At age 17, Dara Howell was the youngest woman at Winter X Games this year. A competitive figure skater until age 15, she switched her focus to freeskiing just two years ago when she joined the Muskoka Ski Club near her hometown of Hunstville, Ontario. Howell's meteoric rise to success this winter culminated with a bronze in Women's Ski Slopestyle at Winter X Games Tignes. After that, she got called up to the Canadian A team for slopestyle earlier this month. We caught up with Howell to find out how she did it, why she's still planning to compete in halfpipe, and what will change when she graduates from high school this June.
How did things progress for you this season?
When Toben Sutherland [who coached Howell on the Ontario provincial team] got named to coach the national slopestyle team, that was my next goal and I decided to do all the bigger events and see if I could make it. When I did the first Dew Tour stop this year, I was just proud of myself for being able to do the course. I got my invite to X Games and that was a dream come true. I put some pressure on myself going in just to do the best that I could do. X Games in France was the most exciting -- landing on the podium just blew my mind. All the traveling has just been amazing. My parents told me that I've traveled more than they have and I'm only 17.
What do you do to keep up with school?
I do online courses so I can ski and train and have some fun at the same time. My dad is always on me about getting my schoolwork done and I really think that's the only reason I'm able to graduate this year. My parents throw everything on the line for me -- they do everything to see me achieve my goals.
After Euro X, I had an idea. And then Toben gave me the phone call telling me that it was official for slopestyle. I couldn't be happier. To have Toben there supporting me -- I literally would not be where I am right now without Toben, so I'm really grateful. I'm not 100 percent sure on where I'll be living. Those types of things are still undecided. I'll be in the gym a lot more, training a lot more, being on snow way more since I don't have to worry about school. You also compete in halfpipe. Will you continue or focus on slope only?
I was really close to winning the Sarah Burke Trophy this year and for next year I'd love to bring that trophy home to Canada. I definitely have some goals for myself in the pipe that I want to achieve, and I just need to get some training and put some time in and I think I'll be able to do those. I'm excited for that. What was Sarah's influence on you?
When I first got into freestyle skiing two years ago, I didn't know anything about it. I was looking it up on the Internet and I saw a picture of Sarah, and I told my mom that I wanted to be just like her. And then I got to meet her the next summer at Momentum Ski Camps. She included me, and she told me that I had potential. I'll always remember that. She was an inspiration for me. What will your summer be like?
We live on a lake, so we have a boat and just hang out there. It's cottage country, so lots of tourists up here, lots of things to do. I have one exam to do and after that I'm done. I'm really close right now, and I'm hoping that everything will go smoothly and I'll be able to graduate on June 28.