people there really well. It’s a good set up.”
While at the California resort, she worked with Scott Houser, SBSTA’s head U16 coach. Houser expresses that Robinson was already very fast before she made it into his purview.
“She’s just really aggressive,” he explains. “I mean, we had to make definite changes to her tactics and made some changes to boots, but other than that, she’s had phenomenal coaches her entire life and it shows.”
The Sugar Bowl coach describes Robinson as well liked, saying “she’s a really good person. She’s inviting. She’s really nice with everyone. She’s just a great fun person to be around.” Because of all of this, Houser is not surprised by the Kiwi’s early success. He also recognizes that she was one of the global pacesetters for her age group this past season.
“She won Pokal Loka,” Houser says. “She was skiing exceptionally well at the Zagreb children’s race that I was at this year, and it was one of those things where people were wondering how fast she was going to be [in FIS]. We knew she was going to be fast.”
The time in Europe, which was after Robinson left SBSTA, allowed her to experience training and competing in the heart of the ski world with her coach Tim Cafe, an Olympic skier from New Zealand. She credits her time there as part of the reason she had early success.
“Just being in Europe is quite an intense environment,” she explains. “Even though I was racing at U16, it was still quite a high level of intensity and that definitely sets you up for more intensity with older athletes.”
In New Zealand this summer, she has been training with a larger group of national team members and is also coached by New Zealand Head Coach Nils Coberger and Assistant Coach Ben Griffin. While racing at the FIS level may take some adjustment for most young athletes, Robinson has taken the added pressure in stride. In fact, she says that the new level of competition has not fazed her at all.
“It’s definitely a big step up in a good way, kind of a good challenge, and I quite like racing with older people because it’s a bit more of a challenge,” Robinson says. “I did a lot of forerunning last year, so I could kind of get used to the environment, so nothing’s really surprised me that much.”
At the updating of the next points list, she will likely surpass Piera Hudson as the top-ranked GS skier amongst female FIS athletes from New Zealand. She could also get the nod to represent her country at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, come February. However, that’s not top of mind for the young athlete just yet. Instead, she’s focused on junior-level international events.
“I’ll definitely be focusing more on the next Olympics in four years,” Robinson shares. “I’m focusing more on Junior Worlds. Yeah, it’s a possibility, but I’m not going to be focusing my whole season around it.”
Her schedule will prioritize slalom, giant slalom, and super-G races, and she says she probably won’t be doing any downhill this year, citing “it’s a bit too much” for her first season. For now, she’s racing in Australia New Zealand Cup (ANC) races before heading north to see how she stacks up against the FIS crowds in North America and Europe.