Aleisha Cline has made some dubious life choices for a woman who's petrified of heights. Like launching cliffs in big mountain events. Or pushing the needle to 135 miles per hour on skis. In the last few years, the high-octane Canadian has converted her acrophobia into a world speed-skiing record, three X Games skiercross championships, and a World Tour of Freeskiing title—and still managed to keep a side job as a world-class pro mountain biker. "In big mountain competitions, I always have the fastest time, she laughs. "And it's not that I'm trying to be fast. I just want to get off the damned hill.
For proof look no further than Cline's completely dominant performances in the 24 Hours of Aspen, the annual noon-to-noon race for vertical feet—and an insult to the concept of lactate threshold. In 2001, Cline teamed with fellow Canadian speed freak Anik Demers to edge a favored U.S. squad. And last year, when racers went solo for the first time, Cline knocked off 205,821 vertical feet and bagged the women's comp. She isn't, however, planning to defend her title. "I think I'm done with the 24-hour thing unless they change the format to something funky, she says.
Fortunately, Cline has plenty of other pursuits to keep herself busy. In the summer, when most skiers are banging weights and doing time in plyometric hell, she's on her bike. She's finished high up the leader board at pro downhill races and several 24-hour cross-country events. Last year she finished fourth in the TransRockies Challenge, a weeklong fat-tire marathon that covers 373 miles and nearly 40,000 vertical feet.
Despite her extracurriculars, Cline's primary focus is to remain alpha female of the skiercross circuit, a discipline that she loves for its "chaos and full adrenaline. Having a five-foot, 10-inch, 160-pound frame doesn't hurt—especially when she's elbowing other women aside in 50-mile-per-hour banked turns. But just in case someone accuses her of momentary complacency, she's already got the next big thing in her sights: boardercross. Yes, snowboarding. "I need to train, but I know I can do it, says Cline. "I'd love to be in the finals in the X Games this winter.
You gonna bet against her?
Born: September 10, 1970; Calgary, Alberta.
Speed Family Robinson: Cline married mountain biking pro Shaums March in 2001. "His competitiveness is rubbing off on me.
On skiing 135 mph: "The world slows down. Which is good—can you imagine if you were actually there for the whole thing?
Compulsives Anonymous: Cline's coaches recently told her to stop taking yoga after learning she was taking Hatha classes two or three times a day. "I must be the first person accused of overdoing yoga.
The Agony of Defeat: "I hate losing more than anything, but I'm not a big fan of winning either.