Twenty-four years on skis,
Ten years on the US Ski Team,
Two Olympic Teams,
Three World Championships
One Hundred Forty-Nine World Cup races.
One Million Smiles
One Thousand frustrations
An Once of belief
A Dash of Magic
That is precisely the recipe it took for me to achieve a World Cup podium, twice actually! WOW. WoW, Wow, Wow. What a journey. And the best part is that my feeling right now is that the journey is just beginning!
I look at those numbers and realize some people would think I am crazy for holding on so long. Skiing isn't an incredibly popular sport and the payoff sure doesn't compare to many other professional sports these days. But I know I was bound to face this journey in some face of life and I am grateful learn so much about the world and myself while doing something I absolutely love.
I have doubted that I would ever reach some of my highest goals, but I have never stopped working hard at them no matter how big that doubt was. Maybe my belief was stronger than my doubt even though I didn't always realize it. Maybe I was just always blessed with the right surroundings at the right times that kept me going. As much as I think this is my own journey, I know it hasn't been a journey on my own. If I tried to thank everyone who has helped me in any shape or form along the way, I would (1) forget a ton of people because I have hit my head too many times along the way and (2) I would eat up all my website space because the list would go on and on and on. You all know who you are, and I am forever grateful to you.
Thanks so much to my sponsors for your endless support and belief in me. I ask my friends and fans to support my sponsors as well as it is always good to support companies that have kind hearts. Thanks to my parents for never asking when they are going to have grandkids, among the other things I am grateful to you for, my family for being just plain AWESOME, my friends for making me realize skiing isn't the world when I get too narrow minded, and to all my fans, old and new, for showing so much love!
I have more conquering of the world to do, so I will write more later... in April probably!
I have had successes, I have struggled, I have nearly given-up, I have learned, I have changed, I have struggled some more, I have learned some more, I have always loved skiing, I have been blessed with some incredible people in my life.
I have been asked A LOT lately what I thought of the London Olympics. These games, just as I hope all Olympics do, have really seemed to inspire a ton of people. The truth for me is that I didn't really get an opportunity to see much. The first half of the games I was in New Zealand which is 1/2 way around the world from London, and therefore on a very different time schedule. The second half of the games I was at home without a TV. I followed what I could on the internet and checked to see how Team USA and some of my favorite athletes were doing, but I wasn't very involved. I love the Olympics and everything about it, so I have thought a bit about why it didn't spark a big desire in me to watch this time around. Then this blog came to my attention
I had never seen this until this week and it really brought back some memories (or lack thereof since I don't remember much of this incident). It did make me mad a bit and it lit more of a fire in me that the London games was able to. Seeing this made me realize why I, subconsciously, may not have been watching the Olympics. It is too close still and too emotional. I have one goal in mind in the next two years and I know obtaining too much emotion is not the way to go about it, so I removed myself from it. I really want another chance to go for Gold, I want a fair chance this time with no fences or helicopters, I want to do everything I can before then to give myself the best opportunity. That is about all the emotion I can put into my current life, so adding the incredibly inspiring stories of the summer athletes to that was just too much.
With that said, I am extremely proud of Team USA, especially of my friends Meb (4th place, Marathon) and Allyson (3 Gold medals). I also look forward to a time when I can watch the Olympics as an outsider and cheer as loud as possible, but that will have to wait 18 months or so.
Myself, Laurenne, and Julia just after exiting the lava tubes in Maui
I love exploring. There is just something about seeing our diverse world with an open eye that really lights my spirit up. Maybe it is the humbling fact of really learning how small we are as individuals in this great big world that really fires me up to try to always be bigger and better. Mother Nature really has a way of making you feel small and not in control, the stubbornness inside me is always trying to beat that! I never will, but hopefully my stubbornness always keeps trying. On the way to New Zealand this year, my teammate and friend Laurenne Ross and I made a pit stop in Maui to visit another teammate and friend, Julia Mancuso. Julia invited us to her home to show us a bit of her world. Julia is a very impressive person, very real and generous, and her free spirit is contagious. She spoiled Laurenne and I by going over the top as a host. I have lived in Maui for a few months before, but Jules really knows how to explore and there is always new experiences out there. We explored some awesome lava tubes and cliff jumps on a hike, and had a really early morning to watch the sun rise on top of the volcano. Time in the ocean was part of the daily program as well. I am truly grateful for a few "wild" island days and thank you very much Jules for the opportunity.
