Normal people don’t just join the United States Ski Team at age 17. They don’t just have a ski run named for them after winning an Olympic silver medal. And they certainly don’t get inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame after scoring more Olympic and World Championship medals than you can count on two hands. It’s safe to say that Picabo Street has had an amazing life. And for this mom-of-three, it just keeps getting better and better. Despite her ups and downs, the amazingly talented skier and inspiring woman has always come out on top. She has embraced the challenges, treasured the wins, and isn’t afraid to talk about the journey. Read on to discover what makes Picabo tick.
Picabo (Yes! Her name is pronounced like the childhood game.) has competed in the top competitions all over the world, but her favorite memory among them is taking on the slopes in Cortina. "I’ll always remember Cortina," she says. "The mountains were humbling. The people are big fans and it felt great to ski there. It’s a very inspiring place." Picabo is referring to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy where she competed (and took first!) in the downhill race.
It hasn’t always been easy for Picabo, however. She’s experienced some serious and painful (and seriously painful) injuries during her career. "My mom kept me injury free," she says. "Well, until I was 15 at least." But her most famous injury occurred years after she left her mama’s nest. In 1998 shortly after winning the Olympic gold in the super giant slalom (or "super G" as the pros call it), Street careened off course during a run, snapping her femur and injuring her left knee. During the two years it took to recover from the accident, Picabo admits she suffered from some situational depression, but kicked herself back into shape. "I have to keep my eye on the prize. I have to get back to where I was before the accident," she kept telling herself to get through.
She used a golf analogy to explain to us how she made it out of that rough period. For each hole, you’ve got a pin, and there’s a certain number of strokes you’re given to get the ball in each hole. "It’s like life," Street said, "You just work yourself toward the moves that will get you there. Keep your eye on the ball. Get it in the hole." A sports analogy seemed appropriate coming from someone who’s won enough Olympic and World Championship medals to weigh down even a bodybuilder’s neck.
Speaking of this coveted neckwear, when we asked her what it was like to win her first big gold, Picabo was not shy to answer. "It’s so satisfying, it’s scary," she said, giving me chills up. "Of all the things I could’ve wished for, THAT was my wish. I was actually scared by how good it felt." This was probably her zillionth time explaining it to someone, but she still sounded like it had just happened yesterday. "It was one of the few things that have taken words away from me. There’s nothing that beats it–even if I were to win another one," she said proudly.
A couple years after she retired from professional skiing in 2002, Street had a baby boy, Treyjan James, now 6 and a half years old, with her husband at the time. She married her current husband, John Reeser, in 2008 after divorcing Treyjan’s father and had another son, Dax Meyer, in 2009. With three kids in the house, including her own and Reeser’s son from a previous relationship, Picabo is not unfamiliar with a full house. How does she keep it all together while trying to parent three young boys? Consistency. "This behavior has this consequence, and the same rule always applies," she explained. She likes to create predictability and reliability, which makes sense for a hard core athlete like her, who trained for years to become one of the most successful athletes of her day. She likens kids and consistency to spiders and snakes: "You never know what they’re going to do–some bite and some don’t, so we make them predictable by saying they’re all bad. Kids are the same in that they need life to be solid like that."
Not surprisingly, Picabo’s relationships with her three sons mirror coach and student roles. "You learn so much about yourself when you’re trying to teach someone else," she said. She admits it’s sometimes challenging to accommodate their individuality, but also says this comes with the territory of motherhood, which for Picabo, is "something I never thought I would want to do."
Motherhood is special in blended families, though. Street may have dominated the skiing world, but sometimes being a parent is the most difficult challenge–"I’ve had to learn patience…and the power of love," she said. Her husband’s son, Eli, who is a bit older than her oldest son Treyjan, is "very competitive, rules-oriented, smart, and bossy", so "softening" him and teaching him to be a good loser has been quite a feat for Picabo. Her strategy is to look at Eli as "another personality in the making". It’s her self-assigned job to guide him correctly, so she uses the "Nanny McPhee" rule of do what you’re told, which in her opinion, brings about responsibility in her children and a general peace in the house.
These days Picabo still hits the slopes, although probably with a different mindset than before. As part of Chase Sapphire’s Rewards program, she traveled to the beautiful Squaw Creek Resort in Lake Tahoe, California this weekend to host a ski clinic for people who gained at least 75,000 points through the program. Members of the 1960 U.S. Gold Medal Olympic hockey team were there to get chummy with, and the whole group benefited from Picabo’s amazing, ever-present athletic talent and tips! In our opinion, there’s no better teacher than the one and only Picabo!