Renowned big mountain freeskier Alison Gannett left the professional world to do what was right – for the environment and for her health. But that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down.
When she’s not skiing the world’s hardest big mountain lines, mountain biking, designing women’s-specific gear, speaking about climate change for her non-profit Save Our Snow, or running skiing and biking camps, you can find Alison Gannett in Paonia, Colorado, making the rounds at Holy Terror Farm with her dog by her side.
Thanks to the 80-acre homestead, inspired by her climate consulting background and desire to reduce her own carbon footprint, Gannett hasn’t pushed a grocery cart since 2010, but her day-to-day hasn’t always been this idyllic.
“My life has been a series of mountains to conquer and climb,” she said. She started skiing seriously when she moved to Colorado at the age of 19 and soon became what she calls “an adult-onset athlete,” traveling the world filming ski movies.
But, she said, being a professional skier didn’t guarantee her health or happiness. In many ways, it did the opposite.
“I wasn’t really taking care of myself,” she said, and she believes some of those behaviors—like overtraining, overusing antibiotics and drinking too much alcohol—may have contributed to the most recent metaphorical mountain she’s been faced with: brain cancer.
Yet, skiing, and the on-your-feet problem-solving and fearlessness it taught her, has also been a path to a cure.
“When you’re afraid of something and then accomplish it, you build up self esteem over time. It helps you get over the other hurdles in your life, whether that’s job or family or illness.” She credits that learned courage with helping her take her own path in battling cancer – through careful dieting rather than surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
The strength and confidence she’s gained from her athletic pursuits has thus proved invaluable. Her experience motivated her to start Rippin’ Chix steep skiing and mountain biking camps, sponsored by KEEN, to teach and coach women athletes and share the benefits those sports have had on her own life.
“I’ve so often been the token girl in ski movies or on ski trips,” Gannett said. “So I wanted to prove a woman could ski any line a man could ski and do it better.” She said the world is filled with talented female skiers who just haven’t been given the opportunity to get out there and test their limits.
That’s the other reason she started getting involved with women’s-only expeditions: to give women the opportunity to change the gender ratio on the mountain.
She has been working with companies like KEEN, Osprey, and Meier to help design women’s-specific gear. Equipping women with products built specifically for them boosts comfort and confidence, which, in turn, powers up performance, Gannett said.
She’s a strong advocate for increasing the number of women designers and testers, as well, and says in a perfect world retail stores would have women’s sections staffed entirely by women and men’s sections staffed entirely by men.
“I think it’s impossible to have a product designed by a man for a woman,” she said. “Anyone who puts on a bra knows whether that bra was designed by a man.”
As an ambassador for Osprey, Gannett tests packs and provides feedback. Current projects include the Kresta, Osprey's women's-specific ski pack, and women's-specific hydration packs for biking.
She's also working on an Alison Gannett pro-model fat ski for Meier. Meier skis are handmade in Colorado using responsibly harvested Colorado Aspen, Pine, and Douglas Fir.
That means the Alison Gannett model will have more in common with its namesake than just aesthetic values: it will be sustainable, and it will be strong.