Former Canadian national team member Amelia Smart is an expert juggler. She juggles the NCAA, NorAm and World Cup ski circuits all while pursuing a computer science degree at the University of Denver. When she wasn't performing on the White Circus this season, Smart won the 2018 NorAm slalom title and led the Pioneers to a team victory at the NCAA National Championships while she secured two individual titles. College life seems to suit the up-and-coming Canadian.
While the ski season might be winding down, Smart has a bit more school to finish up in Colorado before she can enjoy some time off. Still she found time to sit down with Ski Racing Media.
Gabbi Hall: You were on the Canadian national team for a few years, but decided to enroll at DU this year. Why make the switch from full-time athlete to student-athlete?
Amelia Smart: I’ve always wanted to go to school, and DU [University of Denver] has always been my dream school. I did two years on the national team, and I wanted a change. I wasn’t really enjoying the atmosphere as much, and I just wanted to change it up a bit and I knew I needed to go to school soon to keep my eligibility.
GH: Looking back on your season, it appears that the college experience has helped you a lot. What has been the biggest benefit for you?
AS: I think the biggest benefit, honestly, has been the team atmosphere, and the whole college circuit atmosphere. It’s super different. Even now, going back to the NorAms, it’s such a different atmosphere with all the athletes. It’s so positive on the college circuit and it really makes ski racing fun, and I think that’s helped me a lot. I’ve really learned to chill out more at races and just have fun, which helps my skiing a lot.
GH: That said, adding college to the mix, not only adds the demands of the college racing circuit but also college classes. What was the hardest part of managing the World Cup, NorAm and college race circuits this season?
AS: I think the hardest part is missing the classes because, definitely in winter quarter, I have to teach myself a lot more. I use Khan Academy a lot... I think that’s the hardest part about balancing it. Just finding the time to actually sit down after skiing and almost force yourself to do the homework. It honestly works out really well. The teachers were really good with me about helping me out like with emails and being there for office hours when I was back. It worked out better than I thought it was going to.
GH: You made your World Cup debut this season, starting in Killington and eventually heading over to Europe. Was there anything about the World Cup that surprised you?
AS: I think maybe what surprised me is that it’s a much more calm vibe there than you would think. You think, ‘Oh, this is the highest level. Everyone’s probably super in there own world,’ but there’s a lot of camaraderie. Everyone’s always sitting in the lodge, watching the race on the TV because they broadcast it as it’s going on. It’s definitely an intense atmosphere, more intense than the NorAms, but it was a lot more calm than I thought it was going to be.
GH: What was the most important lesson you learned this season on the World Cup that you can take into next season?
AS: I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is just to take advantage of all the opportunities that you get when you’re at the World Cup. There’s always warm-up courses set up. Since I start with later bibs, I have such a long time between the start of the race and when I actually go, so I really tried to take advantage of skiing as much as I could at the races, which kind of seems a little different than what you would usually do at a race, but I think it’s really good opportunity to watch other racers.
GH: What was the highlight of the season?
AS: One of the highlights on the World Cup circuit was I did the parallel slalom in Courchevel and I qualified 20th for the [final] race and they take the top 32. So, that was pretty cool because I was honestly so surprised. I started bib 66, I think. Obviously, winning NCAAs with the team, that was a pretty big highlight, too.
GH: What do you think of the parallel events?
AS: I think it’s awesome. I really like doing it. I think it’s really fun. I think it’s good for spectators to watch, too, because it’s way more exciting. I think it’s good because both slalom and GS skiers can be really good at it. You never really know who’s going to win.
GH: We may be getting ahead of ourselves here, but what are your goals for next season?
AS: My goal is to get top 30 World Cup. Other than that, just to keep improving, work on being able to be more consistent. Obviously do well on the college circuit again.