Happy Mother’s Day!
Please meet Dee Oujiri, a ski mom who took up snowsports at 40, became a ski instructor at Buck Hill, Minnesota and offers retreats and classes for women in the outdoors, along with specialized services for adaptive athletes and their families via her website Faith Hope Love & Ski.
A Mother’s Day Interview With Dee Oujiri of Faith Hope Love & Ski
BSM: Hi Dee! Thank you so much for joining me here today. As I’ve already divulged, you started skiing at 40. What inspired you?
DO: When I was a kid, I always dreamed of skiing. But when you grow up in the middle of the Iowa cornfields, it is hard to find a hill. I guess I have had the itch my entire life!
One Minnesota winter when my son was three, we were going stir crazy and needed him to get out of the house. I decided he should try skiing.
I set up a private ski lesson, and he spent a lot of the time rolling around and doing snow angels. This was not what I expected, but by the end of the season he was doing great. He loved it!
I would let him ski on the bunny hill with friends, but trying to get a 4-year-old off a ski hill when you don’t ski can be challenging. With a little pressure from the Buck Hill Ski School Director, I tried skiing (I think he was tired of me asking him to find Connor).
BSM: So some friendly pressure got you going. What was the first step?
DO: My first lesson was a Sunday evening group lesson, just to see if I could do it. After that, when I decided I really wanted to pursue this passion, I set up private lessons with the Director of the Ski School, Tom Schulz.
Tom has been an incredible mentor and an inspiration for me. I will never forget very early in our lessons we were riding up the chair lift, and he said, “one day you will work here.”
I laughed. But, holy cow, within a few years he was right!
BSM: Everyone says learning anything, from a foreign language to skiing, is easier as a child. In your opinion, what made learning to ski as an adult challenging?
DO: Developing confidence in myself and overcoming FEAR!
Even today if I am at the top of a run that I am unsure about, my left shoulder and left leg will sometimes think they need to stay at the top versus going with the right side! I have to mentally prepare before I drop in. It is funny to watch.
BSM: Was any part of learning to ski as an adult easier that you thought it might be?
DO: After getting over the initial fear and putting trust in my instructor, skiing, itself, is easier than I ever thought it would be.
BSM: How long did it take you to feel comfortable skiing on your own and with your family?
DO: Within the first year, I was skiing with Connor locally. But it took a few years before I was willing to head West with the family. We made a couple of trips to Snowmass and Buttermilk before Ellie came along.
BSM: You are now a Level 1 PSIA instructor. This is something I think about, but haven’t yet worked up to doing. Sell me on it!
DO: I began teaching because I wanted to give back and help others, specifically women, find their passion as I did.
I was incredibly blessed because I found a mentor and teacher early on that cared about my success. Tom encouraged me to go for my Level One, and doing so gave me a confidence boost. Now I am working towards my Level 2.
Being an instructor is amazing. The rewards? One, I get to help others and see them succeed! Two, I am always training. I love to work on my skiing which helps me help others improve their skiing.
BSM: You also work with adaptive skiers. Tell me how that came about and what the most challenging and rewarding part of this experience is?
DO: I had no idea that Adaptive Snowsports existed until I began working at the Ski School. Some friends we met through racing volunteered at an Adaptive Snowsports Program. They introduced me to Brian Foley, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Padraig’s Place and I started as a volunteer instructor.
Now I am a Board Member focusing on the Marketing and the Training Program for our instructors. Our program is the only one in the Twin Cities that provides kids with cognitive disabilities the opportunity to learn snowsports.
I also have had multiple opportunities to train with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, Colorado.
Working with adaptive skiers is so rewarding: seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces and watching how proud the parents are. It is also challenging some days. Just like us these kids may have a bad day, but they can’t always tell me how I can help.
BSM: You have a beautiful website and a very intriguing business. Please tell us more about Faith Hope Love & Ski and your goals for it.
Sometimes we have feelings of vulnerability and fear in pursuit of outdoor experiences. I know I did! I would like to remove the barriers, become a mentor and guide, and help get women off the sidelines, empowering them through participation in outdoor recreation.
I offer clinics, retreats and classes that provide a comfortable and fun outlet to the outdoors, places where women can be inspired and unlock their potential!
This summer I will be offering an escape to Grand Marias, MN. We are planning the details now.
I also want to provide the same type of environment for the families with kids that have cognitive and physical disabilities.
Over the years, I have found that a lot of families in our program include a parent who is an avid skier. There are perceived obstacles that stop them from taking family ski vacations. They may be intimated by the planning or worried about their ability to find the support their adaptive family member will need, or maybe they need help learning how to balance skill sets.
My services expand the possibilities for individuals and families by providing guidance, facilitating ski vacations and providing on-mountain support. I plan to expand to more outdoor recreation next year.
BSM: If you can only ski one place with your family, where would you ski?
DO: I love the Colorado Rockies. My favorite for a family vacation is Breckenridge, CO. I love the varied terrain, the casual western feel and the ease of getting around. My favorite spot to hang with friends is Vail. Vail provides endless views. I love heading over to Blue Sky Basin and grilling lunch and taking in the cool mountain air and, of course, the blue sky!
My Spring Women’s Retreat this year was at Park City, Utah. We had a wonderful time exploring both the Park City side and the Canyons. Wonderful memories were made! I also had an opportunity to spend an afternoon volunteering at the National Ability Center located at Park City. The NAC empowers individual of all abilities through sports and recreation. I skied with an incredibly talented individual who doesn’t let anything stop him and two amazing instructors. The afternoon was filled with laughter and smiles!
BSM: What’s your favorite thing about being a ski mom?
DO: Watching my kids grow and develop the same passion I have for the outdoors. My absolute favorite thing are our Mom/Son road trips to the Rockies. I can’t wait until Ellie is older, so that she and I start our traditions.
This means more trips West for me! No complaints here!
BSM: In closing, what does skiing mean to you?
DO: Skiing is part of the grander picture of getting closer to nature. Being in the outdoors provides a sense of freedom and peace. Skiing has given me confidence, freedom and a venue to help others.
This quote from Pablo Picasso sums it up nicely. “The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” Explore the possibilities!
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Thank you so much Dee. I feel so fortunate that we met this winter. Pure serendipity! Thank you for sharing so much about yourself and your varied pursuits. Best of luck with it all. Happy Mother’s Day!
Mother’s Day Ski Moms and Daughters:
- Happy Mother’s Day! An Interview with Northstar GM (and BSM) Beth Howard
- Happy Mother’s Day! Shannon Bahrke Talks About Her Ski Mom
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