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Moroccan Magic, Solo-Style

Megan Harrod

I recently wrote this piece for the Topo Designs’ website, and I thought I’d share it here too. Loved Morocco and can’t wait to go back! Enjoy…

Megan Harrod is based in Park City, Utah and spends her winter months traveling around the world telling stories about the best alpine skiers in the world (for the U.S. Ski Team). As for the rest of her time... it's spent on a variety of continents, thriving on the energy of people, sunshine and mountains. She works, plays and hugs hard and has a charming way of not taking things too seriously. Follow her travels at or on Instagram.

"I think I'll go to Morocco when the season ends," I told my friends and colleagues. "Be careful," they said. I hear those two words a lot… definitely more than the average person. And probably much more than the average gal.


My obsession for exploring began during childhood when my family would travel around the midwest going to ski races. But I really got hooked when I was 18 years old and traveled internationally for the first time in my life. That time, it was to Sweden. From then on, I was addicted. First it was study abroad in England. Then, ten years ago, I left my stable life in Minneapolis for an international job opportunity in Prague, Czech Republic. Rewind to five years ago, when I left a conventional, married life and took this job traveling around the world for about seven months of the year. Four years ago I shaved my head and traveled to India. Alone.

Most of my significant travels have been just that — alone. I think I have my midwife mother to thank for teaching me a vital lesson in the art of defying convention. I'm pretty good at it. I'm one of the very few humans I know — especially at my age (36) — that feels comfortable living out of a duffle bag for months on end. Ok, not just comfortable… much more than comfortable. I thrive on the road.

This winter season's travels ended in Soldeu, Andorra, a place I had never explored before. A tiny, independent principality nestled in between France and Spain in the insanely beautiful Pyrenees mountains, Andorra was the perfect place to end a long season on the road. More than that, though, was its proximity to new territories for me to explore. I've always wanted to go to Morocco. So I decided now was as good a time as any. After traveling to Grenada, Spain where I received some guidance from friends to travel to a small surftown called Essaouira, I decided that I'd skip the big city vibes in Marrakech and head to the coast instead.

For those of you who are fans of Game of Thrones, Essaouira is the real-life Astapor, or "Slaver's Bay," known for its unsullied inhabitants who Daenerys Targaryen sets free. I didn't know much about it, but I had heard the surfing was good, so I was in. I have to admit, after hearing friend after friend caution me about traveling alone, I naturally felt uneasy.


I didn't necessarily start to question my decision, but I did start to worry a little more. My partner, who is always supportive of my adventures, asked me why I always decided to travel to strange places solo. He loves my curious mind, but since we've been together he's seen me travel to India and Morocco alone, as well as all over Europe. Of course, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. No fancy hotels with western vibes...I was going to stay in the medina (old town, walled in portion of the city), which is protected by 18th century seafront ramparts called the "Skala de la Kasbah." I looked on Airbnb and found a gem. The owner of the spot connected me with a taxi driver, who would pick me up in Marrakech at the airport, and drive me directly to Essaouira. It'd be a three hour taxi drive to Morocco's Atlantic coast, where the port city sits. And it would only be 60 USD.

As my departure date neared, I started getting nervous and even though I told everyone in my network that I'd be OK, I began to think things like, "What if I fall asleep during the cab ride and wake up in the middle of nowhere, in a bad situation?!" In response to my concerned friends and family, I'd remain calm and simply say, "I'm a mindful traveler. I don't put myself in bad situations, and I don't operate the same way I do when I'm in comfortable surroundings. I'm less talkative, I don't interact with's just a different version of me, which can be challenging sometimes - but it's worth it for the things I'm able to see and experience." Then, of course, I'd follow it up with, "And, because I'm so mindful when I travel solo, if something happens to me, it's because it was meant to happen to me at this moment, meaning it would be just as likely to happen in Park City, Utah or Essaouira, Morocco." They'd laugh, but I really believe that.


I arrived in Marrakech with no issues. My taxi driver greeted me, and offered to carry my pack. He was kind. He only spoke French and Arabic, but he was warm and inviting. We got into his car, and I soaked in my surroundings. At one point, he pulled up to a market and got out of the car. I sunk down a bit in my seat, and made sure my hat covered my platinum blonde hair. I watched him interact with vendors, and then come back to the car about 10 minutes later with a bag of fresh mandarin oranges to share with me. He also shared a smile with me. I was safe.

As we approached Essaouira, we drove past western hotels and spas, and drove up to the medina. I was met by the host, who also only spoke Arabic and French, and a short man with a luggage cart and no teeth. "Bonjour!" they said with a tentative smile. I followed by host through the small winding alleys of the medina to a door I was almost sure I'd get lost trying to find by myself later, and into my place, located near Bab Marrakech. I'd normally opt for a private room in a hostel, but in Morocco, there are numerous riads, which are traditional Moroccan houses or palaces with an interior garden or courtyard. Some of them are run as bed and breakfasts, and some are rented as entire apartments on Airbnb. Mine was perfect.

