Friday, June 1, 2012

Spirit of Sarah Scholarship

My application for the Spirit of Sarah Scholarship at Momentum Camps in Whistler; its a long one, but a long overdue thank you to Sarah. Dreaming of snow every day, off-season's rough.

Sarah Burke was my alarm clock; not in the “I’m not a morning person” kind of way, but more of a life-charging jolt into consciousness. I’m not a pre-pubescent freeski phenom or a “since the day I could walk” competitive skier. Truthfully when I was little I wanted to be a Unicorn when I grew up, not have a unicorn… BE a unicorn. Lucky for me I escaped a potential lifetime of ridicule when I switched my focus to Lacrosse in 7th grade. It was what everyone was doing and truth is I picked it up fast… like varsity state-champion team as a freshman fast. Lacrosse was a love; I knew if I worked hard enough it would shoot me into a good college and of course a good job, and those expectations were seared into everything I did. For a while I bought into it, it was easy when everyone around me was so caught up in it you barely had time to focus on reality while you were in a tornado of the conventional. Then there was skiing. In Denver, all of the extra-curriculars, clubs and varsity sports were part of a world I knew I would have to enslave myself to, the expected route. But skiing was my release. Not in the way of “oh I can fly and I feel free and weightless etc etc”; yes, skiing brought me those things but more importantly it quieted my head, shut up the side of me that constantly battled with perfection and achieving the best in everything. Skiing let be breathe, it let me just BE. Doing things for other people is something I am passionate about, I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Denver through high school, built houses in Costa Rica and served as a mentor for Oakland elementary school kids through college; but, having that time skiing granted me made me a better person.

         Now, I refuse to throw any sort of a sob story your way so I’ll fast forward to when my alarm clock finally went off. Again, lucky for me, I was recruited to play Division 1 lacrosse at UC Berkeley in San Francisco California. The experience of attending a top university as a top athlete was rewarding and enlightening especially when I came into my sophomore season. I was fresh off my 3rd knee surgery and ready to finally let go and play the game I loved with the people I loved. But the weekend before our first game of the season I knew there was something I had to do before all of the madness that is collegiate athletics set in…. I needed to ski. So I contracted a mysterious illness and flew back to Colorado having told only my closest friends the truth, all just to get one last face-shot before impending lacrosse season. That weekend changed my life. See, up until then I had grown up watching Warren Miller films, MSP and any other ski movie my brother could find. I’d watch them any time I had a computer at my disposal, not because “I wanted to be a skier when I grew up” but because it was the only thing I wanted to do, like an innate craving my body would go on autopilot in order to satisfy. I never saw it as a life path or something I could do “when I grew up”, it was just something I knew I needed. That Saturday in Vail, my brother and I had riped the mountain apart. The blanket… no down comforter of fresh powder afforded us one of the best weekends of skiing I have ever had. I tried and landed my first backflip, dropped a 20ft cliff and skied so hard my legs shook the entire drive home (a luxury I didn’t have thanks to the demand of lacrosse). That lacrosse season was the best season I ever had. At the end of it I endured yet another knee surgery, putting me at a lucky 4 in 4 years. But instead of worrying about lacrosse after coming off of a lights-out season, I was worried about skiing. My hobby, and the only thing I had ever done for the right reasons.

      Watching Sarah’s segment in MSP’s Push/Pull while lying on the couch snapped the buzzer on that alarm clock. She was doing it, blazing her own trail, doing what she loved, living her life with a positive glow so bright I could feel her from the other side of a computer screen. THAT was it, THAT was what I was supposed to do. Long and the short, I trained in the Fall with my team, prepared the underclassman attackers to take my position and I stepped into a black abyss of unknown. I left the top public University in the nation, waved goodbye to the Division 1 scholarship, called Elana Chase and told her what I wanted to do and begged her to invest in this crazy old lacrosse player who was dying to take on sport and Queen of halfpipe skiing. By no means did I deliver this season but the people I met and the lessons I learned from this industry have made me want to improve more as a skier and, more importantly, become a better person. I’ve been reminded to take deep breaths, love the people around you, and still keep that fire inside to kick ass. But not once have I had to stop and reflect that what I’m doing is “the right thing to do” because for the first time I’m not doing something for expectations or approval or the people around me… I’m doing it for all the right reasons. I’ve come to realize that there is no way for me to put onto paper how much this opportunity would mean to me or how I’m different from your other applicants; so I wont ramble on much further. I know the talent is vast and Sarah inspired (understatement of the century I know) a new generation of park skiers, even the old ladies like me. But I don’t want to be Sarah. She was/ is one-of-a-kind and truth be told no one will ever hold a candle to her as an athlete and human being. What I am saying is that I know I am supposed to pick up where she left off. I want to push, support, and motivate those around me to be better, faster, stronger than the day, month, season before. Granted I’m new to this sport and yes need some time to toughen up as an individual athlete, but what I feel when I talk about, think about or take part in skiing is the purest form of happiness I know it is what I am supposed to do… I’m finally awake and ready to send it;
Thank you Sarah.

