It may sound bizarre, but it’s totally true. My whole childhood, I was always a fat, dorky, math geek, teased beyond belief in rural New Hampshire. My mom had always pushed me to “expand my horizons,” but I wanted to work at McDonald’s with my derelict, drug-addicted friends. Trying to appease my mother, I moved out West to work in Colorado and Wyoming. Away from the traditional sports of my youth, I finally discovered sports that I actually enjoyed and even excelled at: mountain biking, powder skiing, trail running, mountaineering and adventuring. As my confidence grew, the pounds melted away and my adult-onset athlete emerged and bloomed.
As a child, I had always enjoyed skiing, but it was never anything I seriously pursued. Post college, I packed up and moved to sunny Colorado to refine my powder skier skills at Crested Butte Mountain. Then one day, when I was skiing the headwall in Crested Butte, a Warren Miller Film Crew asked me to be in their movie. I didn’t believe I had talent, but they convinced me to try. This experience gave me the courage to take the next step. I slowly started filming and competing, and my determination set in. I learned, studied, and practiced. I went from last place in the extreme big mountain competitions, to the podium, and then to the very top in 1998 at the World Championships in Whistler.
Injuries plagued me, but I was in love. I was traveling all around the world, competing and shooting for magazines—but the glass ceiling at a few “boys club” film companies couldn’t be broken. At this point, I was at the top of the top, charging and hucking like the boys, but the “girls can’t ski” mentality was still the norm in the film industry. We had to be satiated with being lame tokens in the lame movies, where we were touted as objects and novelties. I was even asked by a major sponsor to do a “keep tips up” poster. Scary thing is, I was so desperate for work, that I almost considered it.
My big break came in Valdez, Alaska. A major film company had led me to believe that they might shoot with me, so I stockpiled my pennies and booked a room at the local motel, which was all I could afford at the time. Each day I would hitchhike up the pass, and day after day, they left without me with some excuse other than, “We don’t film girls.” I had just won championships in Canada, Japan and South American—more than all those guys combined, yet it was not enough.
21 days had passed and I was bloated from eating disgusting food and bored because I wasn’t skiing. Each day, someone had gotten hurt and replacements were needed, but I was never chosen. Then suddenly, they were out of skiers. They needed someone to pay for that last heli seat. I ponied up my own credit card and jumped in along with the famous and sponsored skiers. The guy next to me had a $100,000 travel and helicopter budget from Burton, while I was paying for every second. But I made a gamble, spending $10,000 in just over a day, and it changed my life forever.
On several lines skied in those moments, I remember my ski heroes saying things like, “That is the longest straight-line I’ve ever seen a girl ski! No, wait a minute…that’s the longest I’ve ever seen a guy ski!” The movies were released and suddenly, I was famous—fat, dorky, math geek redeemed!
I had sponsors begging me to join their teams, competing for how much cash to give me. I even paid off my credit card gamble. As the situation progressed, I could pick ski companies that didn’t want a picture of a naked woman as their “girly” poster. I started getting smarter and less opportunistic and desperate, choosing companies that actually gave a shit.
Finally I got savvy, picking and choosing companies that not only sold quality gear, but worked to make the world a better place. I decided to quit helicopter and snowmobile skiing and focus on women’s only ski adventures and expeditions. We traveled to far-flung, un-skied peaks such as India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and South America.
I begged KEEN to be their ambassador, because their values of “CREATE-PLAY-CARE” were just so similar to my own. After my persistence, they finally agreed. We now work together on many projects, including my KEEN Rippin Chix Camps. I wanted other girls and women to learn steep skiing without the challenges that I had faced. I wanted them to learn in a fun and supportive environment. KEEN helps make these camps super affordable, so real gal skiers can build confidence and skills with my simple, baby-step progressions. KEEN also helps with my foundation, Save Our Snow, which works to inspire and show others how to save our snow and water for future generations.