DAY ONE of five in and around Park City, Utah (March 2012)
If you think Olympic ski racing is hard, try raising three kids on your own.
Just ask Holly Flanders, who raced down mountains at 80 mph in the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympics and won three World Cup Downhill championships. She braved icy courses, crashes and bad knees and had been ski racing since she was an eight year old growing up in Sunapee, NH.
“That was about me,” said Flanders, who now serves as the Ambassador for Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah—with 4,000 acres, the largest in the state and creating a lot of buzz in the ski industry. There are new restaurants (check out the farm-to-table offerings at The Farm) a new zip line and 300 additional acres of terrain since last year.
Flanders is also that rare breed who not only was a champion but is the mom of a champion—Her 19-year-old son Alex Schlopy won a gold medal at the 2011 Winter X Games in the big air contest and a gold medal in slope-style at the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. He is a member of the U.S. Ski Team and, his mom says, hopes to compete in the next winter Olympics.
But it wasn’t easy getting to this point. Even after being an Olympian and being the director of Skiing at Park City Mountain Resort, Flanders “ bottomed out,” she said. “I felt like a big failure…” as she struggled to juggle a career and three children, including an infant, on her own.
Alex couldn’t have been a tougher kid to raise, Flanders added. She had to step back professionally. “And there was such a big age span—her youngest is eight years younger than her middle child,” that I felt like I was the single parent of two different families.” It took quite a while to get back on track.”
Now she wants to help other women take time for themselves and to feel better about the choices they’ve made. “I wasn’t doing anything for me,” she explained at lunch after we’d spent the morning skiing some of the Canyon’s extensive terrain. “And I realized you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Flanders teaches women’s ski workshops at Canyons—I thoroughly enjoyed one a few years ago—but now has a new mission—to convince women they need to make that time, no matter what else is going on in their lives. Especially when it comes to physical pursuits like skiing, she says, women don’t have much confidence. “When they are allowed to build their skills, they gain great confidence and they can take that confidence with them to other parts of their lives.”
Sounds good to me.
Flanders remembers one particular rough patch with her son Alex when she realized that no matter how impossible he was, she would still love him. She told him so—more than once—and that really seemed to make a difference. “We turned a corner,” she said.
No matter what is going on in your life, she is convinced, “It really is about attitude…get outside…make time for yourself..if you do that, you are better for everyone else around you.”