Big thanks again to my family and sponsor Icelantic for the continued support in this crazy journey; you push me to be better every day and will never know the depth of my gratitude.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The emotion itself and the concept behind it are those that make you stop to think. Whether it’s a spider, dark hallway, or the idea of failure, fear can define us and cage us if we let it. As a senior we fear the unknown; where we are going to live and who we will work for when that bittersweet commencement speech is finally given. We fear letting our families down, not meeting expectations, living in our parents basement or a box under some overpass with a bum named Jimmy. As a halfpipe skier, we fear failure, loss, and, among other things, injury. Yesterday was a weird/ gut-wrenching day for the women’s ski halfpipe world; two iconic women shared their worst day of the year. Jen Hudak (USA) blew out her knee on a jump at the base of the halfpipe at Breck, and Sarah Burke (CAN) remains in a coma at the University of Utah hospital following an injury sustained at the Park City halfpipe earlier yesterday. Women, role models and ambassadors of the sport, performing routine tricks that changed the fate of their seasons in the blink of an eye… Fear.

I’ve had a couple rough crashes, bumps, bruises, and tweaks in my short career (thus far) as a pipe skier, but never have I sat back and wrestled with the idea of fear in this sport. We see and hear about traumatic crashes that alter the lives of their victims, but today struck a nerve. This concept of fear alone is mind-boggling… Fears may protect us from being reckless in action or decision, but overcoming them can be liberating beyond any fathomable feeling, where’s the balance? Perhaps the most terrifying part of this whole thing is blind fear… not knowing what to be scared of until it has beaten you down and stands over you, reminding you that anything can go wrong at any time. Maybe this causes people to board up their homes and lock themselves inside, but it can also be the blessing that pushes you to “live like you were dying”.

Coming into this year (all 10 days of it) I came into to the new chapter of this adventure, Fear. I am moving beyond the chapter of straight airs in the pipe or thoughtless spinning onto an airbag and find myself face-to-face with the reality of competitions and stringing together physical and mental concepts this sport has taught me thus far. On a day like today, the pain and bruising on both sides of my hips seem miniscule in the grand scheme of the sport and what we as female athletes are pushing ourselves to do. I feel a sense of growth… acknowledging what any rational human would deem as insane and continuing to embrace my love of the sport and innate competitive drive to make me feel calm, prepared, controlled… at peace. I am still learning how to trust the walls of the pipe and the muscle memory I am continuing to build every day, remain patient with my take-offs and trick sets, and finally come to terms with the fact that this journey is/ will be a process (and a delicate one at that).

I’m finding the positives that come from the feeling and acknowledgment of Fear … by overcoming it we learn about and trust ourselves; we feel empowered even if we don’t succeed on the first try. I am grateful for the achievements and set backs in this seasons training (so far), the trials and tribulations remind us that we can do it (whatever that “it” may be) but sometimes patience and perseverance are the key to growing as an athlete and person. I am coming to respect the difficulty of this sport and the process. My goals remain high (lets be honest), but my timeline has become flexible, sometimes you can’t rush things…. I am slowly learning to accept and respect that.

I head to Whistler for the North Face Open this coming weekend, and could not be more anxious. Between feeling unprepared and over pressured (all self-inflicted) it has been CRUTIAL to continue broadening my perspective for the season/ my career. I am stoked to cruise Canada and push myself as a freeski athlete by finding that perfect balance between fear and fearlessness (that wasn’t as eloquent as I had hoped). I am so grateful for the continued support, the people I am meeting, and the fact that I get to wake up and click into my skis every day. Sometimes fear is stepping outside of what’s expected and doing what is right for YOU. I fear not amounting to anything, and that fear alone pushes me to test my boundaries everyday.

Enough mindless, cheesy banter, things are going well up here; ups and downs as usual but I’m learning something new everyday whether it’s a trick, grab, friend, or worthless riddle. Hope everyone is having a WONDERFUL New Year and living everyday to the fullest; New Year, new perspective, new life lessons. Updates will follow this competition weekend, I am ssoooo stoked to see lax season start up! Sending positive vibes as usual.