Edie Thys Morgan was a member of the US Ski Team during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A downhill specialist, she competed in two Olympics, the 1988 Calgary games and the 1992 Albertville games.
She’s also a mom and the author of the novel, Shut Up and Ski: Wipeouts, Shootouts and Blowouts on the Trail to the Olympic Dream. Twenty years later, Thys Morgan is a respected snowsports journalist, writing for SKI and Skiing Heritage magazines. She sits on the US Ski Team Board of Directors and writes a column for ski racing parents called RacerNext.
I caught up with Edie last fall to talk Olympics, ski racing and her favorite mountains.
Let’s start with memories. Since it’s an Olympic year, what’s your best memory from the two games in which you competed?
Without a doubt, it is the 1988 opening ceremonies. Walking in my first opening ceremony is seared into my brain. We walked under the stadium, through a tunnel. It was dark and when we came out there were flashbulbs and the roar of the crowd. Suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t watching the Olympics on TV. I was actually in the Olympics.
Once you’ve competed on an Olympic team, it’s yours forever.
Looking back at your World Cup days, what stands out as your fondest memory?
All the airport floors we slept on! Not really.
Actually, when it comes down to it, it sounds corny, but the best memories are not the wins. The best memories were going the wrong direction in the team van, stealing ice cream out of the hotel kitchen, meeting up with the men’s team for pizza.
Really, the best memories are the spaces in between the competition.
We went through a lot of intense stuff together. In ski racing, there are so many situations when you are doing well and your best friend isn’t. But you stay friends and teammates through everything, the personal tragedies and the huge successes.
Which athletes did you most enjoy competing against?
Until 1988, I was in awe of all of my competitors. The entire Swiss team seemed too good to be true. Their faces were everywhere: on cereal boxes, on billboards on bank ads. It was amazing. Then in 1988, I got a taste of them not being untouchable. I realized I could hang with them.
As for role models, probably Swiss skier Maria Walliser. The first time she spoke to me, I was just like “WOW.” Also, Tamara McKinney who, just like me, was from Squaw Valley. But she was four years older and really a different generation. She set a standard of excellence for me.
Now that you’re a ski coach, are there any lessons you learned from your coaches?
The best coaches were those that instilled confidence in their racers. Not all of them did that. I had coaches that made me think I could do anything, and coaches that made me question my right to belong on the team.
In my generation, women were more subservient. We weren’t expected to take control of our equipment or training. Today’s athletes think a ton more for themselves. I wish I had taken charge more often when I raced.
Now when I coach girls, I make sure they know that they can’t expect anyone to have their best interest in mind. They need to stand up for themselves. I try to help them learn to be assertive and strong without being selfish or disrespectful.
Of all the hats/helmets you wear, which is the most challenging?
Being a mom. It is so different from being an athlete. When you’re an athlete, you’re number one. You are focused on what you need and doing your best. As a parent, you’re number three on a good day. In ski racing, you know what you’re doing. In parenting, you get hammered with things you never expect.
You grew up skiing Squaw Valley. Any tips for families going there this winter?
My best advice: ski KT a lot. As much as you possibly can. Just lap KT.
Now that you live in the East, do you have a favorite mountain out there?
Dartmouth Skiway. It’s an excellent family ski area, totally mellow, with a big nice lodge. The slopes are steep, and it’s great for training and for young families just getting started.
Last year, I had one of my best days of the season at Burke. Sometimes, the conditions are perfect and any mountain can be great.
In the end, you just love the one you’re with.