“A Mother’s Nature” was first published in our December 2016 (45.4) issue of POWDER. This excerpt is one of a five-part series that pays tribute to the women who made us skiers.
PHOTO: Hillary Mayberry
Heather Flood Daves' earliest memories are of her mother lacing up her leather ski boots in the garage, loading into the family's woody station wagon, and making the two-mile drive to Sun Valley's Dollar Mountain.
For Daves, 48, becoming a skier seems fated. Her parents met while skiing in Aspen, her father was on the ski patrol at Squaw Valley in the late '50s and early '60s, and he converted the space above the garage of their Sun Valley home into a makeshift bunkhouse for skiers who signed in by marking their height on the wall.
Daves and her sister, Laura, were unavoidably raised to be skiers, both attending racing academies in high school, Daves at Waterville Valley Ski Academy, her sister at Burke Mountain Academy before she went on to ski for the University of Colorado.
"I wanted my kids to ski because I loved it so much. Whether they do well or not doesn't matter. I view skiing as a way to expand horizons.”
On April 3, 1990, Laura lost control during a training run and was killed, a trauma that shook Daves deeply, but never kept her from skiing. A few months after the accident, she was back on skis competing in Zermatt. "My stomach flipped. But this was something my sister loved, and I wanted to celebrate that," says Daves, who was racing for Middlebury College in Vermont at the time.
She went on to become one of the highest-ranking skiers in the nation after she won the slalom at the NCAA Championships in 1991.
It's been 17 years since Daves raced competitively, but she considers the community she was part of to be family—family she's introduced her own children to through racing, including her two sons, Ethan and Alex, and her 10-year-old daughter, Laura.
"I wanted my kids to ski because I loved it so much. Being on the ski team, I learned how to ski well, I had great teammates, and got to travel all over," says Daves.
"Whether they do well or not doesn't matter. I view skiing as a way to expand horizons. It makes you work hard and challenges you to go outside of your comfort zone. Skiing is something you can do for your whole life and the community becomes family.”