Estelle Alphand debuted in the FIS Ski World Cup in Ofterschwang, Germany, in 2013 when she was 17. When we spoke with Estelle, she was en route to return to Ofterschwang. And what great progress has she made in those five years!

Estelle recently returned from the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which is something she did not even dream of just a year ago.

– I did not think that I would make it to the Games. It was amazing to get to participate. The event was well organized, the snow was excellent and the slope great. For me, it was a learning experience; I was not a medal favorite, so I took it easy and made sure to have fun, said Estelle and continued:

– I admit I was a bit disappointed initially, but then I realized that I could be happy with my skiing, which is what I took home with me. I was the fastest in the second run in giant slalom, which is great. It was my first Games and something totally different; the whole event is so much bigger with all the athletes and sports. On the mountain however, it’s a normal ski race. A wonderful experience!

Before this season, Estelle switched national teams from France to Sweden, which was no easy decision.

– I had not felt at home in the French team for some years so it was time to try something new. I knew what I would lose but did not know for sure what I would gain so it was a tough call. But it’s been good and I am happy with my decision, especially because I was selected for the national team from the beginning, explained Estelle.

– My father made the initial contact with the Swedish team. I was a bit hesitant because it is no small decision to change nation. But then I thought that it was a good idea to see something different, change my training a but. And my mom is very happy that I now have to speak Swedish!

Estelle’s breakthrough did not take long. She already kicked off the season with her personal best of a 14th place finish in Sölden, Austria in October. Since then, the 23-year-old has had outstanding results both in slalom and giant slalom.

– I have been working with a mental coach and also changed my technique a bit over the summer which has helped me become more stable in my skiing so I can just charge now. I now know that I can ski, and ski fast. It is all a lot easier with better self-confidence, said Estelle.

Estelle was born in 1995 in Briancon, France and lives in St Chaffrey in the French Alps, near Sestriere. Her father Luc Alphand is well known in the Alpine circles as a winner of classic downhills such as Kitzbühel and Val Gardena. Her mother Anna-Karine is Swedish and her two younger brothers Nils and Sam are also in the French junior national team.

– It works well to live in St Chaffrey. Being based in Central Europe reduces my travel days. The only difference is that I have to drive a bit more than before. In the spring and summer, I come up to Sweden for our training camps, otherwise I stay at home in France, said Estelle.

Estelle considers herself to be a laid-back person, who does not stress about things.

– I am easy going and shy. Before, I was really focused on winning every race but have calmed down a bit. I now focus on my skiing but I still want to do well. Only when we play ‘yatzy’ with the team in the afternoon, I become really competitive!

In ten days, it is time for the FIS Ski World Cup Finals in Åre, which is home snow for Estelle. It will be her first Finals appearance.

– It’s unbelievable that I have qualified. I did not think I would make it, it’s awesome, said Estelle and added:

– I have many friends in Åre who have been cheering for me for years and now they get to do that on site. It will for sure feel different to race in Åre now when it is my home ground!

The biggest difference Estelle sees between Åre and other FIS World Cup venues is: darkness!

– When you go up to Sweden or Norway in the winter, it’s always so dark. But the slopes in Åre are great with a lot of terrain and you have to stay alert not to lose the rhythm.

Next year’s World Championships are still a bit far for Estelle to plan for.

– I will take it as it comes; when there is little attention you ski faster. My goal is to be in the top 15 on the World Cup start list next season. So, I really hope to qualify to race at Åre 2019. But I am not looking that far yet, but rather taking it a competition at a time and hoping to ski fast enough for a spot on the team!

Name: Estelle Alphand
Born: 23 April 1995, Briancon, France
Residence: St Chaffrey, France
Family: Father Luc, mother Anna-Karine, younger brothers Nils and Sam
Achievements: Gold at the Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012 in super-G; World Cup personal bests: 5th place in slalom and 7th in giant slalom, both 2017/2018 season
Latest news: Changed nation from France to Sweden in summer of 2017, about to compete in her first FIS World Cup Finals