[Q&A] Mali Noyes is quietly becoming one of the ski industry’s most impressive big-mountain skiers

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[Q&A] Mali Noyes is quietly becoming one of the ski industry’s most impressive big-mountain skiers

A self-proclaimed nor-dork, Mali Noyes dedicated her life to competitive Nordic skiing from her early days growing up in Sun Valley, Idaho, through her undergraduate years at the University of Utah. It wasn’t until she graduated from college that she really felt the desire to downhill ski, but as soon as she packed her bags for Crested Butte with her mom’s hand-me-down skis and boots, she was hooked. In only her third year of ski-bumming, Noyes earned an invitation to join the Freeride World Tour and has quickly added to her list of achievements, including skiing the entirety of the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup (WURL) last season. This year, Noyes is debuting her new ski film, “Girl Crush,” and we thought it was about time to give her a call to talk skiing, making movies with your friends and balancing it all with a nursing career. 

What inspired you to make the transition from Nordic to alpine skiing? Was it a natural transition away from competitions or were there new learning curves?

I wanted fun, easy-going skiing after competing for so long. [But] my Nordic background built my fitness and willingness to work hard. I have this competitive drive and, after two years of “freeskiing,” I found myself on the Freeride World Tour, so I couldn’t really get away from the competitiveness. In the beginning, when I was first learning, I hammered and worked so much harder to be able to keep up; ultimately, I progressed through that. 

One of your standout accomplishments was your successful attempt at skiing the WURL last season — what was the best and worst part of attempting this route on skis? 

The best part was spending time with Lani [Bruntz]. She came out early and we scouted it and that was just the best, getting to ski with her and having these big blocks of days to ride. The worst part was getting sick on the WURL—that was so brutally hard. 

This season you’re debuting your film, “Girl Crush.”  Take us through the development process of this film: Who had the initial idea to make this movie and how did you decide who was going to be involved?

The idea of a girl crush storyline came from when Mary McIntyre and I were watching a Utah Avalanche Center snow and avalanche workshop taught by Jenna Malone; she’s a guide, PA [Physician’s Assistant] and ski patroller, and she taught us in our Avy II class. The class was taught through Zoom , so Mary and I were texting during it and I said, “I have such a girl crush on her.” We already had this idea—to get all these ladies into backcountry skiing but, at the time, we didn’t have a storyline to go with it. That’s where Mary sparked the idea of making “Girl Crush” about bringing in a mentor because there’s so few female mentors in the industry. We reached out to Jess Baker because she is also a girl crush; she’s an Exum guide, a mom and this positive, awesome lady who we both look up to in the mountains. 

What is your favorite part about the film or the filmmaking process? 

My favorite part about the film is the ending. I think you have to see it to understand, but I’m really proud of the message at the end. I don’t necessarily have a favorite part about filmmaking, there were sooo many hard parts. 

What do you hope girls take away from the project?

To have confidence. I think that women are so capable, especially when it comes to backcountry skiing. We’re smarter than boys and more humble. We respect the mountains and the team dynamics that are required to move through the mountains. 

You’re also an oncology nurse—how do you juggle skiing with nursing?

I think they both complement each other really well. There’s the joy of skiing and getting to think for myself, selfishly enjoy powder turns and the relaxation it gives me. Working in oncology [can be] a pretty sad place to work and pretty draining at times. 

What’s the biggest thing nursing has taught you about skiing or spending time in the mountains? 

The perspective it gives me. I can be grumpy about bad snow conditions and the buried facet layer that’s keeping me from skiing bigger lines. Then, I go to work with patients who are battling much bigger things. It’s a great perspective shift for me. Having those medical skills out in the backcountry is really convenient as well. 

Who would you say are your biggest influences in skiing? Who inspires you the most?

Not necessarily just in skiing, but in the lifestyle, my biggest influence is my mom. She’s a skier and, growing up, she always wanted me to be a ski bum instead of a Nordic skier. She’s also a nurse. She always told me to be a nurse because then I could ski and play. She was a river guide; I was a river guide. As I get older, I’m reminded time and time again that she is so wise. 

What’s your ideal down day? 

I’d say that’s pretty rare, I’m bad at just chilling. [laughs] I do like to run a lot, too, even through the winter. If I’m actually resting, which is important and something I’ve learned, I like to read and stretch, if I’m motivated. 

If you had to pick one ski movie that has inspired you the most, what would it be? 

“Dream Job” by Katie Burrell, one-hundred percent. 

SKIER: Mali Noyes
PHOTO: Mary McIntyre
LOCATION: Teton Backcountry, WY

When you find yourself slipping into the pain cave, what keeps you moving?

I sort of enjoy the pain cave, which is probably why I was a successful Nordic skier. [Finding comfort in that space] gets you places. The fatigue that comes from pushing your body hard is one of the best feelings. 

One place you’ve skied a bunch but will never get tired of?


Do you listen to music while touring or do you like to remain totally aware of your surroundings?

I don’t listen to music while touring—I think you have to listen and feel, as well as be present with your partners. 

Do you have a favorite après snack or drink?

I started this a few years ago, and my boyfriend thinks it’s hilarious and loves to point it out, but in my pants pocket I keep snacks with me and it’s just a random mix of things like gummy worms, beef jerky and almonds. He thinks it’s disgusting but it’s everything I need. [laughs]  

Something you try to avoid the night before a big tour?

I like to get to bed early, just so that I can wake up and get all my stuff ready, assess the weather and route so that I can take accountability and know what’s going on instead of just relying on my backcountry partner(s). So, naturally, if I went out partying, I wouldn’t be doing that, I would be relying on my partners and, at that point, I should be paying them to guide me. 

What’s the best piece of advice a skier has given you?

Adam Clark once told me to take it “one turn at a time.”

This story originally appeared in FREESKIER Volume 24.
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