After a horrible accident, Rowan Cheshire started skiing again at the end of 2015. Her goal was to stand on top of a halfpipe and ‘not freak out’. She did more than just that, having recently come fourth place in a halfpipe competition at the Cardrona Games in New Zealand. Rowan seems well on the way to putting her injury behind her and has become one of the UK’s best hopes in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games. It’s an achievement that could potentially see her become the first British woman to win a skiing medal in the Winter Olympics since Valerie Scott and Debbie Pratt won bronze at Albertville ’92.
Dom Haley has a chat with Rowan about her life as a skier and the best places she’s been.
So how did you get started? What made you want to be a skier?
Basically, it was my dad who got me into skiing. He used to ski when he was younger and he wanted our whole family to go on ski holidays together, so he was very keen on getting me up on the slopes.
I started out skiing at a local dry slope in Stoke when I was 10, and took part in a ski school there for two hours every single Saturday and Sunday for what must have been a year. Finding out that I was pretty good at it, I took part in a freestyle camp and ended up competing in a few national competitions. It’s all gone on from there really.
How has being a professional skier changed your life?
Skiing is something I’ve been doing from a young age and I ended up going professional pretty much straight after school, so all I’ve ever really known is the athlete life. It’s actually quite hard to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t pursued skiing. I suppose I wouldn’t have got to see so many amazing places and met as many awesome people, that’s for sure.
What’s the worst mistake you have made in skiing?
My worst mistake on skis was probably the accident I had in Sochi right before the Olympics. It definitely wasn’t the best timing to have one of my worst falls.
Did you ever question whether you wanted to continue skiing?
I’m not going to lie, it did make me think a lot about whether I wanted to continue and I did go through a period of wanting to quit. That’s the hardest thing about head injuries; it does change your mindset and affect a lot more than just your physical health. But with time I got better and I saw a psychologist and got a positive mindset back.
How have you trained to come back from that injury? The UK isn’t exactly renowned for snow…
Yeah, the UK doesn’t have the greatest skiing spots, so I do have to travel a lot. I end up spending most year on the road — I only spend a couple of months at home and that’s usually during the summer.
What do you do when you’re not skiing?
Well, as an athlete, if I can’t ski then I spend the time in the gym. It’s either that or hanging out with friends and generally resting up between sessions. I also try and study in my spare time, and I’ve recently started a course in personal training and nutrition.
You must have a lot of gear by now. Has it become a bit of a pain to travel with all this gear?
I actually don’t have that much stuff, mostly I just have a good freestyle skis and bindings. I do quite like to have a new helmet every season or after a knock to be on the safe side. I did start building up quite a collection, but I’ve started to sell stuff or throw things away when it gets a bit battered.
I tend to travel with a ski bag, a suitcase and a rucksack and it is a bit of a pain in the backside trying to carry everything. The one tip I’d give anyone would be not to over pack. I used to always end up doing that, but recently I’ve learnt to travel with only one bag on shorter trips, and it’s made my life a whole lot easier.
At the last count, how many different ski resorts have you been to?
Oh gosh! That’s a very hard question. More than I can count on my fingers, that’s for sure!
If I had to name favourites it would have to be Cardrona in New Zealand and Copper/Breckenridge in Colorado. Mainly because both have fantastic facilities. They have everything I need for a good training trip, with great pipes, trampolines, gyms, etc…
What are the best resorts to visit as a tourist?
Well, I love Whistler in Canada. There’s so much to do in both winter and summer — the town is really nice and packed with cool bars and restaurants.
I’ve always wanted to go to Japan skiing. I’ve heard it’s meant to be amazing but I’ve just never had the chance to go yet. It’s on the top of my bucket list of places to go.
Where would you take your mates who can’t really ski?
Actually, I’ve got quite a few friends and family back home who can’t ski. I’d probably take them somewhere in Europe — maybe Tignes in France? The après ski is really good there and it’s a great resort for beginners and experts alike.
I saw on your Instagram that you’re quite keen on the odd city break. Where’s the best place you’ve been?
The best city break I’ve been on has to be New York. I just love it there! There’s so much to do and see.
You also seem quite keen on a beach holiday — where’s the best one you’ve been?
Definitely the Maldives — it’s just so beautiful and relaxing. I also discovered diving there, which is a new and exciting experience for me. I want to go to Honolulu next, as it kind of combines both a beach and city holiday. Barcelona would be pretty cool as well.
Cool. Shall we end on with a quick-fire ‘Would you rather’ session?
Yeah! Let’s do it.
Would you rather live on a snowy mountain in winter for life, or a hot beach for life?
Hot beach. Definitely a hot beach…
Would you rather have skis as feet or ski poles as hands?
Easy — poles as hands.
OK, lastly would you rather meet a yeti whilst skiing or a mountain lion whilst skiing?
Hmmmm. I’d definitely rather meet a yeti. Sounds a lot less dangerous than coming face to face with a mountain lion.
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About Dom Haley
The most amazing place I’ve been to has to be Zabriskie Point in the Death Valley National Park. Nothing but sky and rugged salt flats stretching on for miles and miles.
A group of Hell’s Angels even pulled into the car park while we were there — it was like being in Mad Max…