Racing

Olympians Alice McKennis and Laurenne Ross Ski Final Downhills of Their Careers

The last members of the fastest U.S. women’s downhill team are hanging up their racing skis.

On Saturday, April 10, American downhiller Laurenne Ross skied and won her final downhill race at the U.S. National Championships in Aspen, Colo. before hanging up her racing skis for good. Ross joined teammate Alice McKennis, who took her final victory lap before the U.S. Championship downhill race on Saturday, in announcing her retirement from professional ski racing.

Both McKennis and Ross are two-time Olympians and have multiple National Champion Titles to their names. They’ve each been members of the U.S. Ski Team for more than a decade and stood on World Cup podiums twice in their careers. McKennis even has a World Cup victory under her belt, having won gold in the St. Anton World Cup downhill in 2013.

Alice McKennis celebrates her downhill victory at the 2013 St. Anton World Cup
Alice McKennis earned her first World Cup victory in the women’s World Cup downhill in St. Anton, Austria on January 12, 2013. The U.S. women’s speed team at the time also included Julia Mancuso, Laurenne Ross, Lindsey Vonn, Stacey Cook, and Leanne Smith. Photo: Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

McKennis also came heartbreakingly close to winning an Olympic medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, finishing fifth in the women’s downhill behind Lindsey Vonn, who took home the downhill bronze.

Watch: Alice McKennis skis to World Cup victory in St. Anton

While their individual accomplishments are noteworthy, perhaps their biggest claim to fame is that both were members of the fastest and most celebrated U.S. women’s speed teams in recent racing history. In 2012 and 2013, the team featuring McKennis, Ross, Lindsey Vonn, Stacey Cook, Julia Mancuso, and Leanne Smith was considered the fastest in the world. Both were also key players in 2018, when the U.S. women’s speed team that by then also included Mikaela Shiffrin and Breezy Johnson was again the most competitive in the world.

Watch: Laurenne Ross nabs first World Cup podium in Garmisch downhill

Even more than most downhillers, Ross and McKennis struggled with countless knee injuries over the course of their careers. Both were sidelined for most of the 2021 World Cup season with knee injuries, sustained on the heels of other severe injuries the previous season.

Despite these setbacks, McKennis is satisfied with all that she’s accomplished over her long racing career and will rack her racing skis with gratitude.

“‘Abundant.’ That’s what comes to mind when I look back on my ski racing career—an abundant amount of injuries, risk, effort, and dedication, but most importantly I feel my career was abundant in so many positive and memorable ways … I don’t need more. It’s time to step away from ski racing,” McKennis posted to Instagram.

Ross, who ends her career on a high-note after winning the National Championship downhill race on Saturday, also has no regrets about walking away.

Laurenne Ross
September 17, 2016 – Portillo, Chile: US Alpine Ski Team athlete Laurenne Ross in a Super-G training course. Photo: Dave Camara

“At last, the end is here … I’m so grateful for every single part of my adventure through ski racing. It feels like I’m about to lose an enormous part of myself, but I am comforted by the gut feeling that ‘it’s time.’ I am fulfilled with what I’ve experienced, and am ready to let go of the ‘what ifs’ and untapped potential,” she shared on Instagram.

McKennis and Ross are the last of the 2012/2013 fastest women’s downhill team to retire, leaving a significant hole in the U.S. women’s speed roster. But they pass the torch to a next generation of downhill talent, including three-time Overall World Cup Champion Mikaela Shiffrin, Breezy Johnson, Isabella Wright, and AJ Hurt, who finished second to Ross in Saturday’s downhill race.

“I grew up watching Laurenne … and it’s just awesome to stand on the podium next to her for her last race,” Hurt told U.S. Ski and Snowboard.