PHOTO COURTESY CLARA GREB

Freeskier from Shepherd

Clara Greb tore her first ACL when she was 17. She tore her second ACL in the summer of 2020 while skiing near Yellowstone. “I was skiing up in the Beartooths and just felt a pop. I think that’s every skier’s, one of the worst nightmares that can happen, but it’s inevitable at some point. Coming back from that, I knew what to expect because I’d already done one ACL… A lot of people think it’s just a physical journey, but it’s a mental journey too,” said Greb. Back on her feet in 2022, Greb’s giving it another go after surgery and hoping to compete in the Freeride World Qualifiers again.

Born as a sixth generation Montanan in a small town called Shepherd, which sits in Yellowstone County northeast of Billings, Clara was raised by her mother and surrounded by horses. Growing up the two used to regularly make the four-hour commute together, every weekend, to go ski at Big Sky or Red Lodge. At the age of 15, Clara started competing at the Freeride World Qualifier events across North America. She stuck with freeskiing through high school— taking most of her classes online because of travel—and kept competing through college.

For four years Clara went to university at Montana State in Billings. She graduated last May in the middle of the pandemic with a double major in marketing and management. With options after college severely limited, and struggling with the tired question of “What’s next?” Clara decided to stick to her guns: skiing was what she wanted to do with her life.

So, Clara packed up and moved to West Yellowstone with her blue heeler from Cutbank; she took a job in Big Sky at Black Diamond in Town Center. “I owe it to myself to give it another go after everything. I’m not sure how it will pan out. I would like to transition into some more filming, expeditions, and missions this season, as well as skiing for fun. Competitions are great but they can—I get tunnel vision, so I want to remember why I like to ski,” said Greb.

Growing up with a single parent, Clara absorbed a lot from her mother’s roots which roll back to a ranch. “Hard work pays off. You have to work hard but eventually it will all come together. It’s not going to be easy but eventually it will work out in the end. I learned watching her as I grew up,” said Greb.

Another person who Greb looks up to, and considers a close friend and mentor, is Dan Egan. She met him when she was 16 years old. “Dan skied in a bunch of Warren Miller movies and he’s in the skiing hall of fame now. Kind of like the pioneer of free ski. He does some specialty camps for the resort and that’s how I actually met him. Took his camp when I was just getting into free ride and connected and it’s one of the best friendships I’ve made,” said Greb.

With the ski season just starting to bloom in southwestern Montana, Greb’s focused on physical fitness. She’s trying to be patient and kind to herself in training and as well as teaching her two year old pup Smokey how to behave in the backcountry.

Greb laughs when asked how many pairs of skis she currently owns. She currently rotates through four pairs but maintains a sponsorship with Elan. Greb recently picked up a pair of Black Diamond Impulses to try out for this upcoming season. On her 2022 ski playlist is a patchwork of country, reggae, rap and rock. “Right now, I am really into the Common Kings—they are a reggae band. And then of course good old Alan Jackson. That’s always my go to,” Greb laughed.

Like so many others during the pandemic, Greb picked up a new hobby to cope with isolation and the shifting environment of unknowns. “Recently, I just bought a boxing bag for my house and I’ve started doing indoor boxing. I don’t care what I look like, I just go out and I box. It helps get out pent up energy, aggression, whatever I am feeling that day, and that’s been a really good outlet,” said Greb.

With the start of the new year, Greb’s looking ahead to her return to competition and new job as community marketer for Black Diamond in Big Sky. Greb explained the Freeride World is split into three different levels but feels like one big family. First is the junior level, second is the Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ), and third is the Freeride World Tour (FWT). Greb is competing in the FWQ—the second tier of the competition.

“You got to know everybody really well... By the end of the season, you knew each other, were hanging out, afterparties, pre-meetings. They call it the Free Ride family and that’s kinda what it is,” said Greb. Clara hopes to compete this season for FWQ at the Headwaters in Big Sky, Kicking Horse in British Columbia and Beartooth Basin.

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