As I began to settle in, I still felt uneasy in my foreign surroundings. I stayed in that first night, hesitant to walk the small streets of the medina alone. The next morning, I woke up and explored the city. I'd soon realize that I had nothing to be afraid of. The people were kind and I was in love with strolling through the markets in the small streets solo. I found that I felt especially safe at night, because when it was dark I blended in. No one could see my fair skin or blonde hair, and I could just melt into the surroundings. I visited every quirky cafe imaginable, walked to the ocean, signed up for some surf lessons, explored the Tuareg jewels and Moroccan Kilim rugs, listened to the sweet sound of musicians by the port, and more. It truly was magical.

The call to prayer is oddly beautiful. When I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, I felt the same way about it. There are very few Moroccan women to be found in the streets, while the vendors and shop owners are almost exclusively men. During the call to prayer, the streets are much quieter, and it's also an experience walking the streets just after the call to prayer ends...I was a solo white female in a sea of local males. But yet, I felt safe. Sure, there are occasional whistles and invitations into shops, but I'd just look ahead and pretend to not speak English or French. In that way, I don't feel like it was any more aggressive than many European cities I've traveled to, especially in parts of Italy and Spain.


Essaouira is a town so small, you run into familiar faces walking the streets, even after just a couple of days. I met a friend from Senegal dressed in colorful cotton cloths with batik-inspired printing, whose grandfather made artwork from fallen butterflies. After the third time seeing him in the medina, I invited him to have a coffee with me at Mandala, the cafe I had frequented that week. Another time, I walked by a group of Moroccan surfer boys and one said, "You dropped something." I looked down. He said "You dropped your smile. Your smile is a frown. Turn it around." I ran into him again three days later when I surfed. It's a magical town of artists, musicians, hippies and wandering souls. It's no surprise Jimi Hendrix once frequented the streets.

After I had met an Italian artist couple on Airbnb who has lived in Essaouira for four years, and doing a tour with them, I ended up ditching by Marrakech plans and staying in Essaouira for two additional days. It was a less cerebral trip, which is something I was really looking forward to at the end of a long, busy season. My new friends, Sergio and Arianna, helped me find beautiful rings, a reputable place to buy local handmade rugs, woven years ago as family heirlooms by women in the High Atlas Mountains, and even hosted me, cooked a perfect Italian pasta dinner for me, and fed me the best espresso in the morning.


Essaouira is a little slice of heaven I'd encourage everyone to experience. It's safe to travel as a solo female, the art and seafood are both to die for, the surf is supreme, and it's the only place I've seen where camels and surfers coexist on the beach.

Here are my top five Essaouira travel tips:

  1. DO stay in the medina, and while you're there go out on a limb and try an Arab spa for a massage and hammam. It is quite the experience. I tried a spot around the corner from my Airbnb that I stumbled upon day one when I was lost, called Arab Spa.

  2. DON'T fret if you're a solo female traveler. Just keep your wits about you as you normally would. Do a surf lesson or a culture walk early in your stay, so you can meet some locals and get acquainted.

  3. DO dine in all of the places. Here are a few of my favorites: for coffee - Mandala, The Coast, Tara Cafe, Cafe Megaloft, for food - Le Cosy (treat yo self!),Triskala, Ocean Vagabonde (after surfing!), for drinks at sunset - Taros Cafe Restaurant (kind of touristy, but worth it for the view)

  4. DO buy goods from local artisans. There are amazing local artists and you can find very fair prices on some really quality pieces. I'd recommend going on this culture walk to get the lay of the land early in your trip with Arianna and Sergio - they're lovely hosts.

  5. DON'T hang out in the jewish quarter at night. It's totally fine during the day, but not the best place to hang after dark.

What's next for me? Trips to Maui, Prague and New Zealand this summer, but I've been dreaming about a solo trip to Nepal for quite some time. Only time will tell.


Megan Harrod

I’ve been trying to build the courage to write this piece for a couple of weeks now, but I’ve struggled to find it. However, I snuck away to Maui and found some courage on reserve. I only REALLY knew Sam Coffey for a year. In fact, almost a year to the day he left us was my first direct interaction with him. Of course, I slid into Sammy’s DMs (the DM slide was acceptable, because Sam was one of my boyfriend’s best friends) during my solo adventure in Maui when I had seen his Insta story from Maui. “Dude, you on the island?” I wrote. “Indeed! You?” he shot back.

That was my first real direct interaction with the legend that was Sam Coffey, however I had known Sam far before that. I had known him through his All-American ski accomplishments at UNH. I had known him as Wiley Maple’s best friend. I had known Sam as the ring leader of this bizarre and intriguing ski gang in Aspen called the “Freaks”. I had known him as one of my best friend’s best friend’s (Hadley’s) boyfriend who was a bit of a Peter Pan like my own boyfriend at the time. I had known him as a Salomon athlete who skied beautifully in the backcountry. Since that day, though, I knew Sam as my friend. I keep thinking Sam and I knew each other from another lifetime, but when I went to his memorial I realized that’s just the way Sam made people feel.