After the pit-stop, it was time to head back to winter down under. Laurenne and I stayed in Auckland for 2 days while Jules continued on to the South Island. Our city time wasn't too crazy, but we got to see a bit of the city and we really did go on a all out search for the best food. I can't really report Auckland as being a culinary destination, but it is always good for this small town girl to get to a big city. It really makes me appreciate getting back to small towns!
Finally it was time to get on snow and winter didn't seem nearly as cold and unfriendly once the skis hit the snow. Our team did 2 solid weeks of GS training. It is good for speed skiers like myself to practice GS and move a little quicker then we are used too. A solid turn performed at the quick GS tempo is easy to translate into a Downhill turn at higher speed but slower tempo. The other project for the camp was to start adapting to the new, larger radius equipment we will be using on the World Cup this year. The skis are different, but not in a bad way. They force the skier to be more precise and you cant really get away with technique flaws like the old skis allowed. I am happy with my Rossi's and think with more time on snow everything will become second nature again, but I do worry about 16 year olds having to use these in the future.
Besides a large bruise on my hip, a sprained thumb, and 3 purple toes, I left camp feeling progressive, happy, and healthy. I can't wait to get to Chile and start going fast again. Until then, I am sure going to make the most of every California summer day I can.
There are few experiences in life that we can call life changing. Those events are worth writing about hence the reason I am back on my blog after a long summer hiatus. Most that follow this blog may already know about my time with the Navy a few weeks ago and many of the activities that transpired while I was there, but I would like to put the experience in my own words since so much can be lost in translation with the media. and also to help me remember it all. I believe you can learn from everything and everyone, but the amount I learned on June 18th and 19th has taken a few weeks to gather into real thoughts and memories. I know this experience has changed my life for the better although time is the best testament as to how I can use what I learned, felt, and saw.
The question I have been asked most since being at the Fallon Naval Air Station is not about the flight or the people I met, but instead how on earth I got to do this. The answer is that I am extremely lucky and am surrounded by incredible people. I went to a mothers day party in Mammoth with many of my friends whose mothers live out of the area. We were celebrating our favorite in-town "Mama"! I met a new friend at the party briefly but had no idea who she was or what she did. The next day I found out via email that she is a commander in the Navy and she asked if I was interested in such a project. Of course I was, but I doubted the reality of something so cool actually occurring. Being a teammate in the shadows of a couple of super stars has both its pluses and minuses. The pluses being that I don't face the same pressures and commitments that they do (which I am thankful for), the minuses being that almost all the cool experiences off the snow go to them. I guess I am use to reading about Lindsey and Julia doing stuff like this, so I doubted a bit that it was my turn. I learned that the Navy is true to their word and the pieces quickly fell into place. Kelly Clark happened to be in a coffee shop with me during some of the correspondence and I asked if she was interested to be my "wing man". We always talk about trying to close the gap between skiers and snowboarders and this was the perfect opportunity for that. Before we knew it, the two of us were in Fallon, Nevada wide eyed and ready.
It felt like true military style to be waking up at 3:30 in order to get both of my workouts in before I had to meet NBC at 9. My trainer informed me that even an experience like this didn't justify a day off in the gym! The Navy ran this project through its Public Relations department and the US Ski Team helped insure their time, effort, and money was well spent by having NBC come and film. The footage will be used as b-roll in the Olympics and for segments in USSA produced events that air on NBC this coming winter.
Our first official duty was a meet and greet with sailors on the base. We were lightly briefed on the ranking system and that each sailor wears an emblem that displays their rank. I thought that would be cool to know, but once the sailors started showing up they were all just men and women in uniform and equally as cool as the one before them. Of all the meet and greets I have done over the years, this was easily the best. It was small enough that we actually got to talk to each sailor and learn their stories. We met everyone from janitors to the Rear Admiral and they all are so nice and interesting. After the meet and greet and some lunch it was down to business in our modified flight training school. Thank goodness we did not have to go through the simulated drowning like we thought. Instead it was death by powerpoint in order to save our lives if the unexpected occurred. I loved that we were given tools to evade the enemy on the ground if we needed to. I quickly asked if there are "enemies" in Nevada we should worry about. They said it was all clear other then the mountain lions! Most of what we learned was what not to do in the cockpit and what to do in "just in case" situations. I enjoyed learning all of this even though it kind of freaked me out. We learned about the safety gear, the cockpit, and ejection seat. We also talked a lot about the jet and what it is capable of. Our training was put to an end for the day when it was time to head off to our next meet and greet at the Teen Center on the base.
