Angles of Ascent
Freeskier Angel Collinson talks lines, life and AK love
“I was raised on the golden rule: treat others as you’d wish to be treated.”
– Angel Collinson
By P.M. Fadden
Hallowed spring conditions are brightly settling across the faces of famed Alaska slopes.
The seasonal shift highlights winter recreation at Girdwood, drawing professionals, filmmakers and fans to ski the valley’s iconic surrounds.
Girdwood neighbor and freeski pro Angel Collinson is no stranger to both the work and the play of sliding downhill. A relatively recent arrival to ski-town AK, Collinson is a soft spoken, 2010 Subaru Freesking World Champion, the first female to appear in a TGR film finale, recipient of Powder Magazine’s ‘Best Line’ 2015 and a member of The North Face Global Team.
Today, the skier-next-door shares with The Gazette her thoughts on skiing, life and pursuit of liberty.
“Foremost, I get fired-up about being out in the world; experiencing people, nature and exploring my internal self,” said the 27 yr-old Utah transplant. “Of course, no pressure POW days with friends get me stoked but being my own self—a sense of autonomy—that’s my happy place.”
Raised in binders by a ski-family and later rooted in race tradition, Angel has known little other than a life on snow.
“I have no memory of a time before skiing,” she said. “Falls and winters went to equipment, training, racing, then balancing schooling with sponsorship. There wasn’t time to develop other interests.”
Collinson recalls childhood eagerness for environmental law, an early enthusiasm she infused into latter education, but skiing maintained day-to-day precedence.
“Early on I knew that to ski was an opportunity which wouldn’t always be around. The challenge,” Angel said, “is enjoying my profession while still carving chunks for myself.”
Aside from necessary juggle of social and ‘down’ times, Collinson evinces desire to also pursue interests such as visual arts, music or the ocean, but she emphasizes a conviction to study cultural extinction, stating loss equates to critical reduction of our species’ knowledge base and ability to connect with the world at large.
The former World Champion values interpersonal conversation as a key to expanding cultures and lifestyle systems while acknowledging respect and patience as integral components of personal or professional growth.
“I’m passionate about raising awareness for importance of cultural diversity and maintaining individuality despite globalization,” Angel said. “The thing is to explore how skiing fits into all that.”
When asked to wishfully change a single snow industry element the ski pro confidently replied, “That people take it less seriously. It’s a bit like swimming for a buoy in the ocean,” Angel said. “The harder you swim, the more your ripples push away what you want. Letting go and freely flowing to experiencing things is when I feel at my best.”
In her much lauded career as a professional freeskier, the Girdwood newcomer has known many talented snow athletes, the most successful of which having simply skied for skiing’s sake and (hopefully) done so with a light heart.
“Do what you like if you feel that it’s right,” Angel said. “But hone your intuition to take opportunities which may not fit into our ‘plan.’ They take you to places unrealized and might actually be way better than what was envisioned.”
The amiable athlete’s words echo, in part, her personal experience. Though fascinated from an early age by Alaska and its culture, it was romance and wild solitude which would lure Collinson to her current Girdwood home. Here, she’s found footing in a small community, populated by like-interested people, boasting near unparalleled access to untamed nature.
“Previously, I was almost stuck in rut; ski life and personal life were quite separate,” Angel said. “Unexpectedly, the right path opened and today I live in a place where my personal pleasures are as outdoor-oriented as the work I pursue. Girdwood holds a lot of elements that I want in my life and, in many ways, Alaska is the ultimate in big mountain skiing, but I did not come here wishing to stake a claim.”
With an undimmed love of travel, Collinson talks with awe and eagerness about famous ski locales Chamonix, Revelstoke, Barriloche and Snowbird/Alta, but Girdwood and the Great Land hold a special niche.
“Alaska—it seems to me—makes you earn the love, put your time in,” she said. “We all bump in and out of feeling comfortable in our skin, but I feel Girdwood and Alyeska Resort are among my happy places, where I feel most at home.”
With the 2018 ski-season in full stride Collinson is boot-to-binder on several projects close to her heart, and all while keeping mind for a central concept: to remain grounded.
“I’m shooting the arrows in the desired directions,” Angel said. “But you can’t be too attached to the outcome.”