That was his superpower.

Now I know Sam as one of Coley’s best friends…one of his UNH brothers. I know him as a tall, lanky jokester who made everyone in his path smile and feel accepted. I know Sam as Wiley’s technician and hype man who did everything he could to support Wiley on the World Cup circuit this last winter; Sam’s last winter. He helped Wiley raise money at his fundraiser in the fall. I remember walking into that room…it was packed with Aspen supporters and Freaks. At the door was Sierra Rintel, Sam’s former girlfriend/longtime friend. I had never met Sierra, but Coley had talked a lot about her. I was immediately struck by her beauty and warmth. I believe the exact thoughts in my head when I met her were, “Well Sam really fucked that one up.” But seriously, he did. Across the room was Sam, dressed to the nines (well, for Sam anyway), working the crowd. He greeted us with a big smile and hugs, thankful for the support. Sam had a way of making people feel like they were the most important ones in the room at that moment. Of course, he had no voice, because Sam had been partying the night before. I remember Coley telling me that Sam had lost his father earlier in the year to cancer, and introducing me to his mother Cathy and his sister JoJo. I remember at that moment feeling like I couldn’t imagine what that must be like, and how hard it must be.

I know Sam as the kind of guy who doesn’t complain or have a bad thing to say about anyone (except for maybe Vail - sorry, guys). I know Sam as the guy who hooked me up with Strafe bibs that I love. I know Sam as the guy who fell in love with the word “SERVUS” and said it to everyone he could at every opportunity he got while traveling Europe on the World Cup circuit. I know Sam as the one who made friends with locals at every World Cup stop - more so than even myself - and even met a few ladies along the way. I know him as the guy who made a bed out of a few Atomic ski bags this winter in Kitzbuehel because he didn’t want to wake up Wiley, and woke up the next morning by of the coaches, saying confused, “Where’d she go?” I know Sam as the U.S. Ski Team family member that was up for anything and would lighten the mood and the room when he walked in. I know Sam as the guy who yelled “MEG!!!” in a way that only Sam could, and it would always make me smile. I know Sam as the encourager who told Wiley, “Dude - you ARE going to Nationals this spring. You’re not going to miss Nationals” while we were in Kvitfjell, and Wiley was feeling bummed about his season.

May 15th was my birthday, and I found myself unusually sad on that day. That sadness carried through the next couple of days, and I couldn’t really pinpoint its origin. It all made sense when Coley told me Sam had suffered a stroke while down in Mexico, and was in the hospital undergoing brain surgery. In Mexico. Sierra had let him know. I was shocked. A stroke?! What the fuck?? Around that time of year the outdoor/ski community is typically tragically rocked by news of loss, but it’s usually from an accident in the mountains. A 29-year-old who I had known as a guy full of life had suffered from a stroke?! No way. I cried. Coley cried. But at that point, I never thought it would mean Sam’s life would end and I would go from “knowing Sam” to “having known Sam.”

We found out the following Monday that Sam had passed. I just never thought it would happen. I was hoping it was a freak thing and the strokes were small and he’d come back. The news crushed the community. The outpouring of love was unlike anything I’ve seen. Social media is a weird and beautiful thing in times like these. It’s strange to see interactions Sam had on social - I find myself thinking that he’s still here with us. But, he’s not. I’ll scroll through Instagram, and go to his profile and think there will be a new post there. But there’s not. I looked back at my last interaction with him, from when he was in Mexico - it was in reference to Wiley’s girlfriend Addie, who had gotten braids in Mexico. He replied, “So good. I wish I had long hair just for that.” I sent him and Wiley and Addie hugs, and he liked that message. That was May 8th. That would be my last interaction with Sam.

This winter Coley came to the World Cup in Kvitfjell, Norway. It was a hard winter and I was bummed I didn’t see him for two months while I was on the road, but now I realize there was a reason for that. Coley and Sam spent a lot of time together in Kvitfjell, and hung out while I was working. It was the last time Coley would spend time with Sam. We didn’t get any pictures, but they shared beers and laughs and I guess that’s better than any picture could ever be. I am so thankful Coley came on that trip.

After we heard about Sam’s passing I sent a note to the American Downhillers asking for memories and photos. Tommy Biesemeyer replied, “Should we tell the Kitzbuehel ski room/bag story?” Wiley laughed. Scotty replied, “Legend!” and sent a pic of a sleepy Sam, covered in a puffy - he had his socks on, but not much else. Our physio, also named Sam, wrote to me about how when he thinks of Sam he thinks of the word “SERVUS!” A common greeting in Austria, Sam fell in love with the word and would say it every opportunity he could. He would even say it in Wengen, where it didn’t really make sense. “SERVUS!!” Sammy would say, with a big dumb grin. People loved Sam and Sam loved people.

