The Stoke Is Strong With This OneShe never leaves home without her ukulele. Other than that, Michelle Parker travels light as one of the versatile and dominant pro skiers. She skipped the bunny slopes, growing up in Squaw Valley, California, with skis strapped to her feet, and has appeared in more than a dozen ski films, including her Best Female Performance at the Powder Video Awards and at the International Freeski Film Festival for her segment in Matchstick Productions’ “Superheroes of Stoke.” In her spare time, she likes to go for long walks up Mt. Denali.
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I am not doing this for anyone else, not for my sponsors, not for the camera, but because I honestly want to do it
Joel Einhorn: What drew you to skiing?
Michelle Parker: Skiing became something that I realized I couldn’t live without when I was around 14 or so. Before that, it was my daycare, and a part of me probably took it for granted. The bus would take me from school straight to the hill every day. While I don’t really like admitting that I took it for granted, at that young of an age it was just normal to me. When I was older, in high school the mountains became a place where I felt the ultimate freedom of being able to do whatever I wanted to do. With peers as my coaches and no formal structure to the sport, my desire was purely driven by passion. I think that lit the fire at an earlier age, to have something in my life that felt genuinely for me. As a profession, I’ve been able to keep it that way. I am not doing this for anyone else, not for my sponsors, not for the camera, but because I honestly want to do it and that feels authentic and ultimately allows me to keep the fire lit.
JE: What scares you?
MP: Loss. I’ve lost too many friends to the mountains.
JE: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and what would be the topic of discussion?
MP: Elon Musk, his vision fascinates me and I’d love to talk about the future with him. Willie Nelson and his son Lucas Nelson. I’m just a fan and rather than talk I’d love to just sit and listen to the music. I’m sure I would have plenty in common to talk about with both of them. Willie just seems so down to earth.
JE: What’s the biggest challenge facing our planet today?
MP: Climate change hands down. A lot of smaller challenges are related to climate change, but it’s definitely already affecting us in massive ways.
JE: How can people work to solve this?
MP: Large-scale change needs to start with policymakers. We do have influence over this as citizens, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Picking up the phone and calling your members of Congress, writing emails, and voicing your opinion is a good place to start. It’s actually quite easy and doesn’t take much time. Your voice will never be heard if you don’t use it. If you’re looking for guidance, check out Protect Our Winters. We’ve been seeing success in doing this with our local governments.
At first, it can be intimidating, especially meeting with senators and congressmen.
This past year I attended our town council meetings, went to Capitol Hill and lobbied with Protect Our Winters, and have been making these phone calls, raising my voice, and being more proactive than I ever have been. At first, it can be intimidating, especially meeting with senators and congressmen, but you realize that we are all human and that we do have an effect. Our voice matters! This is a bipartisan issue; it affects everyone. Start small with your town, your congressmen and senators, and be persistent. Aside from getting political, there is much to be done on a personal level.
Living with an awareness of our impact and making great efforts to lower our personal footprint is a continuous battle for me personally. My job requires travel and while there is a lot of debate over carbon offsets, I’d rather be held accountable for my impact and carbon tax myself with an educated donation into a green initiative and make conscious efforts to curb my impact. Having intention every day, developing mindfulness through every action and reaction, and really paying attention to our environment is my personal mission on a day-to-day level. The small things, like not forgetting my reusable bag at the grocery store, hang drying my clothes and using a reusable water bottle all matter to me. These things add up and do have an impact. That’s all a part of living mindfully.
JE: When you are not training or competing, what do you do with your time?
MP: Focus on health, recovery and balance. Days off, particularly in the winter, are a welcome time to slow down and recover. Focusing on nutrition, relaxation, meditation and yoga primarily, all while balancing work. I’m the type that typically doesn’t stop moving until I hit a wall. Currently trying to find that balance—I guess I’ve always been trying to find that balance. I’ve recently discovered music, as well, while recovering from a knee injury. It helped me heal and continues to inspire me. Such a great way to exercise the brain!
JE: Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?
MP: The coolest places in the world, to me, are the places where humans seldom go. Deep in the mountains, away from cell phone service, distraction, and any sort of communication with civilization. The places where you are completely in touch with your surroundings and life is simple. I personally have had a few really great experiences deep in Alaska on expedition-style trips. The only things that matter on these trips are eating, sleeping, skiing, and the people who you are with. This forces the group dynamic into deeper relationships that you would typically get. You form a sort of tribe and bond that will never be broken, even years down the road. These people become your family, your team. It’s quite special. I guess, to answer this question more directly, anywhere in the world where this can happen is the most special place. The more I travel, the more I realize that it is about who you are with than the places you go.
JE: What do for your health or fitness every day?
MP: It all starts in the morning with a mantra and setting an intention. From there I usually go straight to making my coffee loaded with all of the goodies. My coffee has HANAH ONE, ashwagandha, ghee, and MCT oil. This combination keeps me fueled in the mountains. A healthy breakfast of either a smoothie, again loaded with superfoods and magical ingredients, or an easy scramble with lots of veggies and some sort of grain. This is really the most consistent aspect of my days. It’s hard to maintain a ritual while on the road, but this is something that I have been able to take with me.
JE: How do you stay in shape?
MP: In the winter, I typically hike most of what I ski. In the summertime, my activity varies between biking and climbing. I like every type of biking, from distance on road bikes to cross country or more downhill. Biking long distance has become an activity that I really enjoy in the offseason. Setting personal goals, entering races, and keeping up with fitness in the summertime is often easier than what the busy winter schedule allows.
JE: If you weren’t a professional skier you’d be:
MP: A musician.
JE: What do you do to reset?
MP: Sleep, spend time with my family and loved ones, and explore my home mountain range.