Today, I’m honored to interview brave ski mom and even braver Olympic Gold Medalist, Kari Traa. In addition to being a world champion mogul skier, Kari is also an entrepreneur with a namesake line of training staples and baselayers.
BSM: You’re an Olympic athlete, medalist, world champion, successful fashion entrepreneur and mom. Which of these roles has been most challenging?
KT: For sure being a mom has been the most challenging.
How to plan a busy life with two small girls around can be difficult, but the girls have made me more focused on what is important in life! I have decided not to be away from them more than 5 days at a time. Before I had kids, I could do whatever I wanted to do. I could work a lot, sleep a lot, travel for months and be selfish!
BSM: How do you blend the demands of your Kari Traa business with being Kari Traa the mother of two daughters?
KT: I try to be a “world champion” in the mother competition.
When I had kids, I decided to stop working as much as I did before. I love to spend time with the girls and be a big part of their childhood. At Kari Traa we have the best employees and I know that they don’t need me to be around all the time.
BSM: When did you start skiing?
I start skiing cross-country at age 2. I got my first alpine skis age 5.
BSM: How did you get involved in moguls and freestyle skiing?
KT: When I was 14, I start skiing moguls.
After the Albertville Olympics in 1992, I knew that one day I will be the best mogul skier in the world, because I was fearless of getting hurt, fearless of speed and height and I love to train. These are qualities which are important in the freestyle sport.
BSM: What’s your most memorable moment as a world-class freestyle competitor?
KT: When I won the gold medal at Deer Valley in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. I was the biggest favorite for the gold medal and it was such a good feeling when I succeeded. I did not ski my best race, but it still was good enough for first place. I won the first medal for the Norwegian Olympic team and that made for a great atmosphere in the camp.
BSM: Of all your freestyle titles, which one means the most to you?
KT: The year after the Olympics in 2002, I was skiing a world cup race in Japan. The course was really difficult and hard to ski. I qualified last of the finalists so I decided to give it all for the final run. I skied my best run ever!
Compared to how difficult the snow and course were, I skied like a queen and it felt like I was the bumps’ best friend. I won.
BSM: According to your website, you knit and used to knit beanies for friends when you were a World Cup competitor. How did beanies become a full line of athletic fashion?
KT: Everything has a start! I started with colorful beanies and headbands since I was good making them, and sold a lot the first year we were on the market (2003). I think my fame in Norway and the fresh colors and fun styles were appealing and made selling easy.
BSM: I read that you became bored with ugly ski clothes and boring long underwear. Your Kari Traa designs are anything but boring. What inspires your designs?
KT: When I do sports, I love to wear colors. Colors help to fill me up with energy! When I feel that I look fresh, I feel good, and when I feel good, I perform better. Everything gives you inspiration. What your eye sees, your brain picks up and saves somewhere, and sometimes good ideas just pop up out of nowhere.
BSM: What is the next step for your company?
KT: The next step for Kari Traa is to expand outside Norway. We will launch Kari Traa in USA in a bigger way in 2016. I don’t know what to expect, but if we don’t try, we will never find out if the American girls and women like our colorful brand.
BSM: Do you daughters ski and compete?
KT: My girls are skiing cross-country and alpine. They are still very young (3 and 5) so they don’t compete. I will not try to push them into doing sports, but if they decide to, I will support them.
Sometimes I hope they will start doing something I don’t know anything about, so I can learn new things.
BSM: What’s most rewarding about being a mom?
KT: Spending time and playing around with my girls. Seeing and feeling that they are two young happy girls fighting and laughing and behaving like two sisters with big love for each other.
BSM: Where is your favorite place to ski in Norway?
KT: Voss is my favorite place to ski in Norway. I grew up in Voss and I live there now, so I know the mountains like my own pocket. We have normally lots of snow and I’m proud to have my name on the longest T-bar in the ski resort, Myrkdalen Fjellandsby. Skiing in north of Norway is fantastic. Up there you can ski big mountains going steep in to the fjords with northern lights all over you.
Thank you Kari for your time! Your comments about skiing in Norway with the northern lights all around, make it sound magical! Best wishes to you as your daughters grow and you continue on your adventures.
More Brave Ski Moms:
- Happy Mother’s Day: Shannon Bahrke Talks About Her Ski Mom, May 10, 2012.
- Talking with Olympic Ski Racer (and Brave Ski Mom) Edie Thys Morgan, February 6, 2014.
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