Kelly and I have very different Olympic experiences. She has won medals and I have hit fences, earned helicopter rides I don't remember, and fought to just compete. Our stories complement each other and our shared belief that it is important to give everything you have to a task and to push yourself constantly to be the best you can be. But at the end of the day an athletic achievement doesn't define you. What defines you is how you carry yourself as a person through the good and the bad, and how we can give and share with others to help them be better people as well. It was really fun sharing this with the teens.
It was another early morning on our second day but there was zero concern about oversleeping the alarm. I felt like a kid on Christmas day I was so excited. We checked in at the base at 5:45. Since it was a $10 fine to quote the movie Top Gun, my favourite quote came when Kelly said "one day hanging out with a skier and I am already up before the sun!". We got outfitted in all our gear to make sure everything fit right, just to take it all off again. We also did another cockpit familiarisation. Even though I met my pilot Lutenient Commander Adrian Calder, call sign BOA, the day before in the meet and greet, I now had the opportunity to meet him in his element. We went over our plan for the flight and he gave me the best description of what to expect even though, as I know now, it is really hard to describe the feeling of flight to someone who has never experienced it. He was so thorough and professional that I never once felt nervous or scared, much to the disbelief of those who have flown commercially with me. My feeling was pure excitement and embracing the unknown. Just like in ski racing, the hurry up and wait lifestyle had its place here also. We got to wait in the waiting room with all the Top Gun pilots and instructors. Even though there is a clear order of rank in that world, it is so hard to tell from the outside as the professionalism of everyone is over the top. This waiting area was identical to the feeling of the athlete lounge at a World Cup Downhill race. Everyone has an aura around them of extreme desire to succeed and a wealth of knowledge and experience to do so despite the risk involved in the future task. This is where I first learned how much my teammates and I have in common with this group of people from a crazy different world. It was so inspiring to just be around this group of men (there were no women pilots in the room at that time, but I did meet one after my flight). The word came that it was go time and reality sank in about what I was about to do. That reality was even more clear when the mechanic that helped strap me in informed me that even he had never had the chance to fly in this jet. Wow.
We were in the air for an hour and a half although it felt like 5 minutes. We did everything I could have imagined. It was so cool! Even though the manuvering we did was nowhere close to what these machines and the pilots are capable of, it was all I could handle. I LOVED the manuvering part of the flight and trying to watch out the canopy and see the manuvering of our wingman from that point of view was so unique. The power of the jets becomes very clear when you see them so gracefully defying the rules of gravity.
The awareness of the pilots is so crazy it is hard to explain. I think I have good body awareness as an athlete, but their awareness in space is so much more advanced. Knowing where you are in space is one thing, controlling a $20 million dollar jet at the same time is another element and doing that at the same time as battling all the unnatural forces just makes what they do incomprehensible. The forces literally plaster you to your seat. I reached 6 g's, so imagine six of you sitting on top of every part of your body and then someone trying to drain all the blood out of your brain at the same time and that is what it feels like. I didn't even have the strength to lift my finger up a inch while the g's were upon us and meanwhile the pilots every movement is controlling the plane. Does that explain it well enough? Still no....
We did a Mach run and broke the speed of sound going mach 1.08 while in a dive. That kind of speed is my new goal on skis! We did a valley run where the plane is flying at a low level and following the contours of a valley. The valley we went through had a road winding through it and we flew 500 feet over two cars. Imagine their shock! We got a birds eye view of Mammoth and Yosemite and then all the way up the Sierra's past Lake Tahoe and Truckee and did another low level run through the valley that my parents live in. I thought it would be cool to fly over Tahoe upside down so headed back south and did that then had one last treat doing a carrier break which feels like buzzing the tower but actually is the fastest and most efficient way to get the plane on the ground. Then we did a carrier landing. Told you I did everything!
Kelly had her turn next and it was just as fun watching her get ready and take off. While she was in the air, I got to see one of the Navy's helicopters up close. Those are very cool machines as well and I am thinking we should organise a heli-skiing project in the Ruby mountains next spring! Post flight interviews lasted almost an hour, I had so much to say! Maybe I was subconsciously trying to draw the experience out as I didn't want it to end. My new friends were hard to say goodbye to. I am so proud of them and what they do for our country, and getting to see the inside workings of the Navy only increases that pride. I can not do what I do with out these men and women fighting for the freedom that allows me to chase a dream of my choice. We both represent our country in very different ways, but with the same pride. Everyone has said that the similarity I found between the personality of my teammates and I and the pilots is probably because we both have "a need for speed" or we love the adrenaline rush, but I believe it is because we both live our lives with so much passion for what we do and use that passion to overcome the negatives or fear involved in our jobs. That kind of passion and zest for life is rare, but I found it in Top Gun.
