Q&A WITH CHARLIE GUEST
©Photo from @CharlieGuesty instagram
Charlie Guest speaks to Powderhound on her career, overcoming injury & all things alpine. We absolutely loved talking to her and finding out a little bit more about her life on and off the slopes!
Charlie started skiing just aged 3 on the slopes of Cairngorm in the Scottish Highland. She trained there with the Scottish Ski Club until she was awarded a Rannoch bursary that allowed her to travel out to the British Ski Academy in France in 2006. At 14, she became the first British girl to win an international children’s race and made her first World Cup debut in Austria in 2013.
Despite facing a near-career ending spinal injury in 2014, Charlie has gone on to have an incredible run. She competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics and has made history by placing 2nd at the Europa Cup race in Slovakia as the second British woman to ever score an alpine Europa Cup podium. Since then, she has podiumed twice in the Women’s Europa Cup circuit and gained her first World Cup points in the St.Moritz parallel slalom.
Powderhound has been following your career avidly. Could you explain a little about your career to our readers who might not be as familiar?
Well, first of all, thank you for your support, skiing has been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember and has been something that as a family, we have always been crazy about. My grandparents lived near Cairngorm in the Highlands, so as soon as I could carry my own skis I was allowed to head up to Cairngorm Mountain with my parents! I joined the Scottish Ski Club race training group there and a few years later won a bursary to head out to the British Ski Academy in France. Everything went from there, and over 15 years later, I am still racing! I now specialise in Slalom and Parallel slalom and season 19/20 was a really cool one for me with 3 European Cup podiums and my first World Cup Points
How did you get into skiing professionally?
It sort of just happened, I raced at Cairngorm and the bursary to be able to go out to BSA when I was 11 was probably the turning point. I then got on to the British Children’s Team and began to compete in the international children’s races. The big commitment came when leaving school, I had a place secured at the University of Aberdeen to study Biomedical Science, but deferred that for a couple of years to concentrate on skiing full time, which when I look back was pretty bold. My world rankings were very high and I had a lot of work (I mean a lot) of work to do to get up to the standard that I needed to be. Anyway, commitment paid off and after 2 years, I had really lowered my ranking to be inside the top 150 in Giant Slalom and bring some good performances in Europa Cup. I had my eyes totally set on the 2018 Olympics, so I went all in for ski racing
You suffered a traumatic injury in 2014, breaking your spine in a training run. Just five years later, you secured two podiums in the Europa Cup event at Funesdalen, Sweden, on the same run that you broke your spine. How did it feel to overcome this injury to such an amazing victory?
This has to be one of my favourite moments of my career and Funaesdalen is a place that has given me a whole bunch of experiences. The year before I broke my back there, I put in my best Giant Slalom performance ever. To have such a huge injury (that took over my life for so many years) and finally be able to go back and complete the circle was a really empowering feeling. Like overcoming an obstacle that to me, just gave testament to the fact that persistence and resilience pay in the end!
We love your blog – it’s so inspirational for those who want to know more about the life of a professional skier. Do you have any tips for young skiers (especially women) who want to take skiing professionally?
Although skiing is an individual sport, to get the best results, team work is super important. So I would say that number 1 is to always make sure that you are having fun with your mates when you are skiing and enjoy the awesome times that you have together in the mountains. I can guarantee that you are going to make friends for life through skiing and even though you fierce competitors at races, you still pick each other up at the end of the day! That and be resilient, you will get knocks along the way, some which feel totally unfair, but remember that end goal, whether it is a World Cup Start or Olympic medal and keep on working!
You’ve spoken very openly about your mental health on the blog. What measures do you put in place to make sure you take care of your mind and body?
Yeah, so with all of my back problems, I hit some really low points in my life. The mind-set that has helped me the most over the last couple of years is really being grateful to be training, to be skiing and to be competing. I now stand at the top of races, of course wanting to win, but knowing that I have fought to be there and that I am incredibly lucky to be healthy to enough to be standing there! The second action that really has helped me mentally is having a life outside of skiing that will help me achieve future goals, so last September (2019), I started my Undergraduate degree at University of Aberdeen studying (how apt) Psychology, 7 years after I first was supposed to go. It has been amazing to start learning again and I really love it. It is something that takes my mind off skiing and if I have a had a bad day in training, I can sit down at my desk and switch off from it! Physically, I have a very thorough warm up routine for skiing and workouts that I get through in the afternoons tailored to me, this just makes sure that my body is working that way it should and will help prevent any further injury. It has taken a while to work out what works for my body, but now that I have it, I just have built it into my every day routine!
What’s your favourite way to wind-down off the slopes?
Besides having uni to complete, I love hanging out with my friends or whoever is about for a cup of coffee (and probably a cake/biscuit!). On top of that I love being a bit creative with drawing, or painting and if all else fails, I will be reading!
What is it about the mountains that you love?
There has to be something super special about standing at the top of a mountain and looking down at everything, getting those amazing views in! When else do you get to experience inversion (besides a plane) morning after morning? Besides that, it is the skiing, not even racing that makes me love mountains, there is nothing better than sneaking off for a few runs where you can just go anywhere, pulling out whichever turns you like!
What is your favourite Powderhound product?
I love anything with the little skiers and boarders on them. I have the waterbottle, which is super cute! The plates and mugs are obviously perfect for any mountain lovers home and I have really been eyeing up the long sleeve Powderhound shirt since your last Instagram post!
What is to come for you in in the 20/21 season?
First of all I am spending a lot of time working on my physical conditioning during lockdown. I am adamant that I will come out of it all in the best shape of my life (mentally and physically), so I have a great routine in place now and am really lucky to have access to gym equipment at the moment. Moving into skiing, after picking up my first world cup points last season, I aim to be consistently scoring slalom World Cup points. Olympic Qualification will open as well, so I hope to fulfil all of the criteria there and just generally to keep on having a lot of fun with skiing without any injuries!