Foreste Peterson confronted a cold reality after four years on the U.S. ski team development squad and four more competing at Dartmouth College : Her racing days were about to end.
Not ready to retire, there were not many other avenues, either. Time to put those environmental and geography studies to use , Peterson reckoned.
Out of the blue, Peterson received an offer almost too good to be true: Funds for housing, travel and coaching to keep her on the slopes.
The 25-year-old Peterson is a member of Team X , a newly formed all-female development ski team out of Park City, Utah, that's trying to become an alternate way to prepare the next generation.
It also keeps an eye out for the occasional late bloomer — like Peterson.
"I knew I had a lot more in the tank and I was hungry for more," Peterson said. "This gives me that chance."
So far, the squad is comprised of four racers from all over the globe, two coaches and two ski servicemen. Backed by private capital and led by coach Jim Tschabrun , the racers are being prepared to compete on the NorAm and Europa Cup levels, along with possibly even at World Cup races. Last weekend, Peterson earned a spot through the U.S. team to compete in the giant slalom at Killington, Vermont. She nearly earned a second run, too.
No pressure, though. This isn't a results-based team. It's not win-at-all-costs.
Instead, they're focused more on the process of development.
When Tschabrun was assembling the team of Peterson, 18-year-old Madi Hoffman (Australia), 19-year-old Katie Fleckenstein (Canada) and 23-year-old Benedicte Lyche (Norway, Montana State), he asked them one simple question: What are your ambitions?
"I wanted their dream goals if they could lose all constraints," Tschabrun explained. "If they say they want to be an NCAA All-American or be on the World Cup or if they have an Olympic goal, it gives us a better road map."
About the name: After bantering around numerous ideas, they settled on Team X — to represent the extra X chromosome in females.
There aren't many teams like this around the world — for women, anyway. There are men's versions that feature racers still going into their late 20s.
"Men are given this message that they aren't done when they're older. At 23 or 24, there are still opportunities," Tschabrun said. "On the women's side, because they physically and emotionally mature quicker, there's this unfair tendency to close the door a few years earlier. There are a lot of women who continue to improve with age and as they gain experience and knowledge. But there haven't been a lot of opportunities for women out of college."
Take Peterson for example: She left the U.S. developmental squad to attend Dartmouth, where she turned in a successful career.
Late in her final season, and thinking that just might be it, Tschabrun called her Dartmouth coach and arranged a meeting. He gave her the run-down of the program they were launching and how they could help her make ends meet while she still competed.
She was in. Peterson could've tried to compete as an independent, but a season of ski racing can cost in the neighborhood $50,000.
"I wasn't going to pursue my goals for financial reasons, because I can't keep asking my parents to pay for me to chase my goals," Peterson said. "This opportunity? It's insane."
Their spots at races are really at the discretion of the national teams. Peterson competed in Killington last weekend after winning a time trial and receiving a position from the U.S. coaches. Essentially, that's how it works for NorAms and Europa Cup races, too.
"If an event doesn't fill, they leave it up to the event organizers who they want to choose. There's room for people like us on the scene," Tschabrun said. "We're not trying to be the flashiest team out there, or have the most Instagram followers. We just want to have the right fit. We're on our way there. We're learning as we go."
This is a team driven by one primary tenet: Unity. They plan meals together, do CrossFit workouts together and have even formed a book club. Recently, they delved into "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth.
"It's nice with a small group where you can operate as a family," Tschabrun said. "We do a lot of different kinds of team building."
On the Team X Facebook, the squad lists its motto as, "Just a group of girls and coaches trying to tackle the world of ski racing. We travel the globe chasing snow!"
They even have their own suits — black with just a hint of pink, "for a little flair in there," Peterson laughed.
She believes a team like this could be a model for the future — a way to keep a racer in the game.
"Last season, I thought my career was over," Peterson said. "I still have a lot of big goals in front of me."