Langely McNeal has always been a hero to her hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho. Whether she was competing in ice show benefits, ripping down Flying Squirrel, being a role model to her mom's 5th Grade class at Community School or competing internationally in her beloved sport, Skier Cross. And this weekend she was the pride of Idaho as she battled her way to the Winter X Games Final Round of Women's Ski Cross in Aspen, Colorado. She qualifed for the semi-finals and then battled her way to the finals by expertly avoiding a pile-up crash involving the rest of the field. As she came through the finish line, her arms gleefully raised in the air, it was impossible not to feel a sense of pride and joy and perhaps, shed a tear or two. Unfortunately, our hero has ended up in the middle of an X Games controversy involving a challenge by the French Ski Cross team regarding Langely's apparent clothing infraction and was subsequently disqualified from the finals. While this has surely shattered a dream of this inspiring athlete, we know that Langely will handle the upcoming weeks with nothing but class, dignity and pride. We also know this Idaho girl has even more dreams on the horizon and we can't wait to see what the future holds for her and to watch her "let her skiing do the talking." – Katie Matteson
So in honor of our X Games Champion, check out Katie Matteson's interview from our Winter 2012 Issue (conducted in 2011) with Langely McNeal and her biggest hero, her dad.
Whiz McNeal was in the doghouse. While his daughter was making her figure skating debut at this past summer’s Battle of the Blades ice show, he was in an airport. To make matters worse, she won the whole shebang with a grand prize of $3,000 for her charity of choice, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF). And Whiz had missed it all.
The video of Langely decked out in a bright ’80s-tastic costume, flipping around the ice and performing lifts with difficult-to-pronounce names is already going viral on the internet. (In defense of Mr. McNeal, his flight home from visiting family was canceled.) But here’s the thing: Langely isn’t even an ice skater. She is a skier. To be more precise, she is an X-Games ski cross racer and a former SVSEF and Division 1 collegiate alpine racer.
Born and raised in Sun Valley, Langely was swimming, skiing, and riding a bike without training wheels by the age of two. She credits her love of the outdoors and adventure to her parents and to this community, one that she says is uniquely devoted to its youth programs, complete with world-class coaches, facilities, mountains and trails.
She also has a father adept and accomplished in his own right as an avid outdoorsman and 30-year veteran of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, who instilled in her the values of hard work and commitment, along with a lifetime love of the outdoors. Together they ski Baldy, ride dirt bikes (though Langely wasn’t allowed to have her own until she turned 19), race mountain bikes and explore the mountains. Whiz’s words of encouragement to his daughter are always simple: “Be cool Lange, be cool. You got this.”
Langely is currently trying to follow in her parents’ footsteps and make Sun Valley her permanent home. “To make a living here, you sometimes have to be pretty creative,” she says. She is now an accomplished athlete beyond her alpine racing career. After switching to ski cross in 2006, she was a member of the World Cup Ski Cross Team from 2007-2010, was one of the top two ranked female ski cross racers in the country, and has competed at several X-Games
and North American Cups.
As a ski cross racer, it helps that Langely grew up skiing the slopes of Bald Mountain. “Standing on top of Upper Greyhawk with four buddies while someone screams ‘FIRST ONE TO THE BOTTOM WINS!’ is exactly where ski cross came from,” she explains.
Photo: Kristin Cheatwood