Pro skier/U student finds success

By By Jessica Dunn

By Jessica Dunn

At the end of last season, Grete Eliassen traded in her skis and strapped on a snowboard for a day. Two of her pro snowboarder friends stepped into skis.

They started at the top of the Little Cloud chair at Snowbird, and while one of her friends was spinning 360s, Eliassen was just proud of making it all the way down the mountain.

“I make it a habit to go once a year, but I’m not very good,” said Eliassen, a professional skier and U student. “I feel like a total beginner again.”

For Eliassen, Utah is the place to be. It has the airport, school and skiing close by.

“(Utah) is the most convenient place to live if you’re a skier and go to school,” Eliassen said.

Born in Minnesota, she started skiing at age three. By age 10 Eliassen was racing. After moving to Norway, Eliassen gained a spot on the Norwegian Ski Team where she stayed for three years. The team invested a lot in Eliassen. When she decided to quit and switch to slopestyle in 2003, the team supported her decision.

That same season she got a sponsorship from Oakley and competed in her first slopestyle and halfpipe competition as a pro. Since then, Eliassen has traveled the world, attracted more sponsors and racked up plenty of pro wins. She won the U.S. Open Slopestyle in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and the U.S. Open Halfpipe in 2007. Eliassen also won gold in the 2005 and 2006 Winter X Games and silver in 2007 for the superpipe.

Even with all her success in skiing, Eliassen is still a full-time U student majoring in business management. Eliassen said her major helps with travel budgets and is the perfect undergraduate degree for sports law, which she wants to do in the future. She came to Utah after high school because she wanted to get an education and be close to the resorts. She balances school and skiing by taking classes during the Summer and Fall Semesters and leaving spring open so she can ski.

Eliassen said she tries to make it a habit not to travel during school, although sometimes her sponsors require it. But come spring, she’s gone and living out of a ski bag for the next few months.

“As soon as school gets out on Dec. 14, I’ll be on the road until May,” Eliassen said.

She’ll be everywhere from Colorado to China, Japan to Europe — anywhere the white stuff falls. Between flying back and forth to contests and her numerous filming and publicity gigs, Eliassen hardly gets to ride at her favorite Utah resorts. Eliassen said she loves the terrain, the tram and the powder at Snowbird Ski Resort and the park and pipe at Park City Mountain Resort.

Eliassen has learned to balance life on the road, even with sponsors pulling her in every direction. She stays close to her family and friends through Myspace and Facebook. Eliassen also listens to a lot of music and watches movies while traveling, and she tries to stop by home even if it’s just for a few hours “to do some laundry and sleep in my own bed.”

“It’s fun, but it’s hard too,” Eliassen said. “You have to relax and not take it too hard when you’re traveling, doing what you love.”

Skiing and snowboarding are all about doing what you love. Eliassen is a ski bum like the rest of the skiers and boarders who flock to the U for the snowy mountains — she’s just living the ultimate dream by getting paid to do it.

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