I am so thankful to have been blessed with this opportunity. I can't imagine anyone enjoying and appreciating it more then I did! A big thanks to everyone who helped make the experience so special, to the Navy for enlightening me to what you are doing, and to all that serve, especially the members of my family, for believing in how great freedom can be.
My teammate Alice and I decided that the -25∘c/-13∘f in Garmisch was simply too cold, so we made a dash for the coast and found ourselves in Malaga, Spain
We had an amazing time and it really felt like a mini-vacation. Malaga is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It has been influenced by many different cultures and those cultures have each left marks that have stood the test of time. One of the highlights was the food. I have seen programs on tv about spanish food, but I was truly surprised by how tasty it was. The first two days we tried to really experience the culture and atmosphere of the town, and the last day we wanted to relax, so we went to a Turkish Bath, which is another new experience for me, but oh so relaxing! Check out some of the pics
After a few days of training back in Solden, we left for Russia. It was my first time there and I had many lasting impressions. What I found most interesting is that, yes, the people did come off cold initially, but they were amazingly polite and welcoming. They wouldn't start a conversation with you, but if you asked, they were so willing to help, more so then in Central Europe. I also really enjoyed some of the culture they brought in to show us. A choir, dancers, traditional dress.... I loved it all! Thanks Russia for such a nice stay.
I am now in Bansko Bulgaria for the last speed race before finals. It is crunch time now!
Lots of Love,
I know I have kept you on pins and needles waiting for this post, and the time has finally come! We are almost half way through the DH world cup season and I think a short and sweet update is appropriate. The first 4 downhills of the season have gone well so far. To steal a line from my young teammate Mikeala Shiffrin, if I had expectations I would have surpassed them. But, I did not have result based expectations for this season. My expectations have been to be in shape to ski my own very best on each given race day and I am happy because I think I have achieved that. My race runs have improved upon my training runs, and I feel confident each day in the the DH course to really charge and try and push my own ability. I am still trying to find that same confidence in Super-G..... but everything I do seems to be in baby steps! Something exciting is I got to be part of my first World Cup award ceremony in Cortina, Italy, one of the most famed stops on the women's circuit. Here is some pics of that, and I will try to post more often in the future. Until then, THINK SNOW and SMILE!
I didn't quite expect to be so busy the last couple of weeks. I thought I would actually get a break from my busy life here in Mammoth during our teams 10 day dryland training camp in Park City. Not so much the case, our camp had us running here, there and everywhere doing a ton of different and new activities. We learned rules and how to play volleyball, rugby, water polo, hockey, and geo-caching, as well as many other fun activities. Each day was a packed schedule which kept it fun and made me sleep well at night! Check out these pictures from a five hour bike ride we did one day!
Up ahead, I leave for New York City tomorrow night for the US Ski Teams largest fundraiser of the year, the New York Ball. It will be really fun to get dressed up and look like a girl! A few days after that I am off to Colorado to coach for 4 days, and then join my team for our last training camp before racing starts! I am excited to continue to work on my new boots and get up to race speed. It is such an exciting time of year!
Summer and Fall seem to go by so fast, it is hard to keep up on this blog! I have a little time right now, as I am sitting in the Toyota Dealership in Reno because a rabbit decided to snack on the wires of my car while I was away in Chile. Life at my parents ranch is always interesting. You initially think they live a quite life, but withing 24 hours of flying in I had brake failure in my car (thanks to the rabbit), Attended one of my best friends weddings in the next barn over which was BEAUTIFUL, had to herd a stray cow back into her grazing ground, and was rudely awakened this morning by the smell of a skunk that wandered by my open window. Can't say that is a pleasant alarm, but it was nice to be awake to see the sunrise over the beautiful Sierra Valley.
Camp in Chile was one of the more interesting ones I have had over my career. We were blessed with some amazing weather and snow conditions and were very lucky to get to train next to the Norwegian and Canadian men everyday. I have been trying to switch boot to the newer model of Rossignols. Many athletes have had great success on this newer model, and well... I was the last athlete in the world still on the old model, so I decided to try to make the switch this summer. It has proved to be a very difficult switch for me, both mentally and physically.
