Brown uses lockdown to rebuild for the next campaign

Ski racing has a habit of kicking you down when things are starting to go well. Cara Brown had just won a Giant Slalom in the Arnold Lunn CIT World Cup series when she suffered a knee injury in the next race she took part in, the Austrian National Championships in Seefeld at the end of January. It was a season ending injury. Having started to bring hero points down in both Super G and Giant Slalom, Brown was showing the form that had people impressed.

There is never a good time to have an injury but with all of her fellow racers not being able to race and score points, Brown has been able to go about her rehab without having to look at the FIS website and see how they are doing. How much of a shock to her was it that the season ended the way it did? "I guess there was a build up to the season being shut down because of Coronavirus but if you’d told me in January that the season would end the way it did then I would definitely be shocked!," she explained.

After having won seven FIS races in the 2018-2019 season and having won her first of the season in the last race she competed in, Brown was starting to keep the benefits of moving to the International Ski racing Academy that was set up by Chris Knight, ex coach to Lindsey Vonn and also Chemmy Alcott. It was Alcott who had suggested that Brown move to Knight's programme after she had spent some years on the Orsatus programme that is based in Meribel.

Knight explained: "Cara was just starting to ski fast in GS when she got hurt, often the same story everyone hears about in season injuries. Confidence and speed is higher and then just something small like hitting a rut the wrong way can derail everything. Was a shame because she had had some good fis Europa cup sg results early on and we were building into another SG block before the EC’s in Sarntal. Including Cara we had 4 girls scoring in EC SG last season so we had high hopes of finishing the season strongly with them before everything got cut short."

With her season already over having torn her ACL what were her plans when the lockdown was enforced? "I actually tore my ACL at the end of January so my season was over three weeks before the virus reached the mountains. My team is based in Italy though so when they announced the country was going into lockdown them there was definitely a panic to leave so people didn’t get stuck there. Most of my teammates are based in Europe and had a car so they were ok to pack up and leave. For my International Ski Racing Academy teammates that lived in New Zealand, US and Canada there was definitely more difficulty getting home… Nearly all my ski kit is still up in the Dolomites, hopefully I’ll be able to go and recover it soon!"

Did Brown feel that she were building up to a series of strong results? "I wish I could have had a chance to race in February as there were Europa Cup SG in Crans Montana and Sarntal. I got a top 25 in St Moritz EC Super G in December and knew I could go for a top 20 or top 15 if I had the chance! Super G had been going really well over the summer and autumn prep period, especially since I switched to Volkl and Dalbello. In training, GS was going well but I was struggling in races. I was inconsistent and constantly making mistakes that ruined good runs. I usually peak for the last month of the season so it would have been nice to have that opportunity."

Brown took the decision to try something new in terms of equipment and was absolutely thrilled with the results: “I made the equipment switch after testing in California last May. The Super G skis in particular are awesome. I could really get to the front of the ski allowing me to make the top of all my turns smooth. Dalbello gave me a tailored fitting service and they sent a technician down to the Southern Hemisphere so we could play around with my set up even more and get it perfected for the winter. Both Volkl and Dalbello have been so supportive and made sure I have everything I need throughout the season”

Now that the season is over, how is she preparing for the next season in terms of fitness and looking after your sponsors and supporters? "Luckily, I had my ACL repaired at the start of February so I had almost a full month of physio before everything was shut down. I am now in lockdown in London but I have done knee rehab before (ACL tear in other knee in 2016) so I know what I can and can’t do! I have a spin bike and I’ve been doing more bike sessions than ever before. I don’t have any weights here but I’ve been doing lots of body weight and band exercises and mixing that with more “fun” home workouts on Youtube and yoga sessions. I’m not allowed to run yet or do any kind of jumping so I am quite limited in what I can do, in a way quarantine is giving my knee more time to heal and recovery than it would have had otherwise."

Which was the race that gave Brown the most amount of satisfaction last season? "Definitely the Europa Cup SG in St Moritz in December. I had fun, I faced my fears and I had a good result! There were two days of races and the first day was amazing weather and great snow. There was a jump at the bottom of the track and I watched the first girls go off it and land 50m away at the gate below. Jumps have always scared me and I was far too cautious in the first race. Before the jump I was 50th at the split time and afterwards I was 8th! That shows how relieved I was…For day two I was determined to really go for it and I did and it paid off, that gave me a lot of satisfaction."

Did Brown meet the goals she set for herself at the beginning of the season? "I decided to set myself a different kind of goal this season. For the first time in 3 years it was a season without any big events which meant I could focus more on my own performance rather than worry about qualifying for events. My goal this season was to actually enjoy skiing, remember all the reasons why I ski race and to do my best. More specifically I wanted to perform the way I know I could in SG in EC and maybe WC. So, in a way I did meet my goals but I didn’t have as many chances at them as I would have liked."

Support in terms of both financial and emotional is a vital component of successful athletes and Brown realises the huge support that her parents give her. "I think my biggest supporters, as always, have been my parents. They financially support 100% of my season and they try and make it to as many races as possible to cheer for me at the finish line. Since I said I wanted to be a ski racer instead of going to university they’ve stood by me and really tied to help me in any way they could.

