<Grete poses with her new HEAD skis!
What may be the best all around female skier in the United States and pound for pound the best skier regardless of sex is Grete Eliassen. She’s the 21 year old, American-born, Norwegian-raised skier who won back-to-back gold at the Winter X Games in 2005 AND 2006. She won Silver in the 2007 X Games held in Aspen.
The cutie who now is a University of Utah student is hanging out at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia this weekend for the third and final Blue Ridge DoubleCross, sponsored by Freestyle. Grete will be the Master of Ceremonies, will hand out awards and be on hand for photos and autographs. If you have a chance and would like to ski and ride with a champion skier then head on up to Wintergreen on Saturday and Sunday for what sounds like a blast. They will have Capital B2B (a Jimmy Buffet cover band) on Saturday and then Sunday is Demo Days, also sponsored by Freestyle. You can hit the slopes with Grete Eliassen and also check out the hottest HEAD equipment at the same time. (Or guys, you can check out one of the hottest skiers and the land AND hit the slopes with some HEAD skis. Whichever fits, right!?!?)
Thanks to Anne Marie Jones of Wintergreen, she hooked me up with an interview with Grete. She learned to ski in her home state of Minnesota, but raced as a teenager with the Norwegian National Ski Team when her family moved there in 1999. She raced from the time she was 10 years old until she turned pro at the tender age of 17.
In addition to winning two past Gold Medals in the X Games, she won Silver last season at the X Games and put up these impressive stats as well!
5th in the Ski Superpipe – 2007 WORLD SKIING INVITATIONAL WHISTLER, BC CAN
2nd – Ski Slopestyle – 2007 WORLD SKIING INVITATIONAL WHISTLER, BC CAN
3rd – Ski Slopestyle – 2007 ORAGE EUROPEAN OPEN LAAX, SUI
1st – Ski Superpipe – 2007 ORAGE EUROPEAN OPEN LAAX, SUI
1st – Ski Halfpipe – 2007 NIPPON FREESKI OPEN NIIGATA, JPN
1st – Ski Superpipe – 2007 US OPEN COPPER, CO
She also was crowned Ullr Girl at the 2007 TELUS World Ski and Snowboard contest. She donated the $25,000 prize to various charities.
Grete took some time out of her busy day at Wintergreen Resort on Friday to call me and we were able to fire off some questions that she was gracious enough to answer. I took a bit of time to set things up and emailed a bunch of our younger contacts to get some questions from them as well and she seemed to enjoy those.
Here’s the interview:
SkiSoutheast.com: Grete first of all thanks for the opportunity to speak with you. I know by your blog on greteeliassen.com that you have never skied on the East coast. We’ve had a sub par season in terms of consistent cold and snow, so don’t judge too harshly, please.
Grete: I won’t be too hard on you guys; I know how it goes sometimes!
SkiSoutheast.com: I noticed in some of the bios about you that you got started racing at the age of 10. At what age did you start skiing? Where was that?
Grete: I was about 2 years old and it was at Hyland Hills Ski Resort in Minnesota.
Editor’s Note: Hyland has a Vertical drop of only 175 feet with a top elevation of 1,075′.
SkiSoutheast.com: So the story goes that your family moved to Norway when you were 13. So you began racing before the move and then continued to do so until turning pro at 17, right? So when so many young people are going to snowboarding what prompted you to stick with skiing?
Grete: Yes to the turning pro question and as far as skiing, my brother snowboards and I do it once or twice a year just for the change, but I really always liked skiing and just stuck with it. It’s what I do and I like it more.
SkiSoutheast.com: Grete, we have a couple of skiers and snowboarders that we sponsored as young as 8 years old and one 10 year old who competes all over the United States and these girls are obviously looking up to you as a role model of sorts. Who did you look up to when you got your start?
Grete: Definately women like Cindy Nelson (who is in the Ski Hall of Fame) and I also really looked up to girls who were in my same ski camp.
SkiSoutheast.com: Obviously you are known for going HUGE out of the superpipe. What makes a girl mutate from a good skier to someone who tests the limits of throwing jumps like you do?
Grete: Well I don’t really throw myself out of the pipe. It’s a thought process. I was always a tomboy growing up, you know climbing trees and jumping out of them. When I started ski jumping I just started small and had a lot of confidence. I watched the guys doing jumps and just thought, hey if a boy can do it, then I can. I never really thought I couldn’t do it. I just started small and kept going bigger!
SkiSoutheast.com: Obviously you are also well known for the fact that you don’t train for slopestyle or Superpipe comps until you show up at the venue a few days before the comp. Is that still true?