Jared, Gogo, Sammy and Matteo in Wengen

Jared, Gogo, Sammy and Matteo in Wengen

Sammy in the ski room, part 1

Sammy in the ski room, part 1

Sammy in the ski room, part 2

Sammy in the ski room, part 2

Sammy and the Wengen crew (Sam became a local in Wengen for obvious reasons).

Sammy and the Wengen crew (Sam became a local in Wengen for obvious reasons).

Rodel time with the men’s downhill team and new Wengen friends.

Rodel time with the men’s downhill team and new Wengen friends.

The memorial in Aspen was perfectly Sam. It was on the top of Aspen Mountain with hundreds and hundreds of friends - some who Sam had touched literally, and all who Sam had touched figuratively. I was almost scared to go to the memorial. Coley had already gone to Aspen with the UNH guys, and I traveled a day later, as I was coming from a weekend with my family in the midwest. On the airplane en route to Aspen, a sort of fear I had not felt welled up inside me. What was the memorial going to be like? Were people going to absolutely rage and get blackout drunk? How were friends processing the news, and would the gathering be a healthy process for everyone?

It was a sunny day on the top of Ajax in Aspen on Memorial Day - the day of Sam’s memorial. At the memorial, Sam’s cousin spoke about how Sam would want everyone to really feel and process the grief. I liked that message, and thought about how important it was. And, Sierra and Wiley both blew me away with their words. So beautiful. “Sis’” tribute was real, funny, emotional…just perfect. I could almost hear Sammy laughing. And, Wiley…Wiley told tales from the road. Wiley was honest as fuck and it was incredible. Here’s what Sis had to say:

Tips how to live life more like Sammy:
#1. Don’t complain. Sam hated complainers. 
#2. Be your own biggest fan.
#3. Tell your loved ones that you love them more than a powder day. 
#4. Always wear a cowboy hat and cowboy boots to all occasions. 
#5. Make family your biggest priority. 
#6. Never say no to fun. 
Quit your job, travel the world. ski with your best friends, set off fireworks on top of Highlands Bowl, go dirt biking, rafting, fishing, surfing, rip off everyones sleeves, pour a beer over your head, make ski season last 12 months, yell random sayings at random times, dance to every kind of music, be the biggest presence in the room.”

I’m so glad we had the chance to travel with Sam this past season, but I SO wish I wasn’t saying that. I wish Sam were traveling with us for another season, because he brought joy to the Tour. There’s this weird thing about loss where the celebration of life happens and then people just kind of stop talking about it. Everyone processes grief at different times and in different ways, but we don’t really talk about it together after the memorial, because it’s almost like we feel that we should be moving forward. It’s a strange, strange thing. We say things like, “Sammy would want you to go out and live…he wouldn’t want you to be sad.” That’s probably true, but perhaps if we did talk about it about it more and we assured ourselves that it was OK to be sad (because it is), then it would make a difference for everyone. It may not make it easier, but it may make a difference.

So, here goes - every time I say the word “coffee” (which is a lot, if you know me and my diet), I think of Sam. When Coley is quiet, I wonder if he’s thinking about or missing Sam. Loss sucks. It’s the absolute worst. Sure, time heals…but it never really gets easy. And that’s ok too. All we can do is our best. And we can attempt to have a bit more compassion for those around us (with the healing process through loss, and in general). Additionally, I urge you - never, ever stop sharing stories. Storytelling helps people heal, celebrates life, and cements legacies of lost loved ones.

Finally, it’s impossible to top Sierra’s list of ways in which to live more like Sammy, but after reflecting, and following the outpouring of love, I have a few thoughts about what we can learn from the way that Sammy lived and how we can carry on his legacy…whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

  1. Always travel like a local. Be open. Ask questions and be curious. Smile.

  2. Be kind. If someone needs a hug, give them one. Spread good vibes.

  3. Celebrate every moment…not just the big ones, but the small things too.

  4. Live. Simply, and beautifully, and fully. Because you only have one chance on this earth.

I’ll leave you with two different groups of words that I love and return to often. First, a quote that my friend Selina shared with me a couple years back when I was going through a challenging time. I returned to this when Sammy passed away, and it makes more sense now than ever before.

Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please, With too much spirit to be e'er at ease, With too much quickness ever to be taught, With too much thinking to have common thought: You purchase pain with all that joy can give, And die of nothing but a rage to live. ― Alexander Pope, Moral Essays

Lastly, I am often comforted by the words of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata  - words I return to again and again. Here’s an excerpt:

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Servus, Sammy. Gone but never forgotten. Love you.

UNH Ski Team at Sam’s Memorial

UNH Ski Team at Sam’s Memorial

Social Consumption: I'm Full, Yet I Continue to Consume

Megan Harrod

This one has been a long time coming. I’ve written installments around the topic previously, but haven’t made the time to sit down and really ruminate while in front of my laptop. First, there was “Dating is so weird.” and then “Textual Frustration.” and finally “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Poignant indeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, though, especially with as much time as I spend on social media. Too much time. Yes, it’s part of my job, so there’s that. As a result, I know too much about how social media works, too. When you know too much about how social media works, you’re on social media frequently and you’re dating, it’s kind of a rough combination. So, some of what I’m writing comes as a result of years of experience and conversations with others, and isn’t necessarily relative to my current situation (which, by the way, is healthy and happy). Let’s dive in, shall we?!

