“What are your goals?” “Where do you see yourself?” I get asked these questions quite often. To be honest, it is becoming easier and easier to answer: above all I see myself continuing to do what I love, for not five years, but more — much more.
It all began when I blew out my knee, back in 2009. In spite of how bad it was, I didn’t let it make me lose sight of what I wanted to do this entire time. There were times when I second guessed if I was ready to come back and hit cliffs and film parts, but all that really did was teach me something I more or less knew all along: I was and am skiing for myself and no one else. I have sponsors and all that, but they weren’t the ones telling me to climb this peak in Alaska and ski down — that was me wanting to do it. Being able to separate that from the more professional aspects or expectations of my career took a lot of the pressure off. It really cleared my mind and I focused on what skiing was about for me: freedom and fun.
Skiing big mountains and powder are my biggest passions. But I want to be able to ski until I’m 90 years old. And to be able to do that, I needed to learn how to reel it in, to have patience with the mountains. I needed to be smart and make my own decisions. This came about when I was rehabbing my knee. I remember I was sitting on the beach in Tahoe and I randomly saw Jeremy Jones who was with his kids. He put everything into perspective for me — I am so thankful for it. His family walked over and we began talking. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him, but then he began emphasizing longevity. At least he said that was what it had become about for him: longevity.
Jeremy basically told me that he makes sure he really looks at landings, making sure they’re steep. He also told me that it is fine to feel a weird intuition either scouting or even on top of the line and to then, at the last minute, decide against skiing it. That there was no shame in calling to be picked up. By listening to those intuitions, weird or otherwise, and not getting caught up in the camera, everyone stays healthy to ride another day. You’re not only avoiding dangerous situations for yourself, but you are avoiding them for your entire team. To be the best athlete, treating your body well means both mentally and physically. And my knee injury taught me that. I certainly don’t feel invincible anymore, and because of that I’m a lot smarter.
And Jones’s advice resonates more than ever today. The past decade or so, skiers and snowboarders keep dying, and I’ve had multiple super close friends die. It started when I was about 13. I lost a few friends in an avalanche off the backside of Squaw. And it has kind of pin-balled since — it just continues to happen. Losing my friends and people I ski with and respect is always a huge fear of mine. I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot lately. Ultimately, it has made me even more focused on being smart from personal decisions to who you are surrounding yourself with out there, and learning from these fatal mistakes in a positive manner, honoring these friends that have passed by living your life to the fullest. But that doesn’t mean “sending it” for that person, deciding to ski the craziest line or hiking the craziest climb. That isn’t my personality type. At maybe one point it was, but now I’m going to honor them by living my life in the best way possible and that doesn’t necessarily directly relate to skiing. It can just be trying to become a better person.
All that being said, I don’t like to let fear control me. So while I’m conscious about the deaths and injuries, I like to more or less block out it of my mind when I’m skiing. I am sure to reflect on everything and allow it influence my approach to the mountain, but I don’t like to let it be my whole approach to the mountain.
What are my goals? To ski for a long time, and to continue gaining knowledge while pushing it in big mountain skiing. And with that in mind, there is still a lot of skiing left for me to do.
For information and registration for a women’s avalanche workshop she is running, look into SAFE-AS by visiting SAFEASClinics.org.