Kristen Ulmer: Extreme Skier and Fear Expert
Her mind over mountain techniques propelled her beyond the limits of fear.
Step into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and you will find a fear and anxiety expert. Her name is Kristen Ulmer. But with years of painstaking training and perfecting, the New Hampshire native’s rise to the top is anything but an overnight sensation. It’s also anything but ordinary. Ulmer believes her particular knack in the maintenance of fear and anxiety was a result of her willingness to ski some of the world’s most dangerous lines and jumping off foreboding cliffs.
Able to channel her fear, Ulmer has accomplished amazing feats such as jumping off 70-foot cliffs and being the first female to mountain ski a descent of Wyoming’s Grand Teton in 1997. Additionally, she’s an ice and rock climber, paraglider, adventure cyclist, and kiteboarder. In a 2000 Women’s Sports and Fitness Magazine poll she was voted as the most extreme woman athlete in all disciplines in North America.
Finding the Passion
Ulmer was born and raised in Henniker, a small ski town in New Hampshire. Her skiing interest began during a school day outing with classmates, receiving skiing lessons in the nearby hills. This was Ulmer’s first taste of the sport that grew into an unquenchable passion.
With snowy mountain slopes beckoning her, Ulmer took time off from college to ski in Europe. Upon her return, she started attending the University of Utah. She developed a drive to compete and in 1986 participated in mogul skiing competitions. Her skills did not go unnoticed and she went on to become a member of the U.S. Ski Team in 1991.
Ulmer threw all her cards on the table for a role in an extreme ski movie. Like anyone with a great passion, the dream is to be able to make a living from it. But it was in Squaw Valley 1989, where she made a name for herself. She followed a group of star skiers making their way up to the high cliffs of the Palisades where Ulmer witnessed them jumping off and performing mind-bending tricks including the backscratcher. The backscratcher is a jump where the skier arches his back in midair, forcing the ski tips down and touches the back of his skis between the shoulder blades.
Jumping into Infamy
“Now, I had never jumped off a cliff before. Nor had I even seen, much less thrown, a backscratcher,” she says of her experience. “I shouted like I had heard the guys do: ‘Three … two … one … Go!’ And I pushed off.”
Ulmer seized the moment and jumped into superstar status. This is why she likes to say she became famous in one day, but really it was in one jump. By day’s end, she was a household name in that town.
Soon thereafter, she would become fully sponsored and a media darling of the ski world. Twenty-five years later, she had skied all over the world and starred in over 20 ski movies. She has been called by the ski media the best woman big mountain extreme skier in the world for twelve years from 1990 to 2001. In a 1997 Powder Magazine survey she was voted as best overall skier in the world, beating out Olympic gold medalists.
Talk about extreme, here’s a video of Ulmer in action, watch this nail-biter and hang on to your seat…
Overcoming the Fear of Fear
Big mountain skiing demands only the most skilled skiers with a mindset willing to experience the ultimate thrill of skiing off a cliff. Terrain can be treacherous and conditions unpredictable giving anyone wanting to try it cause for reconsideration.
Known as fearless throughout her career, Ulmer has taken her ability to diffuse fear and teach her method to others. After retiring as an athlete in 2003, she helped guide individuals and groups who needed help stopping the cycles of fear that paralyzes and holds so many back from their dreams.
She developed the teaching tool called The Game of 10,000 Wisdoms, giving guidance on solving fear- and anxiety-based problems in a matter of hours by tapping into resources in one’s own mind. Her work has been featured in top publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today, Outside Magazine, and others.
Ulmer was recently featured in a film, Voices of Fear, which examines the relationship twenty extreme athletes have with their fear.
Her book, The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead, urges people to rebuild their relationship with fear. According to Ulmer, fear is not the problem, it is how we react to it that is harmful. By not acknowledging fear, it could sabotage one’s life. The book is influenced by her own complicated experience with fear.
“Sometimes we humans need a gentle shift to continue our journey in the right direction that supports our growth. Ending the un-winnable war with Fear and making friends with it instead, is one of those shifts,” she writes in her book.
Love and Life Today
Ulmer currently lives in Salt Lake City with her two cats and husband who she married in 2009. Each winter, she visits New Hampshire to spend time with family and ski with Pats Peak’s WOW (Women Only Wednesday.) She has become a popular speaker at the group’s meetings.
After her extreme skiing career, she started running Ski to Live, a mindset-only ski camp for intermediate and advanced skiers based out of Alta, Utah. She continues to focus her time as a fear and anxiety expert through live events, interviews, online workshops, talks, and other means, sharing her message on how to develop whole-minded thinking.
Curious on how to experience fear in a healthy way? Learn more about Ulmer and her fear altering courses at www.kristenulmer.com.