A Facebook notification popped up on my screen the other day while I was working…”happy 14th anniversary!” Wait - 14 years?! Has it really been 14 years since our lives changed and gone were the days of MySpace, as interactions would change forever with the introduction of this one virtual space first known as “” (yes - I am old enough to remember that you used to have to type in the full name and continued to do so for many years before I broke the habit)?! Yep. Then it was Twitter. Fast forward a number of years, and BOOM - Instagram!!

Along the way there were things like Tumblr and Blogspot…and - of course - Snapchat…but it was Instagram that really captivated me. Initially used by visual artists and hipsters as a photo sharing app, for me it was visually appealing and I found it to be a joy to interact with…unlike trying to fit my thoughts into 140 characters or getting really personal on Facebook (which, don’t worry, I did too - I’m an open book), Instagram allowed me to share mini blogs, random thoughts and musings along with an image in an aesthetically pleasing virtual realm. Just like a website, people could read the words or look at the image, and take in the information as it suited them. I didn’t really mind if some thought I wrote too many words, because maybe the image would resonate with them. And, in the beginning, it was all beautiful and raw. And then it gained popularity and widespread use, and it wasn’t what it started as anymore. People tried to figure out how to use it, but muddied it up. Ads were introduced. And it changed a little bit. And it did something else that was pretty toxic…it created a space for online bullying, and showed one side of life - all of the best and most beautiful things - and not the hard parts. The REALITY. I, too, fell into this trap at times.

But, for the most part, I fell in love with social media because for me it was about authenticity. It was a storytelling tool for the good and the bad…like how it felt when I went through a divorce and was simultaneously was pushed out of the company I gave up a full-time job for…and started from scratch in life, moving to a new place with my life packed into a small portion of the back of a 10-foot U-Haul moving truck. Or the moments where I struggled with heartbreak so much I lost my mind and 15 unnecessary pounds, too. I would put something out there, not knowing if it resonated with anyone…and frankly, not really caring if it resonated with anyone. Because it was a tool that helped me to move on - to move forward. In fact, in that strange and tumultuous time in my life, it was the only thing that kept me sane. Writing, that is. And then, sharing that writing. And, at times, I overshared as well. I’m aware of that fact. But I’m not sorry for it. If you don’t like it, I hope you have the power to look away and not let it touch your soul. Or, maybe if it did touch your soul I did something right? Not certain.

During these times, friends unfollowed me. I never understood that, because social media never affected me that much. I could look at it and separate reality from make-believe and not let it affect me…unless or until I was sad, that is. That’s the problem, though. If I was in a bad place, I’d look at things and get sad - friends were at a barbecue and I didn’t get the invite, and I’d feel left out. I’d be sitting in Salzburg alone on New Year’s Eve with plans that fell through and I’d open Instagram and see friends with the only person I wanted to be with at that moment. A pool of tears in my car, as a result of a single 15-second video on Instagram that I shouldn’t have seen anyway. And that’s the negative side of social media. Things are captured that wouldn’t otherwise enter your life at your fingertips. And it feels shitty. Really fucking shitty. So shitty and such an issue that the Millennials came up with an acronym for this feeling: FOMO (fear of missing out). And yes, it’s a thing. The problem is, it takes us out of the present moment and transports us to a faraway place that isn’t our own. Sometimes, that’s good. And healthy. Oftentimes, it’s not as good. And relationships in a world where everything is available at your fingertips?! Yikes.

This is about to get FUN.

Grab a drink, folks…I think a lot of you will be able to relate to this next part.

First, let’s talk about the illusion of reality. You’re probably wondering what the picture was all about that accompanies this post? Yes, that one - the butt one. Well, it was kind of click-bait to be honest. A “teaser” if you will. Because, as they say, sex sells. It was actually a little bit of an experiment for me to see how much attention it would get if I posted a classic booty pic. That’s the part of social media that REALLY can go fuck off. I know what you’re thinking, “Megan - you post those pictures too you goddamn hypocrite…you’re part of the problem!” Ouch. That hurts. But don’t worry, I am aware of it at least. So there’s that.

But I also know a lot about social media. Like I said, too much. And I’ve talked to many humans in relationships who have struggled with this. Social media has changed the way we conduct our lives and has affected human relationship. It has opened up so many possibilities…which can be good, sure. But, it also can be very, very negative.

Human relationships used to be simple. I remember talking to a friend a few years back who said she had listened to a podcast about relationships and choice, and it was comparing finding a mate to shopping for jam. They said you used to go to the store and have the ability to look at the shelf and see about five kinds of jam. It was simple. You knew what you liked, and you went with it. There weren’t many choices, but you were loyal to your choice and you didn’t look at the others and worry about what they tasted like. But now…now is a different story.

