This Incredible Freeskier Harnessed Her Fear to Shatter Glass Ceilings
Even as one of the world best freeskiers, Angel Collinson admits that self-doubt and negative talk creep into her mind. But she uses that to crush insane mountains.
Google big mountain skier Angel Collinson and one of the first things you'll find is footage of a seemingly deadly wipeout where she fell more than 1,000 feet down an Alaskan mountain. After what should have been a bone-breaking fall, Collinson walked away with only a couple bruises.
In her career as a professional skier, she's completed terrifying routes such as Utah's Suicide Chute and has been credited with breaking the glass ceiling in the male-dominated sport of freeskiing. From the outside, Collinson is cool, calm, and daring, but she admits to Shape that she totally wrestles with fear and negative self-talk every day.
"When I'm feeling afraid at the top of a mountain, my number-one phrase I tell myself is, 'I got this,'" says Collinson. "I spend time instilling my thoughts with positivity and trusting myself, but if there's overwhelming negativity, I listen to that too. When you listen to yourself, you develop a better relationship with your body. So, I listen to fear. You're able to work with your body and mind instead of against it."
Skiing is as natural as walking for Collinson, whose parents started her and her fellow professional skier brothers in lessons at age 2. "Skiing is the only way I know the world," she says. "It's been a pillar of my existence." First, she focused on ski racing but called it quits at 18 after not making the U.S. Olympic Team. She took a full-ride academic scholarship and joined her brother at big mountain competitions for fun, where Collinson says she could push her limits as a skier "and not have to wear spandex." Today she works with Teton Gravity Research, an extreme sports media brand, filming insane ski runs around the world, and is sponsored by Red Bull and The North Face.
Collinson partly credits having avoiding injury (most of the time, at least) to her self-care regimen, which consists of meditation, visualization, breath work, and even tarot cards. (Related: This 20-Minute Guided Meditation for Beginners Will Melt Away All Your Stress)
"These things routinely help me feel the most connected to the earth, myself, and people," says Collinson. "Meditation is a really big one, and I cycle through lots of different visualizations or self-talk, accompanied by divinity decks like tarot or animal medicine cards. I really love those. I pull a card and the meaning helps me look at something I need to apply to my life that day. When I have time, I also do yoga, Pilates, and core work. Yoga exercises get me back in my body if I'm nervous or stressed."
This may all sound a little time-intensive, but Collinson says it's more about choosing what you need at the moment. "Whatever I feel I need to do to get out of my head," she says. "As women, we really get into our heads and overthink. We tell our emotions they're wrong and resort to negative self-talk."
She hasn't been able to escape injury entirely though, and her first major setback came in the spring of 2016 when she blew out her knee skiing. Now, two years later, she's getting back onto high-mountain runs. "The first six to nine months of injury I dealt with physical challenges, and now it's 100 percent mental," she says. "I have days when I question if I can ski the way I used to because I have more fear. Instead of letting the 'why can't I' thoughts take control, I think of this doubt as a natural part of the process."
"Every single woman I've talked to has dealt with fear and body issues," says Collinson. "Really loving how you are, naturally, is a process you have to come into your own way. Skiing is also one of the main reasons I started practicing good self-care; nurturing my body with meditation and positive self-talk." So, take it from one of the most incredible athletes out there-you might not be able to crush that self-doubt, but you CAN turn it into fuel for crushing goals.