We all gather snippets of advice from people everywhere we go. It’s those phrases someone says or little actions that stick in our mind years after. Finding mentorship is taking those moments to another level. Mentorships are unique relationships that are built on similar passion, shared experience and wisdom. In this episode of Ski Utah's Wild Women of the Wasatch, I share my personal experience of expanding my skills as a big mountain skier while living in the Wasatch and passing on what my mentors taught me to the high school girls I now coach. We spent 10 days launching cliffs at Brighton and finding powder stashes at Alta, culminating with the girls competing in the first big mountain event of the season at Snowbird.
(Photo: Hillary Maybery)
Starting as the Mentee
In 2010 I moved to Salt Lake City to attend Westminster College and chose the Utah mountains with the specific intention of pursuing a career in the ski industry. My high school coach told me if I wanted to become a professional skier, I needed to continue my academic education, get a pass to Snowbird and be able to ski every line at the resort. I could do backflips in eighth grade, but learning to jump off of cliffs for the first time in college was another beast. Two ACL knee surgeries later, I started working in public relations for the Freeride World Tour and began dabbling in backcountry skiing.
(Photo: Mike Schirf)
Two strong female role models really helped shape the projection of the following years. Jessica Kunzer was my boss on the marketing team of Mountain Sports International for several years traveling to freeskiing events across the country. She always managed to balance being professional with having fun and skiing hard. At the same time, I was wrapping up college with a minor in Outdoor Education going on extended backpacking trips with my professor Tiana White where she taught wilderness medicine, backcountry navigation, outdoor leadership and group dynamics. A leader’s influence can be as simple (and silly) as this: On our first camping trip together, Tiana had to walk me to my tent at night because I was terribly afraid of the dark . . . and now, five years later, I guide backpacking trips walking others to their tents with no hesitation alone in the wilderness.
(Photo: Adam Clark)
These two influential female mentors were bold enough to tell me where I needed to improve, teach new skills, celebrate our successes and be trusted confidants and friends. The best way to gain confidence and skills in the mountains is through spending time with trusted mentors who have “been there, done that” and are eager to pass on the wisdom of experience.
Becoming the Mentor
After several years of skiing full time, competing in big mountain events myself and moving to Sun Valley, Idaho, I became a ski coach for the local big mountain and backcountry ski team. The first competitions this winter were at Snowbird. Returning to the Wasatch where I fell in love with big mountain skiing and showing the kids the special zones of the Wasatch was a blast! I spent 10 days ripping around with several of the girls from our team at Snowbird for the competition, lapping up powder turns one morning at Alta Ski Area, and getting jolted with adrenaline launching the big cliffs at Brighton. My goal as a coach is to help the kids discover their full potential, intelligently push their limits, have fun and hopefully the confidence they build through skiing will transfer to their everyday life.
To learn about big mountain freeride competitions, read The Future of Freeride Skiing and Snowboarding.
(Photo: Mike Schirf)
Meet Two of the Young Guns Visiting the Wasatch:
17-year-old Paris is a confident skier not afraid to try new tricks and is always meeting new people at the big mountain competitions. She’s a leader on our team bringing people together. Lately, Paris has been learning about film and photography, taking her love of skiing beyond competition and looking into career paths within the industry. During the trip to the Salt Lake City for the team’s competition at Snowbird, Paris spent several days touring Westminster College and the University of Utah. As a junior in high school, she’s beginning to suss out colleges for their academic programs as well as what the vibes are like at the nearby ski resorts. Sounds like Westminster (my alma mater!) is ranked in her top picks now!
Maile is a gutsy girl who is determined to continually progress. As a 14-year-old coming from the racing program, this is her first year being on the big mountain team and learning to jump off cliffs. After her first competition at Snowbird, we had several days to practice hitting larger features before the next competition. Brighton was the place to go, and I couldn’t have been more proud of Maile for choosing the bigger cliffs when she felt confident and knowing when to tone it down when she felt more tired. During the second competition at Snowbird, she skied a smooth line, hit a cliff at the bottom, and was rewarded with first place! This girl has a bright future with skiing and whatever she chooses to pursue with the determination and courage to push her limits.
(Photo: Rocko Menzyk)
Swoosh into spring shredding in the Wasatch with @SkiUtah and join my personal mountain outings on Instagram @AmyJaneDavid. Thank you for reading and watching the stories of the Wild Women of the Wasatch! Keep an eye out for the next episode launching into the mindset of women who are Fearless in Flight.
Watch Ep01 Adaptive Sports
Watch Ep02 Chicks Who Rip
Watch Ep03 Dawn Till Dark
Watch Ep04 Escape the Heat
Watch Ep05 Mountain Canine Companions
Watch Ep06 Steep Jobs
Watch Ep07 Local Pioneers
Watch Ep08 Boarder Babes
Watch Ep09 Spring Fling
Watch Ep10 Who Are the Wild Women of the Wasatch
Watch Ep11 Gnarly Nurses
Watch Ep12 Mountain Mamas
Watch Ep13 Bike Bosses
Watch Ep14 Sustainable Shredders
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