Sasha, tell us a little about yourself and the position you hold in the outdoor community:
I’m an athlete – I’ve competed at an international level in skiing and mountain biking. I started traveling around the world in high school competing on the NorAm circuit with the U.S. Ski Team recruitment National Development System, competed on the Freeskiing World Tour through college, won the 2013 Subaru Freeride Series/Freeskiing World Tour, competed on the 2014 Freeride World Tour, then my skiing took a hit with health issues and, as I recovered, I competed on the 2019 Enduro World Series. As you can tell, I love the transformation that comes along with competitive sport. Now also a meditation teacher – I train other athletes in meditation for resilience and performance through Mountain Mind Project.
What drives you in your pursuits and what change do you want to impart?
Transformation and a deeper relationship with myself, my craft, other people, and the natural world drive me. To me, transformation is synonymous with feeling alive. We tend to understand that challenge is what leads to growth and those pivotal moments when life sends you off in a completely unexpected trajectory. Coming up against challenges is the daily reality of an athlete via training plans and competition. My meditation practice lives and is tested in my outdoor athlete life.
I want women, people of color, and other underestimated groups to know that they belong at the top of the podium and the top of the sport. I hope to be a role model for the next generation. More generally, I want outdoor athletes to be valued not just for their modeling ability or their ability to sell a product, but for their ability to embody a way of living that is frequently less materialistic, deeply connected to the natural world and explores the limits of our minds and bodies – lessons that the rest of society could stand to learn from.
How did you get involved with the Nexus film?
My cousin, Krystin Norman, reached out to the Nexus team and essentially said “I saw on Instagram what you’re creating, I love it, but I think something is missing and I think that what is missing is our story.”
I thought to myself “Wow. Are we allowed to say that?!” I was so proud of her. We are a great team, supplementing each other’s gaps with the other’s strengths, and in that moment she taught me a confronting lesson of how to stand in my value.
Have you worked with any of these ladies before?
I had only really worked with Shannon Corsi, the Director and Producer, once before. We had gone out and shot ski photos on a sunrise hike up Glory Bowl. Katie Lozancich, Producer and Photographer, had been my main contact at TGR for an article about a mindfulness and skiing program I created for Coombs Outdoors, but we had never met in person. I’d met Sophie Danison, Cinematographer and Lead Editor, briefly at a friend’s house in Victor, ID. I had heard of all of these women long before I met any of them. Their reputations in their work preceded them. As for my cousin, Krystin, we hadn’t skied together since we were kids (in almost 20 years) before we started filming for Nexus!
What excites you most about the future of females in the outdoor community?
We are collaborating, talking together, and elevating each other. As demonstrated by Nexus, we are creating the world and the role models that we always wanted for ourselves and not waiting for the industry or someone else to create it. I’ve seen this happening all over the ski community in the last few years. The bike community leads us a bit in women creating their own events and opportunities their own way, so there are great precedents and templates to draw from there, but skiing is headed there.
I’m proud of having a long career as a skier and I’ve started to reach out to the other female athletes that I’ve been competing and filming with for over a decade. What comes up in our conversations is striking. I realize that even for those who seem like they’ve made it at the top (filming with the major ski film companies, “professional skiers”, podium athletes), many more of us than I expected are still not getting the financial compensation and sponsorship support that we deserve. I feel like if we’d been talking transparently years ago in the way that we are now, this devaluing of female athletes would not have been able to continue so widespread. The exciting thing is that we are connecting and talking to each other now.
Can you share a little about your work with Mountain Mind Project?
Mountain Mind Project is meditation training for athletes and anyone who wants to train their mind like one. I’m working for a paradigm shift of making training the mind as important and as widely accepted as training our bodies.
I offer group courses and retreat intensives, as well as 1:1 coaching – all taught in person and taught live online. The reason that my training programs flex the full range from therapeutic (when a stressor has been identified: injury, illness, anxiety, major life change) to performance (in work, life or sport) is that life throws things at us and requires us to flex. I believe that, just like any physical training in the gym, your meditation practice needs to be personalized to your past life history, any injuries, and your current life circumstance. It requires a knowledgeable teacher to provide that level of training specification and modification. Meditation is experiential, just like skiing. It’s daily practice and the learning happens live-time as we do the activity together and then reflect on what just took place.
Other than a focused mind, what piece of gear is key to your success in the mountains?
I’ve rehabbed multiple injuries across my ski career and understand how everything ripples up from the foundation of my feet. I’m constantly rolling my feet on bouncy balls from the dollar store and standing on balance boards to wake up my feet and their ability to articulate throughout the day. On the days that I’m teaching meditation this allows me to feel anchored and grounded in my body, and when I’m skiing this allows my whole body to feel nimble and responsive to terrain. ZipFit is a pretty hidden piece of gear that I’ve been using since 2013 but is so critical to my performance while skiing. With my feet as the connection to the snow, I want comfort for the long days touring up mountains, but support, stability, and responsiveness for skiing down.