Whistler freeride skier and Peak Performance athlete Olivia McNeill is currently competing on the global stage at the Freeride World Tour. As we continue to celebrate women throughout the month of March, we chatted with Olivia about her current success and her journey as a young woman practicing the extreme sport of freeride skiing on our local mountains. —Vita Daily
Hi Olivia! For those who aren’t familiar, what is freeride skiing and how does it differ from more mainstream styles of the sport?
For those who aren’t familiar with what I do, I often start by saying that I jump off cliffs. Once that’s been established, I can go on and explain the more intricate details of the sport. To put it briefly, freeride competitions are about where you go and how you do it; where on the mountain have you chosen to ski and how are you going to go about skiing it? Especially because it is judged live, the overall impression of your run is extremely important, in addition to the more technical aspects such as line choice, control, and fluidity. Some of the standout aspects of Freeride as a sport is the space for creativity it grants us as athletes and the reverence it pays to the natural landscape. We get to look at a mountain and work with the natural features provided for us.
You grew up skiing on B.C. mountains. How did this upbringing lead you to competitive freeride skiing?
I’ve lived in the city my whole life, and stumbled across freeride when I was 12. Skiing out of Whistler Blackcomb and growing up a part of the Whistler Freeride Club has without a doubt brought me to where I am today. BC mountains are awesome. I’m super lucky to have grown up amongst them.
At the age of 20, this is your second time competing in the Freeride World Tour. To make it even more impressive, you are currently sitting in third place in the Women’s Ski category and achieved a gold medal run in Spain. How do you feel heading into the fourth leg of the tour in Austria?
Heading into the fourth leg of the tour being tied for second overall is something I’m very excited about. It’s a relief for sure knowing that the qualification process is over and that I’ll be coming back next year. Now it’s time to have some fun! Of course there are many things to think about, but my main concern is with skiing a run that is true to me. Something that gets me stoked about skiing. Sometimes this is challenging, especially when dealing with some more long term injuries, but it’s the reason I love being here. I love to be in the mountains and hit massive cliffs, and want to ski for the sake of skiing—I find I am always happiest with my runs when I stick to that spirit. It’s the best feeling when you finish a run and you know you gave it your all, and you did it in a way that does you justice.
You are an official Peak Performance athlete. What is your go-to kit for a big day on the slopes?
When it comes to layers, I like to be as efficient as possible and don’t ever want to feel too restricted. But I also get cold really easily! I usually wear the Spirit Half-Zip base layer and an Argon Hood Jacket which keeps me warm and feeling mobile under my shell jackets. And you’ll never catch me without a neck tube on.
What advice do you have for other young women looking to get involved in an extreme sport like freeride skiing?
A piece of advice I’d give is to do what you love and give it everything you can, but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Do it because you love it, and remember to give yourself time and opportunities to engage with the things you enjoy most about the sport. Extreme sports put a lot of pressure on you both physically and mentally, and it can be exhausting. I find success and balance when I take days to just enjoy being in the mountains, and skiing for me.
March 22nd, 2022 at 11:07 am
So cool Liv!!!