You walk into the store and there are hundreds of types of jam. And you find yourself staring at them all and thinking, “Maybe that mixed berry one is actually better…sweeter…more pleasureful. It might be more expensive, but I bet it tastes sooooo rich.” You get the idea. The internet, smart phones, social media…they have opened up a big ol’ world that used to be much, much smaller. And, we find ourselves scrolling through social media wondering if that human tastes better…without really knowing anything at all about them, but seeing a butt picture. It’s a fucking fantasy world. REMEMBER…you know NOTHING about that person. And then you spend a few days eating that mixed berry jam and you’re like, “damn…I wish I had the strawberry jam in my life again.” The grass on the other side is always greener, right?! It seems so.

And then here’s the other scary part about the way we interact with social media…there have been studies done on the reaction our mind/body has when someone likes our photo on social media…dopamine is released and we get hooked. I’ve felt it. It’s a little dangerous. But, what is the value of a “like” or “follow,” really?! Does it actually have meaning? That’s another thing about social. The younger generation seems to use it in a much different way…scroll, like, like, like, like. No reading. Just liking. What does it even mean?! Here’s where I get into trouble with knowing too much about social media. I think what you interact with and who is in your tribe is a reflection of who you are as a person - the same goes for real life and virtual life. So, if I’m in a relationship but I’m constantly interacting with dudes with their shirts off by liking their photos on social media…what does that mean about me? Furthermore, what does that mean to my partner? Have you ever considered it? Or does that not phase you?

Let me put this into context.

If you were walking with your partner and saw a beautiful human, you’d likely look and appreciate that beauty, right? I would. Because I love beautiful people. Of course, we don’t know anything about who these people really are - but the first thing we see is their cover before we’re able to dive into the pages of the book and really get to know them. So, there’s one thing with looking and appreciating. Engaging with it is another thing. Would you go hug that stranger in front of your partner? Poke them? Pinch their butt? “Hi! I’m here! I just want you to know that!” I know, I know - it’s a bit drastic to compare physical touch with the action of a “like” on social. But is it?

I know what you’re thinking. “This bitch is CRAY.” First of all - yes, I am. We all are. Second of all - hear me out, because I’m not really a jealous person by nature and if I’m in a healthy relationship where everything is on the table and we’re communicating well, it’s not an issue. Here’s a scenario - you and your partner are doing the long distance thang. Your partner is constantly interacting with a girl who often posts ass and titties photos. He doesn’t interact with your posts, but he seems to constantly interact with hers. You’re confused. You start to get jealous and wonder why, but you don’t want to bring it up because it seems silly. You start to fixate on that behavior, and do things like look on Instagram at what he liked. You text him that you miss him. You don’t hear back. You wonder what’s going on.

The worst thoughts get into your head.

You go on Instagram to see when he was last active (yeah, crazy, huh?! It’s happened to the best of us.).

“Active Now” it says.


HA! Oh my gosh, I’m laughing out loud because it’s ridiculous to even write this, but it’s true. I’ve heard this dilemma from more than a few humans in my life. The thing is, unless it’s some far-fetched star from Hollywood, anything goes with social media these days. Seriously. Look at Tinder and Bumble. That’s the very concept of those social tools - meet specifically for human connection (whether it be to date or hook up or whatever), virtually. There was even a term coined for this on Instagram, “Slide into the DMs.” I’ve done it before, and it’s paid off well for me once or twice. Including currently. But that’s the thing, and that’s why we need to be mindful…because what we do and who we interact with in virtual reality is a reflection of who we are just like what we do and who we interact with in reality is a reflection of who we are. You are what you eat, right?! The thing is, oftentimes I’m full, yet I continue to consume.

You text your person. They start to reply.

The dreaded “…” right?! That fucking ellipsis. You hate it and love it. You love to hate it.

It’s actually my favorite punctuation mark, but in this case, it’s the worst. It creates excitement or anxiety.

And then it’s blank.

“Where’d they go?” You wonder to yourself.

But we didn’t used to have our lives at our fingertips. We didn’t used to be expected to immediately write back. We had no choice before. Game changer for dating and human relationships.

I once followed an Instagram account called “Socality Barbie” - this was a satirical account created to mock hipsters and their #blessed lives on social media. In her prime, Socality Barbie had about 1M followers. She was a social experiment that took off, and brought light to the #authenticity of social media. HA! Then, I came across Fyre Festival - and if you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary about it, you should, because it’s insane and absolutely a reflection of the power social media can have in real life, and how the fantasy world that is social media can negatively affect humans in real life. Yes, it’s an extreme case - but it’s worth watching.

So where am I getting with all of this?!

I guess sometimes I wish it all was as simple as it used to be, where you wrote and exchanged real letters (the art of letter writing is still a practice in which I partake, for the record), instant gratification wasn’t a thing, and you were just fat and happy eating your simple, reliable strawberry jam.

