One of the first professional female skiers, Grete Eliassen is no stranger to forging her own path. She began skiing at two years old, splitting her time between the Norwegian mountains and the US slopes. Once she discovered freeskiing (a type of alpine skiing that involves tricks, jumps and terrain park features) there was no turning back. Since her professional debut, Grete has won six Winter X Game medals, set a World Record and is the only female skier to have medaled in both halfpipe in slopestyle in X Game events.
We met up with Grete to chat about all things skiing, her time as the President of the Women’s Sport Foundation and what she loves most about powder days.
You started skiing at a very young age, what about the sport drew you in and kept you coming back?
I played every sport growing up; and my family was involved every step of the way- from organizing carpools, to getting to practice or actually coaching the practice themselves. However, skiing and snowboarding were our favorite sports to do together. We got to explore new places by going on road trips to different ski resorts. We bonded a lot it became invaluable family time. Even so, skiing has always been a sport I never minded doing alone. Of course it’s great when you can ski with your best friends, but I was very satisfied just skiing for myself too. I just love to ski, it’s my favorite thing to do in the world. I love that you are outside, you can go explore and each day you will discover something new.
What do you like most about competing?
Competing is great for personal progression. Being able to compete with the world’s best skiiers has always pushed me to be my best. It’s fun to see someone do something crazy; it gives me the confidence to try it too.
You had a pretty significant knee injury in 2012. What has been the toughest part of getting back on your skis?
I fractured my leg when I was 11; that’s the only other significant injury I’ve had. I have been lucky throughout my career to avoid injuries for the most part. The hardest part of getting back was the amount of time it took for the ligaments to heal. Since I was rehabbing, I was pretty limited in the activities I could do. The hardest part was not being able to get on my skiis. It’s a good reminder though, try to play it safe so I can ski for as long as possible.
When did you decide to make the switch to freeskiing?
Ever since I started skiing, I was attracted to freeskiing. No rules, just doing whatever you want on the mountain. I started racing when I was ten because I wanted to learn how to be a better skier. I decided to quit ski racing around 16 years old because I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I just didn’t get the same joy out of skiing fast as I did jumping in the air or skiing powder.
You have accomplished a lot of “firsts” in your career. Do you consider yourself a pioneer?
Honestly, I do. When I first started to break out onto the skiing scene there was no “how- to” guidebook. At the beginning of my career, I think there were five of us that could say we were professional skiers. Even to this day, you really have to be creative in the projects you work on and create long last relationships with brands you’re passionate about.
What is your proudest moment?
Seriously, any day I land something for the first time or can look back at my tracks and be like, I just did that? I still get so stoked after skiing down a mountain and looking at my tracks.
If you had to choose, North American mountains or Norwegian mountains?
North American, only because we get a little more snow. Growing up in Norway was awesome and I am so happy I have my Norwegian roots, but the reason I moved to Utah was because of the snow.
You are the President of the Women’s Sport Foundation. Can you tell us about the organization and why it is important to you?
I got involved with the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) at the beginning of my career. Sarah Burke had been involved for a couple years prior and she really convinced me it was something I was going to be passionate about. It was tough to be a female skiier in the beginning of my career. We weren’t invited to contests, there definitely was not any prize money so we really had to create our own path. The WSF covers all sports and through the Foundation, I have been able to meet a lot of pioneers in other sports from Billie Jean King (tennis), and Janet Guthrie (Nascar) to the baseball players from “A League of Their Own”. It has been really inspiring to learn their stories and understand their struggles. It’s very important to me that all girls have an equal opportunity to participate in sports.
If you were going for a weekend ski trip, what are the five things that will be in your bag?
Skis, boots, helmet, back protector and my tooth brush. If I forget anything else, I can get it there or borrow it from someone.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Powder days! I just got back from an incredible trip to Retallack Lodge with thirteen ladies and it was all-time.