In this interview with Elsa Powell-Dooley we find out what it takes to get into ski racing after the age of 18. Self funded and around 12 years behind over youths, Elsa has defied the odds to become a British alpine ski racer.
Not only that but as you’ll find from the Elsa Powell-Dooley interview below she has been on an incredible journey. Her story is testament to trying new things if mainstream education doesn’t suit you. And that there are many alternative paths you can follow to create a life that you are happy with.
In Elsa’s own words find out how she become a British alpine ski racer in the interview below:
My family love the outdoors and travel, so when I was about six we went on a holiday to the Alps and I had my first go at skiing. I was instantly hooked by the speed and being surrounded by nature.
After my first trip to the Alps, we then went on an annual five day ski holiday to France. I was in love with the sport and as a kid, I was waking up my family at the crack of dawn to be there at 9 a.m. so we could be first on the pistes.
The main thing that prompted me to take up ski racing was having a hard time at school. I’m dyslexic and I found it difficult to concentrate and keep on task, It felt like I was always getting it wrong and as a teenager. I was worried about my future career or lack of one because I felt like if I didn’t understand school what is it going to be like in the “real world”.
Feeling this way as a kid took a toll on my self-esteem.
Aged 16 I went on a school ski trip to the Alps. On the last day we skied down an short 10-gate course and it opened my eyes to this sport but I didn’t think about it or do it again until I was 18 and I decided I wanted to try something polar opposite of sitting at a desk and ski racing felt like that.
After many conversations of trying to convince my parents that I wanted to try ski racing, they finally said I could. So I googled British Ski Academy and sent an email telling them how I would love to try ski racing. I told them I’m 18 with not a lot of experience in this realm, but to everyone surprise they let me do a 3-day trail. I was so excited to start this new chapter.
In those 3 days, I gave it my all, I definitely wasn’t good but I had the enthusiasm and drive to improve.
The night before the trial my dad and I went to the local rental shop to get skis, boots, poles and a helmet. I showed up the next morning looking nothing like a traditional ski racer. All the other racers had all the gear and some were even carrying two extra pairs of skis to take up the mountain for training.
I was given some strange looks, especially when one racer asked if I was a coach or a ski racer, to which I replied a racer it was then followed by how old are you? And how much ski racing have you done? My answer was “18 years old and not much experience in ski racing” which was greeted with silence.
After my trial, I had a meeting with the head of the academy, where he told me I could stay for the last two weeks of the season! I couldn’t believe my luck, I then put my all into that fortnight.
The season came to an end and I was then offered a summer camp, I was blown away by the idea of skiing in the summer! But I was told after this camp I wasn’t going to be taken further because of my age, which I understood.
When the summer camp came to an end and to my amazement I was told I could do the autumn camp but with the same condition (good for my experience but then we will have to let you go). Even some coaches in between training runs were telling me I was too old and should look into ski courses to become an instructor instead. But after being told similar comments to this at school by teachers I was used to ignoring it and trusting my gut.
After these camps, the head of the academy said I could do a full race season to which I nearly fainted!
This was six years ago and I haven’t looked back ever since. I’ve put in a lot of hours and have been able to progress but have also had setbacks as every athlete does.
In my 3rd season, I ended up getting 4 U21 podiums at the English skiing championships. I couldn’t believe it, after starting 12 years later than the others on the podium it felt like a dream and probably a relief to my parents who put their trust in me to take this journey.
Be prepared for the cold and how demanding an extreme sport can be mentally and physically on your body. Put your all into it and remember the downs are just as important as the ups in teaching you lessons to improve at your sport.
Last but not least enjoy it because it’s amazing!
In the next two weeks, I’m heading out skiing in Sweden for a training camp and some races which is exciting because I never skied there before. Then I’ll be going to France where I’ll be based until April and doing weekly international competitions around Europe.
This season I’m hoping to drop my points and lower my ranking. Fingers crossed for some podiums too.
I’ve been able to fund this sport by working in the off-season. So from April to October, I’ve been a babysitter for an 8-month-old, a video editor and a stop motion animator.
I’m also been helped a lot by my parents who have been unbelievably supportive.
I have amazing sponsors, such as Weleda, who I’m super thankful for helping me on this journey. Without all of this support I wouldn’t be where I am today and I’m always looking for new sponsors who hopefully relate to my story.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been searching for new interests.
I’ve self-taught myself a few new things, one being stop-motion animation. I’ve been able to make several animations for different sponsors and companies. Similarly, I’m a self-taught video editor where I’ve also made short advertisements for brands in the mountains.
I’ve loved learning the ukulele and guitar plus I’m also a lover of sushi and cooking.
Ski racing has given me the opportunity to think about other careers that intrigue me. Storytelling and being creative are worlds that attract me the most, I would love to make more stop-motion animations or get into editing programs, films and advertisements.
I’m now also a qualified ski instructor. So I would love to teach skiing in Japan or Australia for a winter season.
Skiing means many different things to me. Mainly its been a new beginning and has opened my eyes to finding something that I could succeed at. It’s also shown me that there are other ways to be successful than just being academic. Through my learning, I would love to reassure other kids who are struggling academically that there are alternative careers out there in the “real world”.
Skiing has also taught me that you are never too old to try anything. It has given me a fearless approach to trying new interests and I would like to encourage others who think they’re “too old”. Age is just a number, not a limiter.
I hope you found this Interview with Elsa Powell-Dooley as inspiring as we have! While you might not want to become a British alpine ski racer, perhaps you’d like to hit the slopes? In which case check out these skiing holidays worldwide.