She is a young woman who needs no introduction, with a string of wins, medals, and titles following her wherever she goes; Mikaela Shiffrin has become a skiing icon. Her confidence is an inspiration, but her humility and grace are to be celebrated.
#sheskis is a movement about community and mentorship. Can you tell us about female mentors and teachers that have helped you on your path in skiing?
At the top of my list of female mentors and teachers is my mom. She has been there from day one helping to motivate me, teach me, and also learn with me. I think it’s incredibly important that your mentors are able to teach you what they know, but also back down and be willing to learn with you when they don’t know something. My mom is the first person to admit that she doesn’t know everything, and she is always willing to put in the effort to learn and improve. She has always been a great example and very motivating for me.
Do you connect much of your confidence back to skiing and what it has taught you?
I connect almost everything that I learn in life back to skiing in one-way or another. Skiing has provided an environment where I can immediately apply things that I learn. For instance, I can’t tell you how many times I have read about or been told by a coach or a teacher how important discipline and work ethic is, but it is one thing to know it and something different to actually DO it. Skiing gave me a place to practice my work ethic, motivation, confidence, and the more I have skied, the more those qualities transferred into the rest of my life. By learning to be confident in my skiing, I learned to have confidence in myself, my body, my mind, my family, and everything else around me.
There is a lot of realness that comes from skiing. The people, places, and environments are ultimately connected to a genuine passion for the mountains. How has being a skier made you a more authentic person?
Living in the mountains has taught me to love an active, healthy lifestyle. I can walk out my door and be ready to bike, hike, ski, play tennis, soccer, volleyball, and swim all within 5 minutes. I guess you can do a lot of those things anywhere, but it’s not always so accessible. It seems like most mountain towns have a much more active populations than, say, a city. At the end of the day, I live in a place where I am comfortable and I don’t feel like I have to ‘put on a show’. Most of the people around me have similar interests as I have, so I can just be myself, without fear of being judged or ridiculed.
You are a multi-talented woman, from piano to skiing and beyond. How did you choose to follow skiing as your main passion and how do you balance that with the other things in life you love?
To be honest, it was never a question in my mind of what I wanted to pursue. I always wanted to be a skier, it just seemed obvious to me. I played soccer and tennis quite well, but I never saw those as possibilities for a career. I don’t know why that is, but it made it much easier for me to be able to enjoy the other things that I like, without being torn between those things and skiing. Now I think back and I realize that maybe I could have been a soccer player or even a tennis player, but I loved doing those sports for fun and also as cross training. It’s important for everyone to have some outlet, and for me my outlet can be other sports, or playing music, or a number of other things that challenge me in a different way than skiing.
In what ways do you see yourself as instrumental in inspiring other females to either try skiing or dedicate themselves to skiing? How can your success inspire other females?
Everyone has an idol, whether it’s an athlete, an actress, a musician, or a world leader, and we all aspire to be like our idols. I used to watch Anja Pärson, Janica Kostelic, Lindsey Vonn (Kildow), Marlies Schild, and so many other great skiers and I wanted to be as good or better than them. I imagine I inspire other girls in the same way. Many young girls have come up to me and said that I inspired them to try ski racing or to work harder in the sport. It’s incredible that I can have that sort of an impact on someone’s life, but when I think of how many idols I have and how they have impacted and inspired me, I realize that I won’t be the first idol for these young girls, and I wont be the last. I can only hope to inspire them in a positive way during the time that they look up to me! If I had one piece of advice that I could give every girl out there, it would be to find something they are passionate about, put all their discipline and effort into it, and remember to smile as much as possible even when it is painful and frustrating. Everything else will come.
Mikaela plays a huge role in the recent launch of Atomic's #sheskis movement to bring stories of passion, confidence, authenticity, and community together. Learn more about the #sheskis movement here.