Like many people, Brittany Phelan gets pumped by the experience of speed and facing challenges head on. She also never hides her competitive side, which is essential for her career as a ski cross athlete. But when the weekend arrives, her pro-skier side makes room for her love of the outdoors. Her goal is to make great memories in nature with her good friends and partner, and to do so far away from the stress of performing on the ski hill.
To find out more about how skiing and her life outside connect, we caught up with Brittany by phone in Switzerland, where she’s training.
Where it all started
Born in Mont-Tremblant, Brittany first hit the slopes at the young age of two. When she was 15 years old, sitting on a chair lift at Tremblant, she learned that she’d been accepted on the Quebec Alpine skiing team. That defining moment in the life of this now 25-year-old skier is just one of the countless happy memories she associates with Tremblant.
She’s been recognized internationally for her skiing, including a fifth-place finish in slalom at the World Junior Championships in 2011 and tenth place in slalom at the World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia, in January 2013. She’s a huge fan of Hermann Maier, Melanie Turgeon and Eric Guay, and skiing’s in her blood.
Shift to ski cross
In 2015, Brittany made the decision to devote herself full-time to ski cross. A relatively new discipline, ski cross is the winter equivalent of BMX racing or motocross, where skiers go head to head on the same course at the same time. The most difficult part of her transition was getting used to skiing with other competitors, but her slalom experience negotiating curves gave her a clear advantage over many of her competitors.
To excel in ski cross, you’ve got to love big thrills, feel comfortable in the air (because there’s no shortage of jumps and rollers on the course) and be fast. You’ve also got to be able to adapt to different weather conditions – and to the manoeuvers of your competition – and have a strong competitive spirit.
In the seconds before the start of Brittany’s races, she visualizes the chosen route very carefully, one last time. At this crucial moment, two words echo in her head: go and fast.
Life outside is “the way to live,” states the young athlete. So it isn’t surprising to learn that Brittany’s a real outdoor junkie. When she’s not on the slopes, she kayaks, hikes, climbs, skateboards, cross-country skis, and above all, she loves mountain biking. If she weren’t a skier, mountain biking is what she would practice professionally.
In Brittany’s summer months, nothing is better than a weekend with the gang speeding down forest trails. During the winter, cross-country skiing in fresh snow makes her happiest. Evenings around a campfire or fireplace with friends and her boyfriend after a beautiful day outside are as worthwhile to Brittany as the glory she gains through competitions.
She’s also keenly aware that present-day technologies may distract young people her age from playing outside. Leading by example, she inspires others, and explains that that when you get a taste for being active outdoors, you become aware of what is really important – it’s like a refocusing of your values naturally happens, in addition to a feeling of general well-being. Depending on the activities you do outside, the outdoors can also be a great source of adrenaline (she gets a real taste of this through ski cross).
Learning new things, getting out of her comfort zone and facing her fears are what ski cross, mountain biking and getting outside have done for Brittany, the young skier from Mont-Tremblant who’s made a name for herself internationally. She’s been an MEC member since 2010 and is a big fan of getting outside, just like you and me.