PROFILE: RACHAEL BURKS

Comments by Freeskier Magazine/

Interview: NICOLE BIRKHOLD

One of the most boisterous women in the ski industry, Rachael Burks never disappoints when it comes to having a good time. She came on to the scene a few years ago as “that girl in Utah who backflips everything.” But beyond her huckster stereotype, Rachael Burks has some serious skiing cred. She spent last winter filming with the likes of TGR, making her perhaps the most recognized female athlete outside the competition circuit.

AGE: 28
HOMETOWN: Salt Lake City, Utah
SPONSORS: Dynastar, Look, Lange, Peak Performance, Smith Optics, LevitationProject, Backcountry.com, Ogio, Discrete, Alta/Snowbird/Brighton
ON FILM: re:Sessions, Teton Gravity Research

HOW DID YOU GET INTO SKIING? Basically, it’s all my dad! He just wanted me to enjoy the mountains. In summertime, we were mountain biking even before we had real mountain bikes. We were up there on bikes with pedal brakes and Bell helmets on going through the mud in the canyons. The same with skiing. My dad had us on skis when we were really young. We didn’t know anything different than mountain biking all summer and skiing all winter.

DO YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN RACING OR MOGULS? Nope! I’m proud to be a freeskier, 100-percent. One of my best friends growing up was a racer and he and I were always in a full-on rivalry to see who could go the fastest.

YOU’VE BEEN KNOW AS “THAT GIRL IN UTAH WHO DOES FLIPS.” HOW DOESTHAT SIT WITH YOU? I’ve asked myself the exact same thing many times. You know, like, is that how I want to be known? Do I want to be a stunt girl? The girl with the biggest cojones who goes really, really big but doesn’t land? And, no. This year I’ve worked really hard on skiing out of everything. I’m really trying to land and stomp. I’ve really tried to be a better skier in that way this season and filming with TGR has helped that.

Up until this year, I had never skied lines in front of a camera. So that was a learning experience and helped me push and change my skiing a little bit. But don’t get me wrong, I’m still going big and jumping off anything you can throw at me!

I feel like flipping and hitting big things — “that girl in Utah who does flips” — some of that goes along with pushing the lines for women. But I mean, Jamie Burge has been jumping over trains and going inverted off cliffs since I was making pie turns. But I want to keep it going. So my goal has been to show women, that even if I look like a complete retard sometimes hitting things, at least I’m doing it, and giving it a shot. And I don’t want it to be “good for a chick,” but good, period.

HOW DO YOU THINK IT ENCOURAGES THE YOUNGER GENERATION OUTTHERE? The little chicks are always out there too! It’s awesome! And it’s like, little girls who don’t have to be a full-on tomboy in her brothers’ hand-me-downs to be accepted. Wearing a pink jacket and sparkly pants and being like, “I can do this, bro. Think you can? Let’s do it!” I love seeing little girls being girls, and going huge with the boys. They’re gonna kill it here soon. There are gonna be tons of girls flipping cliffs just like the boys!

HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED AS YOUR NOTORIETY GREW OVER THE PASTFEW SEASONS? Oh my gosh, I have the coolest life ever! And it hasn’t been until recently that my extended family on the East Coast has really embraced that. They all have direction, and their children have direction and you are supposed to make decisions based on the direction you have in your life. And I’m not really on that same page. As long as I can remember, they’ve been, “So, Rachael, what are you going to do with your life?” And they automatically equate someone without direction as a full-on screw up. But I have a college degree, and I’m very proud of that.

This year, for the first time, they were really supportive and proud of me. I think maybe this economic crisis and the fact that things aren’t as cut and dry and secure as they thought has allowed them to see the value in what I’m doing… traveling, filming, experiencing the world and things most people never get to do.

This is stuff that I’ll have forever and if I ever do choose to have a family of my own, I’ll be able to share with them the magazine shots, and the movies, and the stories of all the things I’m able to do now. I struggled for a long time with whether or not I was doing the right thing with my life, deciding not to jump into corporate, money-making America. But I’m stoked I made the decision I’ve made to ski and the way I’ve done it.