Sunday, September 09, 2007

A few words with Gold Medalist Deb Armstrong.

Deb Armstrong is a skier's skier. Winner of the Gold Medal in the Women’s Giant Slalom at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, she's been inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame and is on the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) National Alpine Demo team.

I caught up with Deb while she was packing for her move to Steamboat Springs, CO, from her home in Taos, NM. After eight seasons overseeing the ski school at Taos, Deb is assuming the position of Alpine Technical Director at the ski school at Steamboat.

Q: Why the move to Steamboat?
A: Ski technique is my passion, and I'll have a wonderful outlet there. I've loved working at Taos, but Steamboat is offering me what I'm looking for. There's more potential for involvement in more programs.

Q: Why did you decide to instruct?
A: I'm passionate about delivering the gift of skiing. I think I can relate well to people of all levels and deal with them as individuals. That's important.

Q. Do you have a philosphy for skiing and instructing?
A: Skiing is a life long learning process. It's a metaphor for so many things, and there's always more to learn. When I instruct, I try to be accessible and very clear. I try to get everyone excited about skiing.

Q. Is there one problem you see more than others in women skiers?
A. That's hard to say. Everyone is different, men and women. For some, it might be equipment problems. For others, it might be confidence. I much prefer to treat women as individuals rather than lump them all together in one group. I think that can be demeaning and frustrating. As a woman myself, I can be sensitive to a whole scope of things that might be going on.

Q. Do you ever get scared when you ski?
A. When I was racing there was so much adrenalin that this wasn't really an issue. Skiing can be a mental game. You have to learn quickly that if you're fearful, you'll lose the tools that can help you succeed. When you're scared you freeze up or lean back. So you have to be smart. You can't get in over your head. And you have to ski with conviction. It'll keep you over your feet.

Q. How has your skiing changed over the years?
A. The equipment has changed a lot, and that brings in technical changes. I've had to evolve my technique. I've worked hard at that.

Q. What are you skiing on these days? Skis and boots?
A. Nordica is making amazing skis these days for women of all levels. The Olympia Firefox is fantastic. It's their highest end women's ski and it's a ripper for the female ripper skier. I love it. As for boots, I'm using Nordica's Doberman 150, which are way too stiff for the average recreational skier.

Q. A few years ago you suffered from a serious illness. How's the recovery been? Was it hard to get back into skiing?
A. I'm 100% recovered. No problems at all. I took a year off and got right back into it.

Q. When you're not skiing, what do you like to do?
A. In the off season I like to read, particularly non-fiction. And I like golf, tennis, and bike riding. I'm an active person.

Deb will be offering a series of women's clinics at Steamboat Ski Resort: January 15-17, February 5-7, and March 4-6.

Be sure to visit, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.


Kelly said...

Welcome to Colorado, Deb! We're glad to have your knowledge and experience here in our Rocky Mountains! I'm excited to hopefully participate in some of your clinics! Again, welcome!


tfranke said...

I have long been impressed with the influence Deb has on young female skiers. The strength of character and enthusiasm leaves a great impression on the young girls coming into the sport.
Thanks for sharing this with us Wendy.
Thanks to Deb for sharing the strength of character, not to mention the love of Skiing!!

Lisamarie said...

Wendy, thanks for doing this interview. Deb, always great to hear from you, and thanks for your comments on my book, Open Your Heart With Winter Fitness!

BTW, I just returned from teaching ski fitness in Portillo, and they had this trashy ski novel in the library called The Ski Gods. The book "name drops" various ski celebrity names, and yours came up!