Humbled by her daredevil attitude on the mountain through heartbreaking injury after injury, Dania Assaly is more than a champion professional freestyle skier. She’s a trainer, an artist, and an educated tough chick who knows how to keep it just low-key enough to stretch her time on the hill to its maximum potential.
Edmonton born Dania Assaly has fallen in love over and over again with her relationship with skiing since she was three years old. A competitive figure skater since she was eight years old, Dania didn’t trade in her skates for competition skis until high school when her friends started competing in mogul competitions. She hasn’t looked back since.
We chatted with Dania after she had recently returned from a girls trip to Retallack, B.C where she simultaneously shot photos for a ski magazine and shredded her heart out to new limits through the thrill of cat skiing. She successfully scared herself, just like she’s been doing for years–something that she swears by to keep the love in the air between her and the mountain.
“It put me outside my comfort zone and let me know like, ‘okay, you got this and you can still do scary things and feel good about it.'”
The events of breaking more than a handful of bones in her body over the years haven’t slowed Dania from still chasing the thrill of it all, and there’s no sign of her slowing down anytime soon.
After returning from Retallack, Dania recently hopped on over to Austria where she attended Nine Queens, a media event that brings together some of the world’s best female free skiers and film makers. During this week long event, a “chateau” designed obstacle encourages fearless female skiers to push the limits of how they can hit the jump. Dania gushes that trips like these are what keep her attached at the hip to her sport.
“They were two different trips back-to-back with amazing people that make me feel like I’m still tied to this sport in a good way.”
Almost ten years ago Dania started working her way up from the bottom. At twenty years old she moved to Utah to compete and attend university.
“I studied exercise and sport science and knew that someday I wanted to work in that field. Knowing how to sustain a healthy lifestyle of eating, training, and succeeding in sport came a bit easier with the school courses I took, but living on rice cakes and ichiban had its time…we did alright.”
Through the struggle, Dania swears by the balance of academia and fitness, this having prevented her from being lost after the competitions concluded.
“You might be asking your mom and dad to fly you to Europe so that you can try to compete well enough to give them their money back.” She laughs, well over the hump of struggle now. Dania managed to win more competitions than she lost, which created a positive momentum that kept her passionate and financially stable for the next competition over the horizon. When she achieved professional status, the benefits transformed her life.
“Everything is a perk. And then you realize that you get to travel the world with your best friends, doing what you love doing. The motivates you, keeps you driven, and keeps you scaring yourself.”
Ski competitions differ from other sports in the way that you can win money from competing, and often times your sponsors will help you get to the places where you need to compete, if you push yourself to a point, Dania explains. Despite the great years that Dania recalls, the downfalls she says are the high physical risks that come with the sport. A torn ACL–three times, a broken collarbone, fractured scapula and both thumbs having been broken, Dania’s ride hasn’t been even remotely pain free.
“The downfalls are the bad falls. The risk that comes with this sport is really high. Going in you know that but mentally, you have to just push it to the back of your mind and not think about it in the forefront or that will be the thing that gets you in trouble.”
For every injury was another rehab session back home in Edmonton and time lost competing and training. “The hardest times”, remembers Dania.
Things changed in her life when Dania injured herself the year before the Sochi Olympics, at twenty-six years old. Through rehabilitation, Dania scrambled to get back on the mountain as quickly as possible. It was the first year that freestyle skiing was included in the Olympics and she was on the Canadian team. She didn’t make it into the Olympics, but Dania used this to her advantage, soaking up any and all opportunities right in Utah.
“Instead of going to the Olympics I probably got more opportunities than I’ve ever had. Just by finding my love for skiing again and really focusing on why I started it, where my passion lies and staying healthy.”
Dania proves to herself over and over again that she’s able to find a new thrill within her beloved sport, regardless of the obstacle laying between her and the mountain. The sport of skiing “keeps on evolving”, she says, keeping the younger generation so talented and the older generations on their toes.
“Being driven and motivated enough to get back to the sport after a few injuries was hard, but for the most part you just miss it. You breath it and you dream about it. Now that I’m not competing, I miss it so much. The family that you get from it and the rush that you get from competing.”
Drawn to the community of skiers that was as close to her as a family, this time Dania leaned towards filming and photo shoots, hanging up her competition skis and grabbing her camera and heading out with her friends to live out a new angle of her sport, and career. Her edits showcase her love for the sport–the thrill of it all contagious.
If you keep your eyes open you’ll see more of Dania adventuring with her ski community; “complete with good snow, and good people”, she says. The fuel behind the fire? “Just to keeping it alive for me.”
What she’s learned from the trials and tribulations of her thrilling ride is the power in taking care of her body. “You only have one body. Keep it healthy. I’ve learned through the trials and tribulations of extreme sports that it’s important to eat healthy and stay fit. Be putting in what you’re putting out for your body.”
Dania works as a personal trainer in West Vancouver as well as for her own mobile business, biking from office gym to private gym and enjoying the whole commute along the way. On the weekends, she skis in Whistler. As if her schedule isn’t packed enough, Dania writes her own music, singing and playing the piano around the Kitsilano area. In the summer she coaches a ski camp on the glacier in Whistler where she hopes to expand her boot camps which are currently being instructed on Kits Beach.