Didi Lawrence is an incredible woman. In March, ’07, as part of a personal spiritual quest, Didi traveled to Nepal where she skied Annapurna (26,538 ft), one of the world’s least climbed mountains.
This is an incredible feat for any skier, let alone a 52-year old recovering alcoholic who suffered a broken pelvis just a few years ago. Didi also conducts a women’s ski clinic at Aspen Highlands, as well as a Masters Extreme Clinic for women. Plus she’s a gear tester for Ski Magazine (that’s her on the cover of the 2006 Gear Guide).
From her home in Aspen, Colorado, Didi talked about her trip to Nepal, as well as about her skiing legacy and her clinics.
SD: Your mom, Andrea Mead Lawrence, is the only American to have won two gold medals at a single winter Olympics. Your dad, David Lawrence, was on the Olympic Team as a coach. And your grandparents founded Pico Mountain in Rutland County, Vermont. Has this legacy been a blessing or a curse?
DL: It’s been a combination of both. I grew up under my mother’s umbrella, so there was always a certain expectation from the outside that I’d follow in her footsteps. After all, everyone has so much admiration for an extreme athlete. But it’s also been a blessing, because the gift my parents gave me was skiing. But they never pressured me about it. The only pressure they put on me was to have a great life.
SD: Why did you go to Nepal and what was the scope of the trip?
DL: For me, it was more a spiritual journey than about skiing – though that was a thrill, too. I was part of a group of four Americans, and even though we only skied three days and took a total of seven runs, it was absolutely incredible. We skied the north side where probably no one had ever skied before. The rest of the time – we were in Nepal a total of three weeks — we went hiking, sightseeing, visited temples, even went to a Maoist rally. And we went parahawking, too. That’s when you paraglide with birds of prey who are trained to show you where the thermal currents are.
SD: What did you get out of going to Nepal?
DL: As I said, this was a personal journey. Everyone struggles with who they are. Even though I’ve been through a lot, the universe has given me a second chance at life, and I’m so grateful just to be alive. The trip helped me realize the enormity of life and how great the universe really is. It was also about my love for my mom and what she’s done with her life. I’ve always been her personal champion. For me, it was a spiritual awakening.
SD: What was the highlight of the trip for you?
DL: There were a lot of different ones besides skiing. But here’s one of the skiing ones: On the first day, two of us plus our guide went to the top of a run that was about 100 yards wide and 3,000 vertical feet. It’d never been skied before, and there was powder up to our knees. When we got to the bottom, both of us burst into tears. It was so wonderful — like a magic carpet. We named it Mom’s Run, in dedication to our moms.
SD: Tell us a bit about your clinic in Aspen. What are you teaching, what do you want attendees to come away with?
DL: I run a local women’s clinic every weekend. As you know, there are 10 levels in PSIA. I’ve added a level 12, and it’s for women who want to experience steeper, deeper terrain. I tell them how to do it in an offensive rather than a defensive way. It’s extremely empowering, and it runs every weekend, January through March.
I also run a Masters Extreme Clinic for women for four days in January. This is a huge draw for women who want to experience life and grow. I see skiing as a metaphor for life and how I approach my fears. Life is about confronting your fears and getting through them. In this clinic, we move through the fear that may be blocking their growth. I take women to experience the mountain in the same way that I do. It’s both empowering and emotional, and It really opens up the whole universe for women to ski in a way they they’ve never done before, without men or boyfriends.
SD: What are you skiing these days?
DL: My boots are Nordica Doberman 130s. And my skis are Nordicas, too: the Olympia Firefox. Nordica has done a great job with its women’s program, and I feel honored to work with them.
Anyone who wants to contact Didi about her clinics may do so by emailing her at [email protected].