A former World Cup alpine skier and 1998 super G Olympic gold medalist, Picabo Street finished her career with five-combined World Championship and Olympic medals. In 2004, she was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame.
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Sean Ritchie: Where have you traveled in the past year? Have you visited any destinations for the first time?
Picabo Street: I have stayed stateside other than Canada. I didn’t go to a new state, but I went to Grapevine, Texas — someplace new for me. I had never been and it was right before Christmas. It is actually the most lively and Christmassy town in the country at that time of year. It’s like this little Christmas mecca. That was pretty exciting — a place I’m going to go back and take my family to. I’m kind of liking staying closer to home and seeing new things stateside instead of always being abroad.
SR: Describe growing up in Triumph, Idaho?
PS: Triumph is where I would refer to as off the grid or as close to it as you can get. We literally had a city well that all of 33 people worked out of together. So really, really small, tight-knit community that watched out for one another. I knew wherever I went I was being watched, disciplined and loved with the same attentiveness as inside the walls of my own home. It was a really unique place to grow up. I feel blessed to have grown up in that way. I really think it gave me the grit to travel the world.
Photo courtesy | Frank D’Amico
SR: I bet the mountains just added to it as well.
PS: There are so many possibilities. You get this stratospheric look to you, having to always look up over 12,000-foot peaks. You’re always looking up and know it’s going to be a haul to get there. So you have to be ambitious. You have to have a good attitude. It just kind of instills that in you and there is no way around it. The mountain that we grew up under was named Mindbender. Could you imagine? It did — it bent your mind where the world is so possible. Anything is possible because you have to go that big just to get out of there.
SR: How would you prepare travelers who are visiting Idaho?
PS: Be prepared to be surprised at how breathtaking it is. Also, be ready for the conditions, because Idaho can take you from 30 below to 95 above. The humidity levels can be between 90 percent and two percent as well. The biggest thing when traveling to those intermountain states is wear your layers and bring your cameras because it’s going to blow you out. Don’t be surprised at how friendly and helpful the people are. There’s a little bit of a southern hospitality that goes on up there.
SR: You’ve had the opportunity to ski some of the best mountains in the world. Are there a few that stand out?
PS: There are a few that stand out for skiing and then there are a few that stand out for just overall experience. For overall experience Cortina d’Ampezzo and anything along the Dolomites [in Italy] is top-notch for me. It’s very humbling and when the snow is right it can be some of the most amazing skiing out there. The feelings and the vibe that those mountains give me are insane. The main one that we hit on the World Cup every year was Cortina. Super amazing — really fun downhill runs right off the top of the mountain. It flows like water all the way to the bottom. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s the real deal. I like that.
Photo courtesy | Manuel Bierbauer
Freeskiing wise, go around the corner and Madonna di Campiglio has some amazing freeskiing — Méribel, France and St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria as well. St. Moritz, Switzerland can have some really good freeskiing if you hit it at the right time. It all just depends on the snow conditions.
Now I’m going to tell you, the thing that blew my mind. The resort that has surprised me and blown me off the most, and I’ll tell you why, is Sochi, Russia. Unbelievable skiing — it was fantastic! The thing that shocked me the most was the extreme drop off the edge of the earth, off of some of the gnarliest skiing. I had people that were just like, “Back up, please back up. If you go off that edge I’m picking you up at the bottom!” They were radical shoots and literally right there — available to anyone. You could take the gondola from the bottom to the top and within 15-20 yards you are looking at a shoot that is insane — our level skiing only. You can’t even look out and see the vert on it without risking falling in it. But I was so shocked at how vast and beautiful it was.
SR: Everyone has a bucket list. What are three destinations on yours?
PS: For sure. I absolutely want to go on an African safari before I leave the planet. I’d really like to see those critters in the wild. I think that would be pretty special.
This is going to sound funny, but I really want to do some of the cheesy American stuff. I want to do Mount Rushmore and some of the historical stuff about the beginning of our country.
I also want to do, this might be kind of fun, the Kilpatrick’s built the western railroad that met up with the eastern states. The golden spike was driven in in Ogden, [Utah] and the railroad went from there through Picabo, [Idaho] and the only reason Picabo [her namesake] exists is because of the railroad. So I’ve always thought about riding the train across the country. My boys really like it and trains as well. To RV across the country or ride a train could potentially be on our bucket list.
Photo courtesy | Clay Gilliland
SR: My father used to work on the railroad and he says the views that you see taking that cross-country is unparalleled.
PS: Yes! You see the world in a different way. I’m always driving and I never get to look around like I want to. I think that would be pretty cool.
SR: Sport has many different arenas, how special was it that yours was high atop of mountains? What did the majestic setting add to the sport?
PS: Absolutely great question. Everybody always asks me if I like golf and I’m always like, “Of course I like golf, all you’ve got to do is just look around. If you hit a crappy shot just check out the feature you’re next to.” For me the mountains are that. They’re the Lord’s creation. I look around going, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m in the middle of all this.”
Obviously it adds the element of speed and intensity that I like and am addicted to — those 80 miles an hour. I love them giving that to me, but for me any time I needed a perspective, a refresher or a piece of humble pie the mountain could deliver that to me. It wasn’t like looking at the walls of some arena or a whole bunch of faces. I think as skiers we’re able to stay so connected with the skiing, with the snow, with the mountain and what we’re doing, and that’s part of why it’s so vibrant and attractive.
Photo courtesy | Rudi Riet
SR: Do you have any crazy travel stories?
PS: I met my husband on an airplane. Yeah, that’s a pretty crazy travel story. I was headed back from the New York Ski Ball and my plane was from JFK to Atlanta on to Salt Lake City. He got on in Atlanta and sat next to me and stole my heart on the way across the country.
SR: Favorite travel quote?
PS: Take care, be aware. I used to say that one a lot. My dad would use that one cause I started traveling when I was really young. So it was take care and enjoy where you are, but be aware of who else is there also.
SR: When’s your next trip and what for?
PS: With the kiddos, we’re about to be done with school and we’re going to Fort Bragg for a week to spend time with some military friends and have a little summer break. Maybe jump out of an airplane if I feel like it — probably will!
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