This month, Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn revealed that she'll retire from competition after the 2018-19 ski season

By Lindsay Kimble
October 25, 2018 08:21 PM
Advertisement
Credit: Chris Owyoung/Red Bull Content Pool

Lindsey Vonn is facing down her biggest challenge yet: retirement.

The Olympic alpine skier announced this month that she’ll retire from the sport competitively following the 2018-19 season. Though Vonn already holds the women’s record for most World Cup wins at 82, her goal of besting Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 might no longer be feasible.

“I have been saying the past few years that I’ll keep skiing until I break the record, but I’ve come to the realization that my career is not the sum of this record,” Vonn, 34, tells PEOPLE at an event celebrating her Heroes of the Year cover of The Red Bulletin in New York City on Wednesday.

“I’ve long surpassed the women’s World Cup record and I’ve done things in ski racing that no one’s ever done before, and I’m proud of that and what I’ve accomplished as a whole, and I don’t necessarily need this record to solidify anything or prove anything to myself or anybody else,” she explains.

Still, Vonn is hopeful: “I think it would be incredible, but I’m proud of myself no matter what. And just knowing that gives me peace of mind and makes it a lot less nerve-wracking. I’m just gonna enjoy this season and not think about the record and try to win like I always do, but really enjoy every stop on the tour.”

She hopes that having her retirement decision out there will “alleviate any uncertainty.”

Lindsey Vonn
| Credit: Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Vonn says she wants “to keep skiing a lot longer,” of course, but “just physically can’t.” Years of injuries and five surgeries for Vonn, who has won three Olympic medals, have left their mark.

“I have to accept that and I have and I’m at peace with it, and I’m happy with my decision,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m excited for the next chapter. I really am optimistic and excited, and I think the next chapter is gonna be more exciting than what I’ve done so far. There’s a lot of opportunity out there and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

So what will that next chapter be? Vonn isn’t sure, but says that’s half of the excitement.

“I think initially when I was thinking about it, I was nervous, because all I’ve known and all I’ve focused on my whole life has been skiing, so to think about something else as my main focus is weird, to say the least,” she admits. “I just know that I’ll work hard at whatever it is I decide to do, and with that work ethic I can be successful. That in itself makes me not as nervous, but it’s obviously an interesting transition.”

Lindsey Vonn
| Credit: Chris Owyoung/Red Bull Content Pool

For now, though, Vonn — who became the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal in any of the five Alpine skiing disciplines earlier this year — is full throttle into training.

“My conditioning has gone really well this summer and my training down in Chile in September went really well,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s six hours a day, it’s weightlifting and core and balance and agility, and a lot of biking. It’s the same as always, just honestly it takes a lot more because of my knee and how many injuries I’ve had.”

RELATED VIDEO: Lindsey Vonn Looks Back at Her 3-Time Olympic Medal-Winning Ski Career: ‘I Enjoyed Every Second’

“We go to dinner. We have our little spots in Nashville, and we do a drink at one spot, and then dinner at another, and then finish with ice cream at another spot,” she tells PEOPLE. “Or else we go home at watch Law & Order and have ice cream at home.”

The ice cream, she says, is key.

“We have a little system,” she shares. “We have chocolate chip cookie dough. P.K. eats the cookie dough and I eat the regular ice cream.”