Meg Olenick is one of the young slopestyle stars of the U.S. Freeskiing Team. Raised just outside of Aspen, Colo., Olenick has been skiing park since she was a kid, following in the footsteps of her older brothers, Michael and Peter. After a series of knee injuries, she is looking for a strong season in 2013 to solidify her spot on the 2014 Olympic team. Olenick will be blogging for OnTheSnow this season as she prepares for Sochi in 2014.
The life of a professional skier is glamorous. Traveling the world with your friends, getting paid to do what you love, having kids look up to you. All of these things each and every athlete is grateful for, though backstage the glamorous lifestyle has its bad hair days. There’s endless travel, season-ending injuries, life-changing accidents and one of the biggest questions of all, what comes next?
One day of bad luck and you find yourself sitting in an airport for over 20 hours, missing flight after flight, going out of your mind with the countless hours of people watching. West Coast to East Coast to France to Austria back to West Coast to Switzerland; you never know what time it is and you just can’t seem to be able to sleep when you’re supposed to. Your “job” takes you out into the backcountry with little to no way of communicating with the outside world. Your loved ones sit at home worried about you, if you’re still alive; you sit in a small remote area hoping for one day of sun. The sun finally breaks through and all the excitement you have built up from being inside gets released into the wild—you’re free.
Your season flashes before your eyes and in an instant you know it’s come to a halt. Nothing anyone says makes it better; nothing anyone does makes it better. You replay that moment in your head over and over, wishing for a miracle that you could take it back. You never can. All the time, effort, mental and physical preparation you have dedicated to the thing you love most, skiing, is taken away from you. None of it matters. You are starting back from square one and it’s up to you which route you will take.
Another season rolls around and brings more and more tragedy with it. The ski industry is such a close-knit group of friends it’s inevitable that you are going to know the person’s name that covers Facebook and Twitter followed by an R.I.P. Instantly friends are gathering in hospitals, on the mountain, at contests and you’ve never seen so many distraught faces. Your heart aches, their hearts ache, you are all suffering from the same disease—loss. It’s the worst feeling in the world, your breath is taken away, your mind is in a fog and time is your only cure. How many friends’ lives have to be taken before you too ask the question “is it worth it?”
You’ve grown up skiing, your job is skiing, your passion is skiing, your friends are skiing, where would you be without skiing? At some point everyone is going to have to retire from skiing but then what? This question haunts every athlete out there. You’re lucky if you have a college education and can go from there but the majority of skiers don’t. There is always the possibility of staying in the industry and getting a job, but there are only so many industry jobs out there. We all cross our fingers hoping to find a job we’re passionate about after our skiing careers are over… Well, let’s keep hoping it’s going to happen that way.