In 2012, Darian Stevens walked the halls of Sentinel High School as a sophomore before moving to Park City, Utah to train full time. In two weeks, she will be walking onto the biggest stage of her life--the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Stevens, 21, got the call last week that she will represent the United States in Women’s Slopestyle Skiing, an event she missed out on four years ago by one place. Stevens’ mother tells her she first clipped into a pair of skiis at
three years old, but Stevens says she first loved skiing when she began competing at age 8. Although she competed locally and nationally until high school, she didn’t decide to pursue the sport full time until her sophomore year, when she relocated to Park City to train.
“Skiing became more than a sport for me when I had been competing a couple years and could start to imagine a career in it,” Stevens said.
“I started pursuing Slopestyle skiing full time when I was 15 years old. I left my family and friends when I was 16, halfway through my sophomore year at Sentinel. It was really hard on me at the time. I had to learn how to accept that I was no longer a regular high school student. I wanted to be with my friends a lot of the time and just be normal, but now looking back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
In Utah, Stevens did most of her schooling online, until her senior year when she attended a school in Park City during the summer in order to ski during the winter.
“At the time I felt like I missed out on a lot of cool things like dances, and football games, and just making friends and memories. I missed my friends a lot and would always feel the fear of missing out while I was in Utah and my friends were doing cool stuff in Montana,” she said.
However, she does admit leaving home forced her to grow up faster than most, and helped her to find her independence by livingaway from her parents.
“I learned to cook dinner for myself, plan my own days with skiing and workouts, and just kinda make my own decisions,” Stevens said. Fast-forward six years, and the decision to leave home has paid off. For the last year, her eyes have been on the Olympic stage.
Starting with Olympic camps in Mammoth, Cali. last spring, training returned to Park City at the gym and at the new air bag jump throughout the summer. Before the ski resorts in the U.S. opened for the season, the team traveled to Europe to ski in Switzerland and Austria for about a month in early fall.
“As of now, I am back in Park City and hitting the gym,” she said.
It takes a certain determination to make the Olympic squad, especially having missed the team four years ago by one place. Teams are determined after athletes compete in five qualifying events, with the top four athletes as determined by points, making the final cut. Four years ago, Stevens took fifth place, just missing the chance to compete in the Olympics.
“I was completely heartbroken after missing the last Olympics and it took me a really long time to come back from it, but eventually I figured out a way to use it as motivation,” Stevens said.
“I figured out that I needed to stop dwelling on the past and focus on the present and what I should be doing to be the best skier I can be so I don’t miss out on the next ones.” Stevens also found motivation in her competitive spirit, and the desire to prove to herself and everyone else that she could do it.
“I think what motivated me each day to train again was just coming back from a huge hardship in my life and knowing that I wanted to be better. There was definitely a time when I almost quit, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to until I was
going to the Olympics. I couldn’t quit.”
Stevens credits her family for being supportive of her dreams. “My brother (Thomas Stevens, SHS ‘17), pushed me a lot when I was growing up because we were both so competitive that everything was a contest,” Stevens said.
“My dad was kind of the same way when I was growing up. He wanted me to be the best I could be at anything we were doing. He taught me to not sell myself short and always do my best. My mom was just always so supportive of what I was doing and has helped me out a lot physically, mentally, and financially with skiing. They motivate me in the way that I want to make them proud.”
And we can’t forget the hill she grew up on.
“Although I currently ski the terrain park, and Snowbowl doesn’t have one, I couldn’t be any luckier with where I grew up. The terrain at Snowbowl is amazing, probably some of the best days of skiing I’ve had anywhere, and I’ve traveled all over the world to different resorts. Growing up at Snowbowl taught me to actually ski,” she said.
As for the Olympics, Stevens is just excited to be going, and plans to treat the event like any other.
“I definitely hope to do well at the Olympics, but I’m trying to just think of it as another contest. I am most looking forward to just taking everything in. I’ve watched the Olympics since I was a little kid and I’m just so excited to get to do everything there like opening ceremonies and see other events,” she said.
The Women’s Slopestyle events begin Feb. 17 and will be aired on NBC.