XGames.com created its own version of March Madness by ranking the top action sports athletes and placing them in men's and women's brackets. Between March 19 and April 11, we polled you to crown the top current action sports stars in the world. Up against some of action sports' most notable female athletes, including snowboarder Jess Kimura, surfers Stephanie Gilmore and Coco Ho, and skaters Leticia Bufoni and Mimi Knoop, skier Grete Eliassen picked up 62 percent of the 54,166 votes and won the women's side of ESPN's Best in Action Sports poll. Snowboarder Travis Rice won the men's side of the poll. We caught up with Eliassen last week in Aspen, where she was attending the Red Bull High Performance Camp.
Were you surprised to win this poll?
I was totally surprised. My brother told me I was in a bracket and I was losing, so I put some stuff on my social media sites and called my family and started some momentum. It just carried on through and I won. To be on the same level as Travis Rice is pretty cool. I couldn't have done it without the fans. My Facebook followers don't feel like random strangers anymore. It feels like a team.
So what's the deal with this Red Bull camp?
It's a private camp for Red Bull athletes to prepare for the 2014 season. We have two jumps leftover from X Games and another jump to the side with an airbag next to it. It's really cool because everyone early season goes to Breck and it's so busy. When you're jumping, it's almost scary. So, having a private park at the end of season in incredible. We have a strength and conditioning coach, a physical therapist, an air awareness coach ... We have recovery bikes in the lodge, a yoga instructor and all these other fun activities. I'm calling it Super Camp.
You tore your ACL last January and didn't compete much this season. How are you doing now?
I was on crutches for eight weeks and lost all my muscle mass. It was my first injury and my first surgery. I had no idea how long it would take. I've learned a lot about strength training and recovery. This was a recovery year. I was skiing, but I would ski until something was hurt and I would stop. I wanted to get back to the basics, since last year was a total loss. So just hitting a jump or going into a halfpipe again was huge for me. I jumped a lot, but I didn't compete as much because I didn't feel quite ready.
At World Championships in Norway this spring, I realized I was 100 percent. I won the qualifier and I was blown away. I realized the recovery worked. When I hit the first jump here in Aspen, it felt so awesome. Landing on both your feet is a great feeling. You kind of forget everything you've been through. Now I'm back and I'm as hungry as ever. I'm doing the skiing I want to do and not just listening to people who say I need to be in the park. I still want to powder ski. That's where my heart is.
What are your plans for next season?
The Olympics are the big show. There will be a couple qualifiers in the beginning where they'll pick the team from how you do in the first World Cups. Because it's all under the umbrella of freestyle skiing, which includes aerials, moguls, halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, the U.S. only gets so many spots for the whole thing. We are actually competing against people in different sports. That's new. I'm just along for the ride. Hopefully I'll get a good perspective and make sure skiing stays the way we want it.
What's on tap this summer?
I'm graduating from college on May 3 from the University of Utah. Finally. I'm getting married on June 1. We have a U.S. team camp in Mammoth in May and then the team will go to Camp of Champions in Whistler in July.
Congrats on getting married.
I feel like I've grown up. Skiing, traveling ... it's all even easier now that I've found my fiancée, Josh. He's so supportive. He's so excited for me and he's going to support me the whole way through. Everything at home is all set.
How have you seen the sports change in the last few years?
The biggest change is how many more girls are involved. I remember being the only girl in the Park City park. Now, I go and see 20 girls. And the whole coaching thing is new. I never had a coach. It's my first time working with a coach since ski racing. There are some skiers who only follow what their coaches say. I don't like being coached all the time. I take it when I need it.
What do you want to do with that marketing degree from the University of Utah?
I'd like to work in sports marketing and represent women's sports. Whether that's working for NBC, ESPN or Oakley… I want to make a difference in women's sports. My goal is equal coverage. At least the Olympics, I know I can turn on the TV every two years and see great women's sports. It's how it should be all the time.
What's something people might not know you're up to?
I'm trying to learn Chinese with Rosetta Stone. And, I'm learning how to code computers. Joss Christensen and Alex Schlopy are always paying video games, so I thought, I guess I'll code. It's all very nerdy.