An insightful interview with the pioneer of women’s freeskiing.
‘Amazing things happened to me by following my intuitions’ – SC
At the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics, Suzy Chaffee, captain of the American women’s ski team, was a gold medal favorite in the downhill. After a ski wax gaffe–the team didn’t have the resources to have the appropriate wax prepared–Chaffee finished 25th. But she looked good, really good. Chaffee, who modeled briefly in Europe, wore a skintight silver ski suit that garnered plenty of media attention. That popularity galvanized her career.
After her frustrating Olympic experience, Chaffee worked to revolutionize the rights of Olympic athletes. She was the first woman on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors. She lobbied for the Amateur Sports Act. She helped write legislation that allowed teams and athletes to receive sponsorships. She served on President Ford’s Council on Physical Fitness. And she helped pioneer Title IX.
Chaffee retired her silver suit after those first Olympics in order to become one of the first female freestyle skiers. At the time, in 1971, when hot-dog skiing became a sport, there wasn’t a women’s division– Chaffee won its first three world championships anyway. Eventually, an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson helped garner $1 million in sponsorship money to start a women’s division. Despite this lengthy resume, and her starring role in the ski film Fire and Ice, Chaffee is probably best known for her role in Chapstick commercials, in which she claims to have changed her name to Suzy Chapstick.
Now, she’s Suzy Chaffee again. She lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and runs the Native Voices Foundation, which connects Native Americans to skiing. Native American kids, she says, “just enjoy themselves. [Skiing is] the biggest preventer of using any alcohol or drugs and getting them to stay in school.” Here, Powder.com catches up with Chaffee to talk about her pioneering career, from snow dancing to politics and Chapstick.
Head to Powder.com to read the full interview.