Katie Hensien will have to miss her next varsity ski meet, but the Redmond native has a great excuse: she’ll be competing in the slalom at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Hensien, a University of Denver senior, was one of 11 women chosen to compete for the United States women’s alpine ski team.
This selection allowed him to achieve a long-held dream, aided by years of development at Crystal Mountain.
It’s not that she was expecting it when American alpine ski coach Paul Kristofic called her a few weeks ago. In fact, at first she didn’t believe him.
“I was quite shocked,” said Hensien, who won the national giant slalom championship in 2020 and has finished third in the slalom for the past two years. “Hearing that your childhood dream has just come true and you’re going to the Olympics, it was surreal and a moment I won’t forget. It was quite emotional and a good call.
Hensien’s journey to the Olympics began when she was 3 years old and her parents took her to Whistler, BC. She still remembers going to 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 his winters growing up competing for the Crystal Mountain Alpine Club. During his third year on the team, his 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’s no doubt that his Seattle-area roots still run strong.
“It’s where I grew up, and Seattle is where my ski racing career really took off,” she says. “Whenever someone asks me where I’m from, I always say Seattle.”
Hensien’s skiing continued to progress at Utah and in 2018 she was named to the national team. It was the same year that she started her studies at the University of Denver.
She juggled school, skied in Europe for the national team – in World Cup and European Cup races – and competed for Denver for the past four years.
“It’s a pretty crazy schedule,” said Hensien, who competed for Denver last weekend and earned his first collegiate victory in the giant slalom at the RMISA Invitational in Park City, Utah. “There really is never a dull moment in my (ski season), that’s for sure.”
Hensien is majoring in marketing and minoring in entrepreneurship and hopes to graduate this summer. She said she likes the balance between trying to excel in academics and skiing.
“It has challenges along the way, but that makes it interesting,” she said. “But I’m not one to shy away from a challenge and I don’t like to sit around doing nothing.”
Hensien had an additional challenge this year when, before the first World Cup race in October, she tore cartilage from her kneecap, which put her out of action for five weeks.
She returned in time to compete in seven World Cup races, her best result being 28th in the slalom (her best result is 18th in this event in January 2021) and that was enough to earn her a place in the American team.
Hensien’s first run in slalom is February 7. She is a substitute for the giant slalom.
It would take the best races of his career at Hensien to challenge for a medal. She said anything is possible and she goes with an open mind.
“I’m going to enjoy the moment and really seize it all and seize the Olympic experience,” she said. “I’m trying to do my best race for the United States and be proud of it.”
Whatever happens, his long-term goal remains the same. She wants to be one of the best in the world and would like to fulfill another childhood dream: to win a medal at the Olympics.
“I’m keeping that possibility open (that it happens this year), but also keeping in mind that if it doesn’t happen, there’s the possibility of coming back in 2026 and doing my best there.”