Michelle Parker has competed in the X Games before. She was 17, and female skiers were newly invited to compete in halfpipe at X Games. After spending years competing in slopestyle and halfpipe contests, the Tahoe native moved on to big-mountain contests and filming. For her first major big-mountain segment in Matchstick Productions' film "Superheroes of Stoke," Parker won Best Female Performance at the 2013 Powder Video Awards.
Now 26, Parker is back as an X Games athlete in the debut of Real Women, an all-video contest featuring female skiers, skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers. We spoke to her at home in Tahoe City, Calif.
Welcome back to the X Games, Michelle. Glad to have you back.
Thanks. It's taken me a while to get here. I loved skiing park for as long as I did. I still ski park, but now I love being in the mountains, hiking, with no lift lines, no people. My favorite thing has always been skiing powder and the backcountry. Having that park background has really helped me in being well rounded and being able to take those tricks into the backcountry.
Let's hear about your Real Women part.
I filmed it in British Columbia. Matchstick Productions took that project on. I really like working with their cinematographers, and they are super supportive, so it was cool to have them as my team. It was exciting to have everything be up to me, where and who I film with. This is the first time I've been involved in the planning process. But I was most excited to meet the other girls and see their segments and have my segment up next to theirs. In the past year or so, I've gotten to meet other female athletes in cycling, swimming, volleyball, soccer. Just being around strong, independent women who are crushing it in whatever sport is really inspiring to me.
When you were 20, you went to guide school in Alaska. Why did you decide to do that?
That was my way to gain the knowledge I felt I needed to get into big-mountain skiing. That was 100 percent of why I went there -- to learn more about the mountains, to feel comfortable making my own decisions. I stayed in Haines, Alaska, for two months and got my Avy 1 training, wilderness first aid and crevasse rescue. That was my first big-mountain experience. I turned 21 in Haines. Jeremy Nobis was at the bar that night, and he was like, "How do you like Alaska?" I told him I was in way over my head. And he said, "Don't worry. It takes a lot of experience to come up here." It was cool hearing that from him.
Last year, while filming with Matchstick Productions, you returned to Haines. What was that like?
That was five years later, and it was my first time back to Alaska. It was cool to see my level of confidence and how it's built up since I was in Haines the first time. This time, I was more comfortable. But it's a work in progress.
Your MSP segment turned out to be award-winning.
You're your own worst critic. I had no idea what my segment was going to look like, but it turned out super cool. For me, skiing has always been something I do for fun. It's my biggest passion. I was really honored to be up there at the Powder Awards with those other girls who I look up to. I think the opportunity of being able to film and follow my passion was more gratifying than winning that award.
At what point did you decide you wanted to make that transition to filming?
I was filming in Retallack, British Columbia, with MSP in 2010 and tore my ACL and did a bunch of damage to my knee. That injury was almost spiritual for me. I've become a smarter person because of it, more aware of the decisions I'm making on the hill. I regained my appreciation for skiing and refocused my energy. I realized filming was where I wanted to take this. I was out for a full season. After my injury, I revaluated everything. I decided this is what I wanted to do; I wanted to film.
You had a lot of sponsor changes around that time too, right?
In 2011, I had one sponsor, Dakine. Everyone else had left, and I don't blame them. I was coming back from a crazy injury. I got on the ground and started hitting up companies. I called Mountain Hardwear, and they totally took a risk with me. This is another thing I live by: positive thinking and thinking about things you want to accomplish in life. It's laws of attraction. I really felt that going into last season. Things snowballed from there, and I was able to pick up a few other sponsors. I signed with Atomic last March and with Red Bull last summer. Last year was a big year for me to prove myself.
Sounds like you're in a good place now.
I'm 26, and I feel like I'm been doing exactly what I've wanted to do since I was pretty young. But now I'm really taking control into my own hands and really getting to direct my career. I have a vision.