Athlete of the Week: Alaskan alpine skier Finnigan Donley

Normally when we talk skiers in Alaska it's nordic but alas this time it's alpine.
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 6:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage’s own alpine skier Finnigan Donley was crowned the U18 Junior National Champion last month, and is looking to finish out the season strong at his next race in California.

Donley started his season with some challenging races on the North American Cup series, where he surprised even himself with a 12th place finish. That great finish helped him qualify for the Junior Worlds that took place in Austria.

“I was just happy to be there — like had no expectations. And then I came away and won the downhill for the under-18 category and then I was second in the under-18 category in the super-G, but I was 13th overall which I was super happy with,” Donley said on his performance in Austria.

According to Donley, performing well in the Junior Worlds gave him some confidence going into the U18 National Championships at Mittersill Cannon Mountain in Franconia, N.H.

“At the beginning of the year that was my big goal, but by this time it felt like a smaller race which was crazy. I knew going into it, I was more like a favorite to win which is a totally different mindset I’ve felt. It felt great to be able to execute in that, I won the down hill and the super-G there and was third in the slalom,” Donley said.

Donley earned two gold medals, a bronze medal, and a sixth place finish in four different events, helping him ski away with the under-18 overall national championship. The Alaskan crediting a lot of his success to growing up in the 49th state, citing experience skiing in all sorts of different conditions — rain, snow, slush, cold or hot — that helped him adapt to different slopes across the world.

“My ski coaches from Alaska are still such a big part of my ski racing. I talk to them weekly, I think everything that I do stems back to my connections to Alaska and that will always be super valuable to me,” Donley said.

Donley grew up in Anchorage and spent most of the winter months at Alyeska, staying on the mountain from 10:30 a.m. until the night skiing was over at 9 p.m. Donley credits all of those hours on the slopes to helping him create muscle memory that he relies on in high-pressure situations.

“I love ski racing because a run is like a minute and the times are so tight — first place to 30th place is sometimes 3 seconds — so it’s just like, it’s such a mental game. And I think I love that, it’s always such a high-pressure situation,” Donley continued. “I feel like when I’m racing, it’s sort of like you get into that like flow state or the zone where you’re just totally in the moment, not thinking about anything else, and I think that’s just the best feeling in the world.”

Finnigan Donley is currently ending his season in California where he will try to continue making a name for not only himself but alpine skiers from Alaska.