Watch: Skier’s Gravity-Defying Descent Makes ‘Powder’ History

Last weekend at the annual Powder magazine awards and soiree, 25-year-old skier Angel Collinson became the first woman to win the coveted Line of the Year award. Her winning ski descent in Alaska’s Neacola Mountains appears in the Teton Gravity Research film Paradise Waits. The Salt Lake City–based skier also won Best Female Performance and first place for women in the magazine’s reader poll.

We caught up with Collinson to get her thoughts on motivation, mortality, and breaking through the “ice ceiling,” as well as her ski spot recommendations.

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Angel Collinson eyes her line in Alaska; Video still by Teton Gravity Research

It must feel pretty sweet to get Line of the Year and first place from the Powder magazine reader poll. Dream come true, right? 
It’s more than a dream come true, really. I didn’t imagine that this would ever happen, especially the Best Line part. I’m still sort of speechless.

You are the first woman to win the Best Line award. You’re breaking new ground!
To have won it at all, woman or not, is a huge honor. I’m just psyched to be recognized at that level … !

How did you pick that line? Where is it? Did you ski it before you filmed it with the cameras rolling for the movie.
No. We don’t ski anything before we film it—we want to have fresh tracks—so that was the first time I’d skied it. That was up in Alaska, and I picked it because it looked the most exciting.

For the viewer, the whole descent is pretty exciting. What part did you find most exciting as the skier?
When I had to make that hard turn and decide to air the cliff to my left or jump the slough coming down on my right was definitely the most exciting part.

Is it a good time to be a woman pro skier? Why?
I think it is a great time to be woman pro skier because there is a lot of demand to see women outdoors and also in more high-profile roles. I’m really honored to be a part of this time and the support of the men helping us women and getting us out there with them is a huge part of that.

Is the fact that male skiers support the female skiers a new thing?
I think the men have always supported us women. I think what is new is that there are more women than ever before getting outdoors and taking part in action sports. I think with more women getting out and getting after it, increased support and encouragement has come from the men—and it’s awesome.

Olympic freeskiing phenom Gus Kenworthy, of Sochi pup fame, just came out, which was a cover story for ESPN. Why was that such a big deal?
I think it was a big deal because he is a high-profile public figure taking a stand on something that’s on the forefront of our nation’s headlines. I think it’s great he has chosen to step into being free to [be] himself and setting the example for lots of people to do the same!

What motivates you to keep pushing yourself?
I’ve always had a drive to keep improving whatever I do in life. It starts with trying to improve as a person but carries out to everything else that I do. I guess it’s a drive that starts from within.

We met just after world-class skiers JP Auclair and Andreas Frannson died in an avalanche in South America and discussed how they inspired so many people. How much is your own mortality on your mind when you’re picking a daring line to ski?
The mountains are powerful and can be a dangerous place. No matter how good your decision-making is, or how practiced and well-rounded you are with your mountain skills, accidents still happen. With that being said, if there is a line that has high consequence—such as above massive exposure, in questionable avalanche terrain—I don’t usually pick it. I try my best to know my limits and to not put myself in a situation where an accident could easily cost me my life. When we are out there, safety is always more important than choosing a cool line.

Two bucket list recommendations: 1) Where do you dream of skiing—as in, what’s the ultimate destination for a gravity-challenger like you; 2) where would you recommend as the ultimate destination for the skier who only gets to go once a year?
I think the ultimate destination for a “gravity challenger” would be Alaska. It’s pretty much the ultimate skiers’ destination: It’s big, beautiful, and has great snow. However, if you don’t have budget for that, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and ski bottomless powder. Revelstoke, Canada, is really awesome too!