Take 5: Holly Emrick of Women’s Wednesday at Copper
Holly Emrick can’t seem to get away from Copper — and that’s just fine with her.
After a lifetime of skiing and traveling and exploring, the Denver native with deep ties to Summit County returned to her favorite resort this winter for a season with Women’s Wednesdays, a program made for ladies who simply want to progress with like-minded skiers and snowboarders.
Emrick hadn’t taught skiing in about a decade, but when she heard about the adult-only program she couldn’t resist. It sounded like a perfect fit: From January to March, small groups of six to eight women from across the state meet once per week for a day of skiing with a veteran instructor — folks like Emrick who have 17-plus years of experience on the slopes at Copper.
“You don’t realize how much you don’t know until you start teaching,” Emrick said. “Teaching really helps your skiing. I was very immersed in that for many years, but then I hit a point when I decided it was time for another incarnation.”
It’s been the story of Emrick’s life since she was a child: a few years here, a few years there, a career here, another career there, every new incarnation built around the idea of constantly learning through, well, living. Her alma mater on Facebook: the University of Life.
Emrick first visited Summit County came at a young age, when her mother, a nurse in Denver, helped with the “sick wagon” that shuttled injured skiers from Arapahoe Basin to the Front Range. Her parents were also friends with the founders of A-Basin’s Polar Bear Ski Club — that and the sick wagon meant free ski lessons — and the brood soon moved fulltime to the mountains. In the late ‘70s, teenaged Emrick worked for the Copper race department and attended high school in Zurich, Switzerland before heading to tropical Miami for most of the ‘80s, when the next chapter of her life began: modeling.
These days, Emrick is modest about her 12 years in the modeling industry — “That’s really just a small part of my past,” she says with a laugh — but it’s only because she’s moved onto the next chapter: motherhood and small business. She and partner Tiger Aserlind had their daughter, Toril, when Emrick was in her early 40s, right around the time she finished two decades of patchwork schooling for interior design. She now lives in Silverthorne and operates a local firm, Apropos Design, between time with Toril, Tiger and, of course, her Women’s Wednesday family.
Around 1 p.m. on the first powder day of spring — fresh tracks come first — the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with Emrick to talk more about the Copper program, her modeling career and why a random powder day is better than any spot in a Mountain Dew ad.
Summit Daily News: Like just about everyone you couldn’t say no to yesterday’s powder day. Was it everything you wanted?
Holly Emrick: Of course! It was unreal. I don’t really know what happened. In fact, one of the women I was going to ski with texted me at about 6 a.m. to tell me Keystone has 14 inches. I could only just say, “Have fun.” But that was fine. It was like having the mountain to ourselves out there (at Copper).
SDN: What’s your go-to run when we get a surprise spring storm? And no need to give up any secret stashes…
HE: Well, I always ski Copper. That’s definitely my favorite. Today I went to Sierra lift and that was just delightful. It was a little windy (but) it helps when you’ve been skiing somewhere so much that you know where the good snow would be. I was in the trees — I like the trees — and there was a ton of deep snow.
SDN: You’ve been a ski instructor for nearly 20 years and now lead a group with the Women’s Wednesday program. How did you get into that program?
HE: Before I left the first time I was very involved with Women’s Seminars, a program Copper used to have that evolved and changed to have different activities for the ladies. Through that I made plenty of lifelong friends. I thought it would be fun to come back and do something like that, be with the same group of women the entire season. That allows for a lot of change and growth. They’re even allowed to switch between instructors — try different tastes and instructors and styles. If someone doesn’t feel like bumps one day, they can go with someone else. It’s an amazing sense of camaraderie. You can really mark your progress and how you change over the season.
SDN: Speaking of change, one of the women in your group this season, Katherine Jeter, told me you’re a former model. True?
HE: (Laughs.) I’ve done everything from be a lumberjack to a model. I was in Miami as a model from the time I was 18 to the time I was 30, and the real benefit was to be able to travel and work. That was the highlight of that career. I’m not a super glamorous person. I’m really more of a tomboy, but I thought it would be a good way to make money. I was going to college in Miami when I started, but when I get busier and busier it was harder to stay in school. I got an agent and they said, “We’re here to make you money, not take your money.” You hear so many bad things about that industry, but I was surprised. It worked out well and it was really fun.
SDN: What type of modeling did you do?
HE: I did a lot of commercials. I hate to say that I was driven by the money in that industry, but the runway doesn’t really pay much. I wasn’t good at strutting around in the first place. I ended doing a lot of swimwear, commercials, activewear. I even did a Super Bowl commercial for Chevy, then commercials for Nabisco, Valvoline, Mountain Dew — a lot of different companies. But that’s really just a small part of my past.
SDN: And now you’re back on the snow. What do you like about this newest version of women’s programming at Copper?
HE: You see so many breakthroughs. The smiles and confidence people get is just amazing. To me, I hope no one would remember me from my silly Mountain Dew commercial. I‘d rather have them remember that I taught them something, and they really teach themselves. When you watch someone gain confidence and trust themselves it’s wild. Your body can teach you so much if you listen.
SDN: How do you push your group to learn and progress through the season?
HE: I have a loose picture of what I want to do from the beginning of the season to the end. That involves taking five main skills and moving through them a week at a time. In the beginning we did a few exercises — I’m not big on rigid exercises — but it was more about opportunities to explore. I think that’s more meaningful than just telling people how to ski. We work through that progression through the season and it’s all based on goals they had. Many of them wanted to be less fearful in the steeps, get down the fall lines without hesitation. We started with that, then added bumps, and now we’re in the steep bumps. I have someone like Katherine whose goal is just to fly down Vanity Face and she will do it. She’s amazing.
SDN: What do you like about working with the same group for three full months? It’s got to be a different feel than normal ski school.
HE: I have to say, my entire group is amazing. I’m the artsy one and the rest are left brains, the sciencey types. I even considered doing this group on my own before teaching. I often ski on my own, so it’s nice to get out with other people.
SDN: After teaching for so many years, what’s your secret to success with an adult ski lesson?
HE: I’m a pretty big believer that you only need to focus on one or two simple things for the season. It takes mileage to get the mastery, so if you fill your head with too many things at once — that’s the American culture, wanting it all and wanting it now — it can be hard. This is a release for my ladies. I say, “Get really good at one thing.” You want to be an all-around incredible skier, but the goal is to really become a balanced skier with a full quiver of tricks to use in every situation. That’s what I want to equip them for: you get a powder day and you’re ready to go.
SDN: What’s your plan for a powder day Women’s Wednesday?
HE: That’s the thing — tomorrow is the one day we don’t have it. There are only two days we don’t meet: one is during President’s Day Weekend and the other is during spring break, so now. But actually, I think my gals are still getting together tomorrow. I can’t hold them back. I was supposed to go to Denver, but if it snows I’ll be out there with them. I just can’t say no
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