Charlotte Moats drapes her willowy body over a wrought iron chair in front of me on the terrace of the Dartmouth College student center. Among the fleece-and-corduroy collegians milling about campus, Moats is sui generis. The swept-back auburn hair, the purple-velvet top, the silver-glitter belt, the de rigueur shades of the way-cool freeskiing life¿she's like a fashion buzz bomb in the prim, leafy world of New England academia.
I soon discover, however, that what you first see isn't always what's what in the often paradoxical, ever engaging personality of Charlotte Moats. She's got a flamboyant streak, make no mistake about it. She is, after all, a two-time winner of the Rip Curl World Heli Challenge Chinese Downhill, a skiercross on a seriously sick scale. And at last year's U.S. Freesking Nationals, she was the first woman ever nominated for the Sickbird award, unofficially conferred by fellow competitors for especially outrageous, eye-popping heroics. That's something of which she is particularly proud. "I hucked really huge," she says.
Yet on the flip side, she's a dedicated student, a former high school valedictorian so immersed in her studies during Dartmouth's summer session that it took me almost a month to find a time slot for an interview. From here, the contradictions flow: Loves to write but hates to read ("I'd like to be the first writer who never read a book"). A junior-racing phenom whose self-discipline in highly regimented slalom (1995 Junior Olympic champion) vaporized when it came to racing the wide-open downhill ("I tended to space out and crash a lot"). Freeskier without a single tattoo. And someone with a look every guy wants to know better, yet too shy to have a boyfriend (at least when we spoke this summer).
Though there are intimations of a deeper, Kerouac-like independence and self-reliance ("I want to live in a truck with a camper that will haul ass cross-country"), Moats relishes the familial bonding among her fellow competitors in the growing microculture of women's freeskiing. And this, of course, is where she's making her mark. "At every competition, I'm amazed," she says. "Girls are kicking ass."
Born: September 7, 1980
Home Ski Hill: Mad River Glen, Vermont
Nicknames: Hornet, Moper (from a caption in this magazine in which we misspelled her last name "Mopes")
Highlights: Reigning Canadian freeskiing champion; 1999 and 2000 Rip Curl World Heli Challenge Chinese Downhill champion; 1995 Junior Olympic slalom gold medalist.
Automotive Fact: Used to be allergic to her car¿"I'd break out in welts." Something in the air vents, apparently.
Cosmic Charlotte: Once found herself standing in a patch of 52 four-leaf clovers¿"one for every week of the year."