With ski racing. And it’s ok. Because I’m falling in love with what skiing really is. A lifelong sport that can take you so many places.
I guess my realtionship with ski racing started falling apart two seasons ago, when I suffered one of those nagging injuries that no one wants to sit out from or accept. I tore my ulnar collateral ligament in my left thumb, the one that keeps your thumb from bending backwards and allows it to move sideways and basically all the things a thumb does. It was a complete tear and needed surgery. This happened three weeks before World Cups on my home hill in Steamboat. My options were get surgery and be in a hard cast or be in a hard cast to see if the ligament would heal itself. Seeing as both options put me in a cast, I decided to just get the surgery. This meant I wasn’t skiing the week leading up to these races and I couldn’t skate very well because holding my pole with a cast was pretty funky. But I’m not really one to blame all my bad skiing on injuries, I figured I’d try my best and see what happened. My best friend and former flatmate from the season before, Jasmin Taylor of team GB Telemark thought I was crazy for trying to race with my hand like that. And she was probably right. But I was in denial. I had a pretty rough time at those races and just a week later I was off to US Nationals where I barely pulled off being the National Champion, hand still in a cast. And it made me mad. I hated ski racing. I wanted to quit. I cried a lot. When I told my coach at MSU, he thought maybe the injury was just playing with me mentally, that I was more frustrated at my hand than with ski racing. And I agreed. I took that summer to work out hard in Bozeman, play in the meowtains, and bike a lot. When I got back to training in the fall, I was stoked on racing. It’s what I wanted to be doing, and everything Kevin had said in the spring faded away, he had been right. But then the snow came. And I booked a ticket to Germany. And the scar of my injury was still there. My first race in Germany wasn’t great. And neither were any of the ones that followed in Slovenia and then Austria. The last day of races in Austria, I packed it in the Classic and got a pretty good concussion. I only had a month before World Championships and Junior Championships in Steamboat. When I got back from Austria, I couldn’t ski because of my concussion. I gave myself a week and told myself I would be better by then. I had to be. So I convinced myself I was and kept training. To everyone reading this, when you have a concussion, you can’t rush it. So don’t.
I showed up at World Championships and struggled. I was having a mental breakdown. It wasn’t fun and my attitude sucked. I was back where I had been the year before, only this time there was nothing wrong with me physically. I just hated racing. But then I decided I was here, I was racing and I couldn’t quit mid-Championships. So instead of feeling like I needed to prove myself to others, I decided to smile throughout my runs. Every turn I smiled, and I actually had fun in those races. The pictures show me smiling, and although I look goofy, those last races make me happy because I was able to overcome a suckie attitude and have fun.
And that’s what I needed from ski racing, to have fun. But the last two seasons at races I wasn’t having fun, I was only having fun at training, so that’s why I decided to retire. If something doesn’t make you happy, and you know you aren’t having fun, there’s no reason to force yourself to keep doing it. So this season I have still been training with MSU, and having a blast! But I won’t be racing. Instead I have my sights set on the Grand Targhee Big Mountain Telemark competition in March, and I am planning on going to Alta in February to race in the Alta Freeheel Fun Race. It will be nice to see my old team and have time to freeski Alta.
That all being said, yesterday I went skiing in Steamboat and took out my GS trainers. Man is it fun to rip around on hard snow on sharp skis! I love going fast and I love making railroad tracks in the snow. I love how good of a skier I have become because of ski racing. But I also love earning my turns, feeling my fat skis drift through powder, and snacking at the top of a meowtain, miles away from any town and throngs of people.
To everyone who has helped me through my ski racing journey, thank you. Your support kept me going for 6 seasons on the World Cup circuit, racing in 8 different countries, 5 months living and training in Chamonix, France, 4 National Champion Titles, 3 World Junior podiums, and 2 World Cup podiums!