As one of the senior British racers, Brown is able to give her opinion as to how the sport can improve, especially the British events and how they could improve. "I think it would be very beneficial to British athletes to actually see each other more than just once a season at the British Championships. Everyone has a busy schedule and things don’t exactly line up in terms of levels and disciplines but I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a British training week in the off season. It’s not an issue of funding because we’re all paying for our own seasons anyway. It’s an issue of finding people that want to dedicate the time and effort to set it up because they see the potential in British skiing. I also think British winter events will improve when we have more athletes at a high level. The way to do that is to create a pathway for up and coming athletes, which is not just made up of private academies, so athletes can see a way for them to reach a high level and also see that when they reach that level they will be supported at big events. If we’re trying to be like all the top alpine nations why aren’t British athletes given any of the support the big nations have which leads to their success? As I said above, it’s not a question of money." This concept would also allow the British coaches and administrators to meet and get to learn about the up and coming racers and how they would fit into teams.

Brown adds: "We need to look at what is happening in our sport and make decisions from a different point of view."

Does she feel that the sport is innovative or proactive enough in terms of attracting a new audience and new participants? "I think that there are some really good clubs and teams in the UK that do try and get more kids into ski racing. It’s quite obvious that without clubs and private academies the UK would have absolutely no ski racers. Alpine Skiing is an awesome sport, it’s fast, exciting and fun and it is the backbone for nearly every other winter Snowsport. Look at Jasmin Taylor, an amazing Telemarker that started in Alpine or Ollie Davies who’s flying the British flag in Skier Cross after moving from alpine.

"The issue in the UK isn’t getting people into ski racing, it’s keeping them in it. And if you want something to be different then you need to change something. Until something genuinely changes with how the current system is run I don’t believe the UK will ever have enough high level athletes to compete alongside top alpine nations."

With injury status at the moment, Brown is heavily into her rehab. With no training allowed at the moment for her rivals, this is allowing Brown the opportunity to focus solely on her rehab and not worry about what every one else is doing.

"At the moment my plan is to get my knee back to full health and get my body back to the level required to race again. Like most people living through Coronavirus lockdown, I’m taking it day by day! I know it will be difficult to qualify for World Champs next season. The qualification period was cut short this season, next season I will be returning from injury and the changes in FIS rules last season have not as yet been reflected in the British qualification criteria. However, at the last World Champs, the British officials allowed a non-qualifying athlete to compete so who knows!

"I’m also still working on my bikini business, Corallina Swim. There’s always plenty to do with marketing, social media, emails, updating the website, orders, sorting stock etc… I’m still shipping orders once a week during quarantine. Despite the lockdown, the nice weather is getting people into summer mode and it’s timed well as there’s a big sale on my whole collection at the moment! (

Mental health is a big issue at the moment, and not just because of the Coronavirus. How is Brown looking after her mental health in this time of isolation? "I’ve discovered three things that have stopped me going completely nuts… Firstly, make a routine: I spend my morning doing rehab and fitness and the second part of my day is dedicated to running Corallina Swim, studying for my Yachtmaster sailing qualifications (which I just passed!), writing blogs, updating social media etc. The TV doesn’t get turned on until around 5 o’ clock. When I get into bed at the end of the day, I always feel like I’ve accomplished something. Secondly, I keep in touch with my friends through video calls, messages and social media. I’ve used this time to get back in touch with old friends I haven’t had the chance to talk to in years. Lastly, I try to stay away from the news and statistics, it’s so easy to be sucked in and find yourself 3 hours deep on Youtube watching videos about how Coronavirus was planted by aliens. I find the best way is to download a news app and set a notification for breaking news. That way, I am getting the essentials and I don’t overburden my mind with information."

Brown is certainly being proactive in all that she is turning her hand to in these tough times!

Picture Brown competing in Crans Montana at the 2018 World Cup races

Crans-Montana is an all-year-round mountain resort located in the Valais canton of Switzerland (French speaking), around two hours by train from Geneva Airport.

The resort has a long history and heritage when it comes to Alpine ski racing, having hosted the Alpine Skiing World Championships in 1987 and regularly holds one of the dates on the Women’s World Cup downhill calendar – widely considered to be one of the toughest women’s courses on the circuit.

During the winter of 2020, the resort hosted the GB National Alpine Special Olympics competition (Slalom, GS and Super G), an event dedicated to athletes with intellectual disabilities.

For the past two winters, Crans-Montana has hosted a special invitational slalom event in-between the World Cup schedule in Adelboden and Wengen. Athletes are invited to train during the day and then a night race with CHF 40,000 in prize money. In 2019, Great Britain’s Dave Ryding finished in 2nd place, on the podium just behind France’s Clement Noel.

About the resort:

Two towns, Crans and Montana, merge together to form the resort and both have their own identities. Sitting on a high plateau above the Rhone Valley and facing south, the views are spectacular, especially from higher altitudes where it’s possible to see Mont Blanc in the west, through to the Matterhorn and way beyond to the east. During the winter, the skiing is well suited for intermediates, with a wide range of blue and red runs, but there’s excellent beginners areas as well as some more challenging slopes for experts, including some interesting off-piste and ski touring terrain. During summer, the resort is a haven for both road cyclists and mountain bikers as well as hikers and adventure seekers. Accommodation is varied, with a strong luxury element including several 5* hotels and a spread of 3* and 4* options as well as self-catering apartments and B&B’s.

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