Ponder that.

World Championships Notes | 16.2.2019 | More than just medals...a heart of gold.

Megan Harrod

It was never my goal to share work-related material here, but I felt more connected to this piece personally than I have about others I have written, so I wanted to share here. (Most) Every World Cup and World Championships race day, I write behind-the-scenes notes that I share with journalists, fans, trustees and beyond. It’s something I sort of inherited from my predecessor when I started the gig, and ran with from there to make it my own. It’s usually a scramble in the morning to write these and a jumble of thoughts, but it’s a part of my job that I love. Hope you find some enjoyment in it, too.

Photography Credit: MATS LIND PHOTOGRAPHY 

No questions.

No second thoughts.

No holding back.

Break the chains,

free yourself.




(Mikaela Shiffrin, Instagram Post - August 18, 2014)

This morning, I reminded Mikaela that she wrote that five years ago. I also sent her thisbecause - other than Jessica's Daily Affirmations - it's probably my favorite YouTube video.

There's much to be said for Mikaela's success, and perhaps even more to be said when she doesn't have success (which - to many fans and media means winning, in her case)...but perhaps what people forget - among all of the victories and records being broken - is that Mikaela is a human being (cue music, folks).

At this point, she's kind of in the same boat as Hirscher - damned if you do, damned if you don't. The media (and the rest of us) is running out of superlatives. So, perhaps it's bigger news when Mikaela is not successful. Headlines read "Mikaela with work to do in Giant Slalom..." / "Mikaela can't beat wind or rivals in giant slalom" / "Mikaela Shiffrin settles for bronze medal in GS at World Championship" / "Mikaela Shiffrin pipped to gold as Petra Vlhova wins giant slalom." I am not sure how to convey what Mikaela is doing through words - her level of consistency at such a high quality is something magical. To keep that level of consistency week in and week out is seemingly impossible. And so, even we - at times - take for granted what she's doing and who she is.

These numbers tell a story:
22 races, with 17 podiums, 13 of which were wins…
14 wins if you count World Champs super-G

This season, there's a 77% chance Mikaela will podium, and she's got a 64% chance to win a race she enters. That's across slalom, parallel slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill disciplines this season. 

 As Brian Pinelli stated on Twitter:
World Cup winning percentage comparison among top racers...
Ingemar Stenmark 86 wins/230 starts - 37.4%
Mikaela Shiffrin 56/151 - 37.1%
Annemarie Moser-Proell 62/174 - 35.6%
Marcel Hirscher 68/238 - 28.6%
Lindsey Vonn 82/395 - 20.75%

When asked by Eurosport if Marcel and Mikaela will beat his 86 World Cup victories record, Stenmark replied without hesitation, "Both of them will break this record and Shiffrin for sure will get 100."

 She has done things no one has done before - there is a record to break every day she hits the mountain. And yet, she's only human. Get to know Mikaela, and she's one of the most soft-souled individuals I've ever met. She's kind. She's caring. She's real. So, amidst all of the other stuff - the talk about Mikaela being robotic, a machine, a phenom...let's remember - she is a person. A person who, when she won her first World Cup victory here in Åre on December 20, 2012, met a young girl named Emma Lundell, spent the time with the little 11-year-old suffering from Leukemia, giving her an autograph - and then two years later - was moved to tears when she heard that her "little lucky charm" was healthy and doing well.

Last year, Emma came to see Mikaela hoist up her second consecutive overall globe and fifth slalom globe - and win the slalom by a commanding 1.58 seconds. That day, Emma greeted Mikaela in the finish, and Mikaela gave Emma her globe to hold for pictures, invited her to her victory press conference, and shared the stage with her - giving her her flowers. None of it was for the cameras. Mikaela has done these things many, many times without the cameras and media around. Emma and Mikaela keep in touch, and her mom Annika will bring Emma to today's race to watch Mikaela potentially go down in the record books once again. But perhaps today Mikaela will not only hit the headlines because of what she has or has not done on the mountain - but rather who she is off the mountain: a genuinely good human with a heart of gold.

She's not a stats kind of gal, but we are all about it, right?! So let's look at the run-down for the day:

  • Mikaela Shiffrin has won the ladies' slalom world title three times, all at the last three world championships.

  • The only alpine skier, male or female, to have won a specific event four times at the world championships is Christel Cranz: four in the slalom and five in a combination event. 

  • Shiffrin can become the first alpine skier, male or female, to win a specific event at four successive world championships.

  • Shiffrin and Frida Hansdotter have collected three world championships medals in the ladies' slalom, both at the last three editions. Only Cranz (5), Marielle Goitschel (4) and Šárka Strachová (4) have claimed more. 

  • Shiffrin has won four career gold medals at the world championships, equal to Bode Miller in second-place among US alpine skiers. Only Ted Ligety (5) has won more. 

