By Mekenna Malan | March 1, 2021

Meet AJ: a Utahn, skier and blogger who's all about encouraging others to show up and send it on the mountain, regardless of gender or skill level. 

Hi AJ! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I 'm originally from and grew up in Idaho Falls, ID. I moved to Logan, UT to go to college, and while I jumped around for a little bit after graduating, I am now residing in the beautiful mountain metropolis of Salt Lake City! I started skiing when I was about two years old. My dad was a volunteer ski patroller at a local ski resort called Kelly Canyon, and my parents loved to ski. I've had the opportunity to ski in so many places around the Mountain West. However, Powder Mountain and Brighton Resort are some of my absolute favorites. 

Have you run into sexism or other challenges as a woman in action sports? How do you approach those situations?

Unfortunately, I have run into quite a lot of sexism in the ski community. The good thing (if you can find a good side of it) is that most of it has been online, so it's easier to manage and I have more time to think about my response. I've been known to just delete comments because for me, it's out of sight, out of mind. If I do choose to respond, I do it in a positive manner. I don't try to aggressively attack the person, but instead try to kill them with kindness and hope that next time they think twice before posting a negative comment. In some cases, I use my personal blog and social media to share my thoughts because I know I'm not the only woman experiencing hate online. I hope that by raising awareness in a general sense (instead of targeting one hater), I can help change the narrative around the female action sports experience in a positive way.

How do you personally try to promote acceptance and inclusivity in ski culture?

I think it's really important to promote inclusivity and acceptance on an individual level. If someone is progressing and trying and putting themselves out there, it's important to use positive reinforcement and let them know they belong in this community and have every right to be there. Right now, this looks a lot like commenting on other's social posts and videos, taking the time to answer questions and openly giving advice to others that may be in the same boat as me. Social media has really been my biggest tool as an accepting member of the ski community, especially during COVID times.

Who are some of your heroes in the industry?

Elyse Saugstad is one of the rad women I look up to. She is such a decorated skier that loves what she does. Plus, her and Cody Townsend's relationships is ski couple goals. Caroline Gleich is another huge influence, as far as her sustainability practices and overall demeanor toward fighting gender roles in skiing. 

Any tips on forming a female shred squad?

It has helped to live in an outdoor-centric town because so many others are like-minded. However, during COVID, I've looked toward social media to connect with ladies from all across the country and continent. While it sucks to not be able to meet up with some of them, it's still an opportunity to form relationships and spread the stoke in a digital way. I have used TikTok and Instagram, as well as the online communities of Womb Tang and Slut Strand Society to find other rad women.

"You don't have to be the token girl in a group of guys. There are like-minded women out there who want to send and ski with you. There's women out there with expert knowledge to share. There's women out there who love their sport."

Any highlights from this ski season that you'd like to share?

My biggest highlight this season has been attempting my first backflip. My partner and I were at Snowbird, and we just happened to find a good jump with a decent soft landing. This was such a huge mental step in the right direction as far as trying new things, and I am so proud of myself for mentally and physically committing! I also have to give some credit to the teen boys that did it before me and my partner, Nic, that hyped me up to send it. 

Do you have any other pieces of advice for girls that love to ski?

I can't quite remember where I saw it, but I once saw a quote that said something along the lines of, "Great women skiers aren't unicorns." It's really stuck with me. This isn't meant to be discouraging to female riders out there, but instead it's letting them know that they aren't alone. You don't have to be the token girl in a group of guys. There are like-minded women out there who want to send and ski with you. There's women out there with expert knowledge to share. There's women out there who love their sport. I think we as a community are seeing this more and more. It makes me so happy that women are getting the representation and recognition they deserve, because we are pretty awesome.

Follow along with AJ on her blog, #nacforadventure, and by following her on Instagram and TikTok.

Photos by Nic Carnazzo
Follow GEAR:30 on Instagram