You follow pro skiers and snowboarders like others follow celebrity gossip. You know how each ranks and where their styles shine on the mountain. You know how long Ian McIntosh was out from a broken femur and how long Jen Hudak has been on the U.S. Freeskiing team. You watch them in ski flicks and are inspired by their skills. And, of course, you’ve never met any of them (except maybe to get your poster signed at the latest TGR film).
Is it possible to meet these VIPs? Yes.
For mere mortals? Yes.
Pro skiers are more like the rest of us than you might imagine. Sure, no one’s hooking you up with gear to wear while hitting the hill, but they were, at one time, just another ski enthusiast like you. However, unlike Hollywood’s celebrities, skiing’s stars haven’t forgotten their roots. Here’s how to get to know your favorite athletes—and maybe even score some runs with them.
First of all, don’t be weird: let’s lay that foundation from the get-go. Your goal here is to meet someone you are genuinely interested in knowing, not to gain access to skiing’s elite so you look big in front of your friends (or to replace your friends). And by the way, if you’re obsessed with meeting a certain pro because you truly believe they are your soul mate, stop reading now—you need entirely different advice (from a professional in a different field altogether).
Normal? Check. Your next move is to start a conversation. Connect with them on social media, comment on their blogs, and find ways to otherwise get to know them on a more personal level. Did you grow up at the same ski hill? Do you both enjoy mountain biking in the off-season? Are you supporters of a particular nonprofit? Discuss common points of interest and build from there. Consider this the cocktail party stage of the friendship: You’re learning if this is even a person you’d enjoy riding the lift with—famous or not.
Not able to connect online? Make plans to attend a trade or industry show. It might take you helping a company through their blog or guest writing for an established magazine, but get there. Trade shows are a great way to get to know people (who know people) and make connections face-to-face. Industry people rove in tight circles and generally have a direct line of association with their company’s pro-team, separated by maybe one or two people. Show genuine interest in the folks you meet, keep in touch after the show, and continue to meet up as often as possible. This is not an overnight process, but you might be surprised how quickly knowing folks in the know can turn into an opportunity to connect with a legend.
In either situation, once you’ve made the pro connection and established rapport, act on it. See if they would like to take a couple of runs if they are in town, or if they’re roving the trade show floor, let them know you’re there, too, and would like to catch up. Off-season? Set up a time to ride or climb together. Keep it casual: If you’ve laid the right foundation, asking to connect in person will seem as natural as meeting a friend—because by that point, they will be.
And for heaven’s sake, once you’ve met, don’t drop your friends.
Have you met any professional athletes? Let us know in the comments below!