I am not a big fan of testing equipment. I spent a few years trying to play the testing game when Lindsey and I shared a technician. She loves testing, and was very successful at finding the absolute fastest set up, so I went along her path and it caused me a bunch of confusion and a lack of confidence in what I was skiing on each day. Part of getting older is knowing to take your own path and it took me awhile to figure out my path is through "just skiing". I would rather pick a set up and adjust myself to it, rather then try to find "needle in a haystack" equipment that adjusts to me. Unfortunately, there is a reality in the skiing world that some testing needs to happen, so my new technician Miha and I have found ways to test without causing confusion.... until now. The first 3/4 of the camp I was utterly confused about what I should have on my feet. My old boots fit well, my new boots hurt so bad I had to take them off every run. My new boots ripped in GS, my old boots ripped in DH. Super-G was a lost cause in all boots for the moment. And to top it off, this whole time I was dealing with the emotions of my Grandpa passing away right before the trip.
I have to say I have never seen a group of coaches (we have 6) show so much support and patience so many days in a row, and I am so thankful to them for seeing that is what I needed. I got some great information out of the last block of the camp, and finally feel like the I will be a better, faster skier at the end of the tunnel. Our last day of training was with the German men, and it was really fun to be "chick-ing" them in SG. What a great way to end the camp! I have to say that a lot of good was taken out of the "bad days" at camp, and I hope this new change will help me reach some of my goals this year and in the years to follow. A big thanks to Rossignol for all the work they have put in this year to make this switch possible.
My dryland training kicked up a notch this weekend adding a little fun, sun, and mud into the mix. Mammoth Mountain hosted its first ever Mud Run yesterday in conjunction with the Mammoth Rocks festival. I asked my trainer if we could fit this into my program a couple of months ago and he gave me the go ahead so all that was left to do was find my team and get ready to get dirty! My Co'ed division team was made up of my roommate and former teammate Kevin Francis, my neighbor and training partner Lindsay Barksdale, and Lindsay's husband Ian Birrell. None of us really knew what to expect as we had never seen a mud run before, and none of us are really known for our running abilities, so we set out to just have fun. As soon as the gun sounded, the competitive side of all of us kicked in Ian became our instant team leader. He was charging and it was all the rest of us could do to keep up. After about 1 mile of uphill running on the road, we moved to the dirt and into the first obstacles. Ponds, muddy hills, logs, and more mud to crawl through proved more challenging then I was expecting and after the first set of obstacles was a giant hill that was too steep to run up. Everyone was walking and I was working so hard, I don't know how people from low elevation and who don't work out everyday made it up this! I thought I was going to see my breakfast again at the top. At the top of the death hill was some more obstacles. I was thankful one of them was another pond as it felt so good to get in some cool water and give the legs a much needed but short break. Our pace kicked up another notch at the other side of the pond. That was about the half way point of the 6k loop and the first half had been all uphill, so I knew we had all downhill left and that is where I excel! We CHARGED down the hill as a team passing people left and right. All I could think about was letting my legs just go and making sure I paid attention to everyplace I wanted to put my feet. Near the end was the obstacle everyone was most excited about. The giant slip and slide! It was so fun and after our team linked arms all the way to the finish. I knew we had worked really hard, but I was super surprised to find out that not only did we win the Co'ed division, we had beat ALL the teams including the mens only teams. My teammate lindsay would have won the Lady's 30-39 age group, and I would have won the Lady's 20-29 age group had we been competing individually! I can't believe it! I have never won anything that involved running. This deserved a celebration and we did so properly with the help of the Journey tribute band that rocked Mammoth last night at Mammoth Rocks! Thanks to my teammates for such a fun experience and definitely the best workout of the year.
I guess this blog is a place to express what I am feeling, and since I am not sure if anyone actually reads this thing, I am going for a bit of a personal post. Someone who has meant the world to me is not in good health and writing it down helps me. My grandpa has been a very influential part of my life. He has not always had things easy, not always made the right choices, and not always been there for people that have needed him. But what he was for me was a man that always said the right thing when I needed him to, supported me even when he had no idea about what he was supporting, and been one of the best shoulders I have ever had to lean on even if it was a little boney because he never ate enough from fear of getting fat! He is a veteran of World War II and felt the consequences of fighting in a war through the rest of his life. Those experiences that he had during the war made him my number one advice giver when it came to handling pressure and executing at my highest level in sport. My favorite advice from him that I will remember my whole life is "keep your head down and your chin up!" He is kind and loving beyond words and inspires me to be a better person when ever I am around him. Even though now he can't remember what you said 30 seconds ago, he still has an amazing ability to say the right thing at the right time, like making everyone laugh by asking the nurse out on a date, or by saying "I love you" at just the perfect moment. No one knows when he will enter heaven, but every hour he is with us is a blessing as he continues to inspire, entertain, and shine light on a loving family. Please pray for my grandpa, we call him pa or pa-sie.
Life is full of surprises and amazing places. I have an overwhelming desire to constantly be challenged and pushed, and to see everything this world has to offer.