Grete: [laughs] Yes that is true. I JUST don’t like to train EVERY day. I’d just get bored with it. You know Mike I just like to do different things like one day just ski powder; another day do some jumps and maybe the next do some racing. If I trained to race everyday I’d just grow tired of it. I like to spread it around.
SkiSoutheast.com: Grete, knowing that I was going to be speaking with you today, I asked some of our readers, particularly as many young ladies as possible to send me a couple of questions. Would you mind answering a few more?
Grete: Oh not at all. I enjoy it.
SkiSoutheast.com: One young lady advised me that evidently you designed your own Armada skis at one time (she now skis HEAD) and you included a male supermodel on them. She wanted to know what inspired you to do that?
Grete: I was really just mocking the guys. You know a lot of the guy skiers get these elaborate females on their skis so I did it for a laugh really. Just comedy! To me it was just giving it back to the guys!
SkiSoutheast.com: The next most asked question was where is your favorite resort to ski at in the world and then the United States?
Grete: They are one and the same. My FAVORITE place to ski in the whole world is at Snowbird in Utah. Not only is it my home mountain being just 15 minutes from my house, there is powder there just really every day. Of course all of my best friends ski there to and I can hit it every day that I want!
SkiSoutheast.com: Here’s some more from us. In April 2007 you were named Whistler Blackcomb’s Ullr (pronounced You-ler) Girl and won $25000 for that gig and then reportedly was quoted as saying that you had never won that much money and yet you gave it right back (the entire purse) to charity. Since that was the most you’d ever won, why’d you give it back?
Grete: Mike I come from a giving family and that what Minnesota girls do! I know how blessed I am to have been given this opportunity to ski professionally and I just thought that it was the right thing to do. Just thought that it was my duty.
SkiSoutheast.com: With that in mind, what is the most money that you’ve won…and kept?
Grete: I think I won maybe $13,000 at the X Games in Aspen. Bear in mind that I won the Silver last year. I won the Gold the year before but the prize money went up so even though I won the Gold before, it was less money.
SkiSoutheast.com: Okay so you were named the Ullr Girl, won $25,000 and gave it back and we heard that at that same event that you sang a song in Chinese. Is that right? How many languages so you speak?
Grete: [laughs] Yea, I did that! Well obviously I speak English and Norwegian. I also can speak Germans and just considered it a challenge to learn Mandarin.
SkiSoutheast.com: [I am feeling like a HUGE under achiever now!] Okay girl, you’re now 21 and labeled as one of the best all around skiers and obviously
you specialize in slopestyle and halfpipe. Do you have any advice for our younger
readers, particularly the girls who would love to follow in your footsteps?
Grete: Yea, I’d just tell them to do it for the love of skiing or snowboarding. Ski because you want to, not for the money or fame. That is what it is all about.
SkiSoutheast.com: Well Grete you’re obviously a pro skier AND a student. How do you balance those two schedules?
Grete: I go to school in the Fall and Summer only. We have trimesters and I just really work hard during those times so that I can ski from around Christmas to May free from any school concerns.
SkiSoutheast.com: [This was my favorite question and response.] Grete, this may come as a huge surprise to you but SkiSoutheast and our network of ski websites that promote skiing in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic is the most visited ski web presence east of the Rockies. If we send you a free SkiSoutheast.com Hoodie, can we talk you into wearing it occasionally and send us a photo of you in it?
Grete: Yea! (She said with obvious interest.) Sure I’d love to.
SkiSoutheast.com: [I tried to hide my "YEA" but probably didn’t.] Last, question, Grete. Obviously you’re sponsored by HEAD, Oakley, Red Bull, Dakine, Technica and others. What’s it cost to sponsor a skier at your level?
Grete: [Great answer here.] I don’t know Mike, what do YOU think?
Of course I said goodbye and told her we’d have to explore the idea. LIKE I COULD AFFORD HER!
Grete Eliassen keeps up with a cool blog on her own website at www.GreteEliassen.com and it’s cool to know that her older brother Kurt Eliassen is a pro snowboarder.
She’s a full time student at the University of Utah.
She says that her hardest trick is the "spread eagle" off a jump.
I think that it’s very telling about this big-hearted girl when she says with conviction, "I think everyday I’m able to ski is humbling to me. Not everyone gets to enjoy the mountains like I get to on a daily basis, I feel very fortunate."
Don’t we all!?!?!
Send your comments to: [email protected]
Visit Grete’s website at: www.GreteEliassen.com