VAIL, Colorado - The U.S Ski Team announced Wednesday that Vail native Sarah Schleper is racing her last World Cup race today.
Schleper, 32, has 15 seasons of World Cup racing under her belt and is the oldest member of the women's U.S. Ski Team. She's also a four-time Olympian - 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010.
Doug Haney, spokesman for the U.S. Ski Team, said Schleper will still race at the U.S. Championships at Winter Park in March.
Buzz Schleper, Sarah's father and the owner of Buzz's Boards in Vail Village, said he thinks his daughter just feels like it's time to retire. He wasn't entirely sure she would retire this season, though.
"I kind of knew it was going to happen, but until she actually told the press, I wasn't sure," he said.
Schleper, who is in Austria, plans to talk more about her retirement with the Vail Daily this afternoon.
Her father, who has always supported her and has traveled the world to watch her race, is looking at the bright side of things - he'll get to see her more often.
"It's not like I'm losing a ski racer," Buzz Schleper said. "I'm gaining a daughter and a grandson because they're going to be here in Vail."
He also thinks his daughter would like to have more children, which is hard to do while ski racing. Sarah missed the 2007-08 season for the birth of her son, Lasse.
She knows she's still competitive, Buzz said, but "she felt like if she's not going to win, it's time to move on."
Sarah scored World Cup points in Wednesday's giant slalom, with a 23rd-place finish, but she either didn't finish or didn't qualify for second runs in the six World Cup races she raced before Wednesday. She finished first in a giant slalom at Copper Mountain last month, an International Ski Federation race but not a World Cup.
Schleper did extremely well in her last FIS races, with three additional wins at the end of last season at FIS races in Washington, and two second-place finishes at FIS races there and in Vail.
Schleper hasn't cracked the top 10 in a World Cup race, however, since January of 2011, when she finished eighth in slalom in Croatia.
Buzz has fond memories of Schleper's career. The family made a lot of sacrifices so that she could follow her dreams, and he said it was all worth it.
"Financially it takes a lot of money," Buzz said. "It's not just a weekend sport. It's 24/7, 365 days, and you always have to be working on your strength, working out every day. It's a constant training to be at your best."
It was a passion for Sarah, and she followed it, Buzz said. And even after feeling like there was something she might be missing out on because of all that sacrifice, it became clear she wasn't.
"A lot of the ski race girls quit early because they think they're missing something back home," Buzz said. "In those two years (that Sarah took off from racing both because of an injury and for the birth of her son), she missed ski racing. ... She's lasted longer than most."
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.