Even on the world cup, there's a difference between the aggressive skiers who aren't afraid of anything and the ones who get intimidated by the terrain; it's what ultimately sets the top finishers apart from the rest of the pack. The most confident racers don't just spend time hammering turns on hardpack-they take turns popping air in halfpipes, powder skiing in the trees, or going off jumps without thinking twice. They win races because they're agile and bold and have learned to deal with surprises on any terrain.
Growing up in Minnesota, without a lot of obstacles or terrain features to work with, I was not a naturally agile skier. So I asked my ski technician, John Mulligan, to ski off jumps and into the halfpipe while I followed 10 or 15 feet behind him. I did everything he did. If he popped a jump, I popped a jump. By doing exactly what he did I wasn't thinking, "I can't go over that!" I was thinking, "Where's he going next?"
Playing this follow-the-leader game allowed me to shut out my fears and realize what a good skier I had the potential to become. Try it with someone whose skills you trust, and you'll be amazed at how much your skiing improves.
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Weight: 155 pounds
Home Area: Buck Hill, MN
Accomplishments: Five-time National Slalom Champion; two-time Olympian; six-time World Cup winner; Ski Racing magazine's 2002 U.S. Female Alpine Skier of the Year.
Worst Learning Experience: "I was 15 and training in downhill at my first U.S. Ski Team camp at Beaver Creek. I was good at the speed events, but I was new to them, so I was scared. I wanted to keep my warm-ups on so I wouldn't go too fast, but the coaches were yelling at me to take them off. I had tears in my eyes when I pushed out of the gate. Six turns into it, I crashed big. I was lying there in a heap when a coach picked me up and said, 'Get your slalom skis and go freeskiing.' I've been a slalom skier ever since."