Picabo Street likes being mom even better than being an Olympian
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SNOWBASIN — Picabo Street is acutely conscious that she remains a "brand" after a stellar decade-plus in the limelight for her skiing skills in the downhill and Super-G.
The resume's a good one: She was the first American to win a World Cup season title in a speed event, capturing the downhill in 1995. She's also an Olympic gold medalist and veteran of three different Games.
She retired from professional skiing after the Salt Lake Games in 2002 and was inducted into a National Ski Hall of Fame a couple of years later. But she still endorses products — "If I believe in them. I'm pretty picky," she says.
Street made that comment in December during an interview right after she demonstrated a device she's endorsing from Launch Pad Gear called a Hookease, designed by an Ogden dad to help teach kids to ski.
"This is one," she said. "It gives me much less anxiety about teaching my boys to ski."
Street is also a motivational speaker, does color commentary for sporting events and is working on a TV show called "True Champions" that she hopes will be picked up by a network.
But the most meaningful moments these days are the homey ones, when she's rocking Roen, who just turned 1, or goofing off with Eli, 8, Trey, 7, or Dax, 2. While Olympian is a great moniker, she's even fonder of "mom."
"I have a very separate family life and I try to keep it that way," she said. "When I'm at home (the family divides time between Alabama or Utah), I'm mom, hair in a ponytail and maybe with my jammies on."
Most people have heard a little about her background — born in tiny Triumph, Idaho, in the shadow of Sun Valley, with no TV and, thus, "no false image to follow. Just me and my brother and my folks." She taught herself to ski after her dad and brother went, leaving a furious little Picabo behind. She sulked and raged and when her dad came home from she didn't know where, she demanded to know why she didn't get to go. He'd take her, he said, when she could ski.
So when the guys went inside to get warm and ready for dinner, she strapped on her brother's red, white and blue too-big K2 skis, no poles, and dragged herself up the hill behind the house, then slipped and fell her way back down, doing it again and again. When her dad called her for dinner, she made him watch what she'd just taught herself.
She got to go with them the next trip. She was 5.
Keeping lives separate
The mom part of Picabo Street is not as well known to the world, partly by her design.
The older boys enjoy her business trips, at least to a point. "They're happy mom's gone occasionally. They go with my folks and when the cat's away, the mice will play," she says. "They're liking their environment without me, which is good."
It's the hardest part for her, though. The little ones are very young, "young and new to the world. I love watching my children experience firsts and I don't want to miss too many. So far, I haven't."
The hardest mom thing is the unpredictability, she says. "I'll think I have it organized, gears greased and everyone pointing south and someone monkey-wrenches things. But that was harder in the beginning."
When she talks about children, she diverts into a conversation about love. And she clouds up, choking on the emotion of it. "What's profound," she says in a near whisper, "is the unconditional love I feel for and from the child. It's so beautiful."
Then she introduces her "Naughtiness Theory" — Kids have to be just a little bad to balance their loveliness. "You'd be lost in the overwhelming joy of them if they didn't; they have to be a little naughty."
She was the single mom of Trey when she met John Reeser, who also had a son, Eli. Blending the families is "the scariest thing I've ever done in my life," she said.
Street refused to fall in love with Reeser until she saw if the boys would be friends. "There was no chance for us if they didn't mesh," she says. "They were, nearly instantly, buddies."
Big plans, high hopes
When you ask Street questions, she answers with long pauses, weighing her response. She's the opposite of a babbler, speaking carefully and deliberately, occasionally swiping her long hair back behind one ear. She laughs easily as she tells stories.
She also has an unnerving memory for dates. Ask her how long she and Reeser have been together and she says, instantly, "We met Nov. 3, 2005. Dec. 8, I met Eli and he and Trey met Dec. 27. Then we courted two years and married … "
Does she always do that with dates?
She thinks about it a minute.
Her goals are lofty. "I want, need and will make a positive difference in people's lives," she says.
On a recent trip, headed to Colorado, she called a young lady she'd met, a soccer player, and asked her to see how many coats she and her team could round up in a week. They gathered 200 in seven days. Then she called a cleaner and asked it to pick them up and clean them so they could be given to those in need.
The girls got to see themselves on TV news with someone famous, helping others.
"They're hooked," Street said with a smile. "They'll be givers, carers, paying attention to others."
It's what she hopes to be — and the kind of kids she hopes to raise.
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