Ali Magelky has always loved being outside, particularly when it snows. Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, she learned to ski at a young age, hitting the trails six or seven times per week. Now a freshman at Sheridan High School, Magelky is the sole cross-country skier on the new Antelope Butte Foundation Nordic Club.
Magelky loves the snowy outdoors, but she isn’t competing merely for fun and games.
She set a goal to qualify for the United States Ski and Snowboard Junior National Championships during her high school career. Magelky doesn’t expect to qualify this year, but believes she will in the next few years.
“If I haven’t done it by my senior year, then I don’t know what’s wrong,” Magelky said.
Magelky started skiing seriously in second grade, partly because she attended a school where nearly all students skied for two or three hours after class. She started racing competitively a few years later as part of a large team.
Magelky competes in both types of cross-country skiing: classic — where the skis are parallel to each other during the race — and skate, where the skis are in more of a V-shape during competition.
Race distances vary. They are typically around 5 kilometers, but Magelky has also competed in an 8-kilometer race. Most races have 40 to 50 competitors, which can be treacherous in narrow paths through woods and up and down hills. Luckily, Magelky has never been seriously injured skiing.
Magelky said the better skiers usually have resilient mindsets and can deal with the unexpected, chaotic moments during a race.
The Magelky family moved to Sheridan about 18 months ago. The only nearby location to practice skiing is the South Park area near Little Goose Creek, a huge difference from Alaska, where excellent trails were mere minutes away.
“That was one of the hard things from us moving down here,” Ali’s mother Jane Magelky said. “How to keep that love alive for skiing. Just because we moved, we didn’t want to take that away from her, so we worked really hard to try and keep that going as much as we can.”
Keeping the love alive isn’t easy. It Involves the family traveling long distances on weekends to races in Cody and Casper.
Magelky skied almost every day in Alaska. Now, she usually skis two or three times per week, training with Antelope Butte Foundation executive director John Kirlin.
Kirlin said it has been easier to get the club started because Magelky already has skiing equipment and years of experience. Kirlin hopes to increase the amount of skiers in the club going forward and is also writing grants for different types of ski equipment.
But being a team of one gets lonely sometimes. There were about 50 skiers on her team in Alaska, so now Magelky has to look within herself for motivation.
“It’s not fun to do by yourself,” she said. “You don’t have that extra competitive push … It’s all internal.”
On days she doesn’t ski, Magelky does core, strength and endurance workouts on her own at Pure Energy Fitness. As the season progresses, Magelky does less intervals, focusing on recovery and training for races.
Training at South Park is nice because Magelky doesn’t have to worry about avoiding rocks or tree branches, but it also has limitations. The ski loop is short — about 1 kilometer — and quickly becomes repetitive. The park also doesn’t have any inclines on which Magelky can practice hill workouts.
Instead, Kirlin has Magelky train on a stair machine while wearing a weighted vest, a less-than-ideal alternative.
“It’s awful,” Magelky said.
Kirlin is not only trying to help Magelky improve her skiing technique, but also wants her to become more self-reliant.
“Developing that ‘Why?’” Kirlin said. “That knowledge so she can go out on her own and be able to focus and get quality training in.”
Magelky is also trying to convince a few friends to join the club in the future, something Kirlin encourages.
“I like the club aspect because it allows us to do things a little differently and I think we can fulfill more needs of the skier and not just her competitive side,” Kirlin said. “I want to develop in this a community service side, too.”
The ski season is quickly approaching its end. The state competition begins Feb. 23 in Laramie, and the national qualifying races are in early March.
Magelky’s first year with the ABF Nordic Club will conclude shortly, but she and the club are just getting started.