Katie Hensien will have to miss her next college ski competition, but the Redmond native has a great excuse: She will be competing in the slalom at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Hensien, a senior at Denver University, was one of 11 women picked to compete for the U.S. women’s alpine skiing team.
That selection allowed her to realize a longtime dream, one that was helped by years of development at Crystal Mountain.
Not that she was expecting it when U.S. women alpine ski coach Paul Kristofic called her a couple of weeks ago. In fact, at first she did not believe him.
“I was pretty shocked,” said Hensien, who won the national championship in the giant slalom in 2020 and was third in the slalom the past two years. “Hearing that your childhood dream just got accomplished and you are going to the Olympics, it was surreal and a moment I won’t forget. It was pretty emotional and a good call.”
Hensien’s journey to the Olympics began when she was 3 and her parents took her to Whistler, B.C. She can still recall going to a ski school that day.
“I remember crying a lot,” she said.
But not because she was scared or didn’t like it.
“I was crying because the ski lifts were closed,” she said.
Hensien spent her winters growing up competing for Crystal Mountain Alpine Club. During her third year on team, her parents bought an Airstream trailer and spent the weekends in the parking lot.
At age 15, the family moved to Utah so Hensien, now 23, could ski with the Rowmark Ski Academy. But there is no doubt her Seattle-area roots are still strong.
“It’s where I grew up, and where my ski racing career really took off was in Seattle,” she said. “Anytime anyone asks me where I am from, I always say Seattle.”
Hensien’s skiing continued to progress in Utah and in 2018, she was named to the national team. That was the same year she began college at Denver University.
She has juggled school, skiing in Europe for the national team — in World Cup and European Cup races — and competing for Denver the past four years.
“It is a pretty crazy schedule,” said Hensien, who competed for Denver last weekend and got her first collegiate victory in the giant slalom at the RMISA Invitational at Park City, Utah. “There is really never a dull moment during my (skiing season), that’s for sure.”
Hensien is majoring in marketing and minoring in entrepreneurship and expects to get her degree this summer. She said she likes the balance of trying to excel in academics and skiing.
“It does have challenges along the way, but it does make it interesting,” she said. “But I am not one who shies away from a challenge, and I don’t like sitting around doing nothing.”
Hensien got an added challenge this year when before the first World Cup race in October she tore some cartilage off her kneecap, which took her out of action for five weeks.
She returned in time to compete in seven World Cup races, with her best finish being a 28th in the slalom (her best ever is 18th in that event in January 2021) and that was enough to earn her a spot on the U.S. team.
Hensien’s first run in the slalom is Feb. 7. She is an alternate for the giant slalom.
It would take career-best races for Hensien to contend for a medal. She said anything is possible and she’s going in with an open mind.
“I am going to enjoy the moment, and really take everything in and grasp the Olympic experience,” she said. “I am trying to put my best race down for the U.S. and be proud of that.”
Whatever happens, her long-term goal remains the same. She wants to be one of the world’s best and would like to realize another childhood dream — winning a medal at the Olympics.
“I am keeping that possibility open (that it happens this year), but also keeping in mind that if it doesn’t happen, then there is the chance of coming back in 2026 and doing my best there.”