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Taking it to the top

Aleisha Cline has been addicted for a while. Not to the bright lights and big image that comes with being a professional skier, but with the sport of skiing itself. "I'm just a skiercross racer, I'm not a rock star," says Aleisha Cline.

Aleisha Cline has been addicted for a while. Not to the bright lights and big image that comes with being a professional skier, but with the sport of skiing itself.

"I'm just a skiercross racer, I'm not a rock star," says Aleisha Cline. "I just love to ski. For some reason, I'm really good at it, I have no idea why," she says of her success in the discipline of skiercross racing.

Her husband, and fellow adrenaline addict Shaums March, a professional mountain bike rider, agrees with and supports her addiction to the sport.

"She has the drive and she just can't stop - she really is addicted to it. She's got the will to make it happen and she's very determined. She's never satisfied and she feels like she can always do better."

Cline, a Squamish resident for nearly three years, has been ripping around on mountains since she was a small girl, and has grown into one of the world's most respected all-around skiers.

Originally from Kelowna, Cline started skiing when she was just four years old, and since then has explored many different avenues of the skiing world. At Big White, she was a member of the mountain's club team and developed her competitive skills by crashing gates in slalom, giant slalom and downhill.

As she grew, so did her appetite for more competition, and her desire for speed. From 1992-94, Cline was involved as a professional speedskier and would routinely straight-line herself down steep slopes reaching speeds of up to 235 km-h. Her name is still in the record books as holding one of the five fastest recorded times by a woman in North America.

She then took to the grandeur of skiing big lines on big mountains in the hard-charging world of freeskiing. In the past decade, freeskiing has been leading the way towards skiings' resurgence, and Cline has been involved in the movement by skiing in several international big mountain competitions.

"It's been a huge challenge. Freeskiing pushed me to do things that I wouldn't normally do for myself," she said. "Before I drop into a big line, I'm scared to death to tell you the truth. I don't really know what goes through my mind other than 'oh my god.'"

This week, Cline is in Snowbird, Utah along with Whistler's Jenn Ashton to compete in a big mountain competition before competing in skiercross events the following two days.

Skiercross is Cline's latest addiction, and is where she has achieved the most success. She has been racing professionally for six years, and has been the most dominant force on the women's circuit for the past two seasons.

"She likes to go fast," said March. "When she gets out front it's pretty hard to catch her. I think she likes to be in control of the situation. She pushes the limit but all the time knowing she has control."

At the end of January, Cline won the U.S. Open skiercross championships in Vail (where she finished second in 2003), and the week before finished second place at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Although she got off to a rocky start this season with a couple of race crashes, Cline has won 4 out of the last 6 races she has entered.

"Aleisha can do anything she puts her mind to," said Chris Nicholson, public relations manager at Whistler/Blackcomb and spokesman for the Whistler Freeride Team. "She is far and away the most dominant skier on that circuit. From a skiing standpoint, she's a powerhouse - an amazing athlete on the snow."

Cline has been a valuable member of the Whistler Freeride Team for the past two seasons. Not only does she possess exceptional athletic ability, she's an asset to the team because of her personality."What's unique with Aleisha, is that she's so talented that she can excel at any sport, but she's so down to earth that the success doesn't get to her head like some other pro skiers. She's got a great personality and it shows."

She has had a busy year thus far, with numerous competitions and much success under her belt. Her schedule takes her to 9 World Cup competitions, 5 International CrossMax races as well as all of the North American skiercross races. In December and January, Cline was in Europe competing in the World Cup Ski Cross circuit.

"I've been really busy with skiercross this year, so I've got to pick and choose which races I compete in, which doesn't leave much time to live in Squamish."

Her and her husband moved to Squamish because of so many outdoor pursuits available.

"It's awesome. We can ride our bikes, ski, climb - we can do anything we want to in Squamish."

In January, the crew and cameras of ESPN came to Squamish to follow Cline around town for a couple of days to film an athlete profile.