  • Shiffrin has collected six world championships medals, third-most among US alpine skiers behind Lindsey Vonn (8) and Ligety (7).

  • Shiffrin has already won two medals at these world championships: gold in the super-G and bronze in the giant slalom.

  • Shiffrin can join Vonn (2 in 2009) and Andrea Mead-Lawrence (2 in 1952) as the only US women to win multiple world titles at one edition.

  • Shiffrin can become the second woman to claim a world championships medal in the super-G, giant slalom and slalom in one year, after Mateja Svet in 1987 (giant slalom silver, super-G bronze, slalom bronze). 

Again, she doesn't focus on records. So let's dance, shall we?! Yes, let's!

The Associated Press, Like an Angel - Shiffrin Inspired by Cancer Survivor
Coach Jeff Lackie on What Makes Mikaela Shiffrin Different
Alex Azzi, NBC Sports Olympic Talk - "Mikaela Shiffrin could win historic world title, not that she’s keeping track"
Mikaela Shiffrin - Slalom Preview
Men's Giant Slalom Recap - Ligety 11th, Ford 12th

The Scoop/Course Report: It's a bit of a wind-rain mix today - not the most beautiful conditions we've seen here, but alas - we're on the final stretch and today is going to be a good show. I caught up with Jeff Lackie, one of Mikaela's coaches, following inspection and here's what he had to say:

"As we’ve seen over the past couple days of racing, this hill doesn’t offer enough natural challenges to significantly separate the field. In addition, the snow is old and dead which means the athletes will struggle to get any significant rebound from the surface. Despite all this, the course set is good, nice rhythmical swing, with a diagonal corridor that includes a royal flush before the finish pitch. Miki, has had loads of success here in the past with a variety of snow conditions including soft slushy snow like today. Despite how long the course is, you need to ski it like a sprint, every little ‘pitch’ is an opportunity to add momentum."


Women’s Slalom, Åre, Sweden
Start Time: 
1st run-11am CET/2nd run-14:30
U.S. Starters: Mikaela Shiffrin (bib 2), Paula Moltzan (21) and Nina O'Brien (41). 

  • Of her six slalom starts in Åre, Mikaela has won four times. Last year at World Cup Finals, by 1.58 seconds. In 2015, by 1.41 seconds. In 2014, by .60 seconds. And, of course - on December 20, 2012 - her very first World Cup victory, by .29 seconds. I'm not sure if you caught that...but in the last two slalom starts she's had on this track, she has won by a combined margin of 2.99 SECONDS (!!). Take that in, folks. Because THAT is insane.

  •  Paula Moltzan, who skis for the University of Vermont, is a Minnesota-born gal with big talent. After being on the team, then off the team, she has shown that the World Cup is where she belongs. This season she's been 17th, 15th, 12th and 16th, respectively. Keep an eye on her today, as she has posted some smokin'-fast runs...including the second-fastest second run in Flachau, Austria - behind someone who you may know - Petra Vlhova. Nina O'Brien has shown strength on the NorAm Cup this season, and has scored her first World Cup points this year in both slalom (23rd, Killington) and giant slalom (26th, Kronplatz). She is currently ranked first in the NorAm Cup overall, slalom, giant slalom, and super-G standings. 

Who’s in the hunt: Of course, Petra, Wendy, and Frida will all be contenders today - and watch hometown gal Anna Swenn Larsson, too. The heat is on for ol' Österreich, eh?!Schroeksnadel must be beside himself with this stat: Austria has yet to claim its first medal in a ladies' event at these world championships. The last time Austria failed to collect a world championships medal in a ladies' event was in 1982 in Schladming, Austria. Yikes.

World Championships Slalom - 18.2.2017 - St. Moritz
1.  Mikaela Shiffrin (by 1.64 seconds!!)
2.  Wendy Holdener (SUI, bib 3 today)
3.  Frida Hansdotter (SWE, lucky no. 7)
4.  Petra Vlhova (SVK, 6)
5. Sarka Strachova (CZE, retired)

Last Slalom at Åre, Sweden - World Cup Finals - 17.3.2018
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (by 1.58 seconds!!)
2. Wendy Holdener
3. Frida Hansdotter
4. Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR, out with injury)
5. Bernadette Schild (AUT, bib 5 today)

Women's World Cup Slalom Standings
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (860 points)
2.  Petra Vlhova (725)
3.  Wendy Holdener (485)
4.  Frida Hansdotter (348)
5.  Anna Swenn-Larsson (336, bib 4 today)

Women's Slalom 

All times EST
*Same-day broadcast
**Next-day broadcast

Saturday, Feb. 16
5:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 1 - Are, SWE - Olympic Channel-TV, & NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 1 - Are, SWE - NBCSN*
8:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 2 - Are, SWE - NBCSN & NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom - Are, SWE - NBC*

All streams are available via desktop ( and as well as mobile, tablet and connected television platforms. The NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Gold app and Olympic Channel app are available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass.

With zip and zang,


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