The Truth: Angel Collinson

On love, risk, and back flips.

During her two years competing on the Freeskiing World Tour, Angel Collinson has never placed lower than fourth. But the year after she won her first overall title, her boyfriend and fellow competitor, Ryan Hawks, died from injuries sustained during a crash in a California competition. After spending Hawks’s last moments with him in a Reno hospital, she did the only thing she could do: finish the season and win the tour again.

I wouldn’t be where I am with big-mountain skiing if I hadn’t spent so much time racing. My dad was the one who got me started with racing. We’ve always shared a bond over skiing.

I was on an academic scholarship at the University of Utah. Balancing school and skiing was tough—I had to sacrifice in one area or another, and I always gave 100 percent to school. But I’m not going to school this winter, and I’m really excited about it.

At the top of a line, all I’ve got is my skill set and my mental confidence. I tell myself, “Yeah, this is a test, but I got it.”

When I get to the bottom, that’s when it feels like I’m really living. I think a lot of people in this sport feel like we’d rather be living on the edge than living a mundane life.

When I sign up for a competition, I’m always aware that getting hurt is possible, that death is possible. Maybe the snow’s bad or there’s avalanche danger or flat light. There are so many factors. Add in jumping a 60-foot cliff or doing aerial tricks, all at high speed, and the risk becomes exponential.

Ryan Hawks was of those people who felt very light. He was welcoming and had an open heart. Our relationship evolved from a very playful friendship into this great romance.

I loved the way he skied. Because of Ryan, I’m going to make a point to try more tricks, especially back flips. That’s what I wanted to do anyway, but he definitely made me want to be more playful as a skier.

His death has taught me so much about the way I want to look at the world now—like he did, to see the beauty and happiness in all the small places. That’s a gift that I was really lucky to get. He’s still teaching me that.

You can tell when someone looks at you and thinks you’re just the greatest thing ever. When I fall in love next, if they look at me the way he looked at me, I’ll know it’s right.