It all started when I was 2 years old and clicked into my first pair of skis. They were tiny little things, but I found they worked best with a bit of speed. One of my first memories I have of skiing is getting really upset with my dad for keeping me tied to a rope that he essentially used as a leash. I don’t blame him now for using this method; I was unruly, reckless and probably a danger to all skiers on the mountain (myself included). All I wanted to do was go straight, to go fast… I guess that’s why I ended up being a speed skier.
From a very young age I remember finding my freedom in the mountains: with the wind in my face, gravity pushing me to a higher state. In one of my first ski races (in Lake Louise, Alberta, around age 6) I recall speeding down the course, vaguely skiing past — perhaps not even through — the blue and red gates. I was noticing the falling snow flying by, the crystal-like blanket forming atop the tree branches. I don’t remember any specific thoughts, only the moment-to-moment thrill I felt and awe of my immediate surroundings. Everything was alight. This was perhaps the first moment in my life when I experienced flow, though I had no idea at the time. All I knew was that I wanted more.
When my family moved from Alberta to Oregon I had to make new friends and adjust to a new home in an unfamiliar place…but I got to bring my love of skiing along as I explored a whole new mountain. I connected to Mt. Bachelor with ease and continue to discover new pockets of delicious freedom there to this day. Everything fell into place and I continued to grow as a skier while discovering that my passion could take me even farther than I anticipated.
My first memory of the Olympics actually lies in gymnastics. In 1996 I was 7 years old and, through my love of gymnastics, was inspired by the gymnast Kerry Strug in the summer Olympics. Her determination and grit stuck with me when she competed in her final event — vault — with an injured ankle. She nailed the landing on one foot and won gold for team USA. I even cut my hair like hers, and was subsequently called a boy in school. But I didn’t care…I just wanted to be like Kerry.
When I had to make the difficult decision between gymnastics and skiing 6 years later, my desire to be outside persevered and I chose the mountains. I made the US Ski Team when I was 17 years old, towards the end of my senior year in high school. Despite my success in skiing, I never had an “aha” moment. My progress to the World Cup scene and eventually the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was a slow process. I didn’t really realize my Olympic dreams until they became a reality.
I suppose the Olympic spirit was always in my blood; my grandfather won the Olympic gold for team Canada in ice hockey in 1952 (his name was Al Purvis). But he never spoke about his medal — he was a quiet, modest winner, and I was both mystified and inspired by this. I always knew competing in the Olympics was a possibility for me, but I never set the objective goal. It wasn’t until I stood in the start gate of the Sochi Downhill that I understood the significance of the event. It hit me all at once: the magic, the meaning, the legacy. I could feel it so deeply, and will carry that sensational feeling with me forever.
Of course I was thrilled when I found out I had made the Olympic team in 2014. The hype around the Olympics was intriguing to me but also somewhat troubling: I didn’t know what to expect, there was a lot of pressure, and I was nervous about performing in front of the whole world. But the entirety of the experience is what captured me: the excitement of the opening ceremonies, the intrigue of being a representative for my country, part of a team, part of something bigger. I was wide-eyed and dazzled: hypnotized by the spirit.
Competing was unmistakably terrifying, and although I ended up taking 11th place in the Downhill, I walked away with a spark, a fire ignited in me, that meant so much more than my result.
Since 2014 I have experienced so much while competing in World Cup ski racing. I have had great results: a World Cup podium and multiple top-ten world rankings. And while I can’t contribute these improvements solely to my Olympic experience, I have a hard time believing that my skiing hasn’t been effected by that spark lit in Sochi.
To be part of the Olympic team this year in PyeongChang would mean so much to me. After experiencing a significant knee injury at the end of last season, I have worked so hard to get back on my skis for this winter racing season. The Olympics were always in the back of my mind, and although it is not my sole purpose, it would be an incredible accomplishment to make the Olympic team and another big step on my road to recovery. To prove to myself that all the effort was worth it: the countless hours spent in therapy, in the gym, endlessly working on my body and mentality. To be a part of that something bigger again would be such a great reward. To stand in the Olympic start gate again has been one of my goals ever since 2014: not necessarily to walk away with a medal, but to take away the magic and enjoy the incredible process. With that enjoyment, I have found, comes speed. And with that speed comes fulfillment and flow: the freedom I have found from the beginning. And, who knows, maybe I could have a really good day, a great run, and be one of the fastest racers down the mountain as I’ve always dreamed of…
Riding the chair with Jules in Sochi, 2014. Julia retired this past weekend of racing...she will be missed, but her spirit will live on -- especially in the Olympics.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind