Robin Barnes Reflects on Four Terms as a PSIA Alpine Team Member

As PSIA-AASI prepares to announce a new National Team tomorrow, we sat down with long-time PSIA Alpine Team member Robin Barnes to reflect on her highlights and contributions from previous terms.

Here, Robin shares insight from four terms on the team, which include the introduction of the Learning Connection Model and Interski participation at St. Anton, Austria; Ushuaia, Argentina; Pamporovo, Bulgaria; and Levi, Finland.

Q: What has being on the PSIA-AASI National Team meant to you?

A: It is hard to put into words what being a part of the national team for 16 years has meant. Working as a team member, some events are with the entire team, or nearly the entire team, and others are with one or two team members. The spirit of the team is to always bring your “A game,” whether it’s skiing, presenting and coaching, or in the spaces in between while booting up among a group of eager clinic participants, attending an après event, or traveling to and from events and all of the craziness that can entail.

It’s important to best represent our organization, but to also be accessible and to make each other look good — meaning to support each other however we can. Sometimes, that’s lending skis because yours didn’t show up, sometimes that’s waiting at the bottom of the hill gathering latecomers while your teammate takes the group on a warmup, or just setting each other up for success by making sure they have space to prepare to present at an event. We perform individually a lot of the time, but we absolutely perform as a team in supporting one another and setting each other up for success.

Q: What do you feel have been the greatest contributions to the PSIA-AASI member experience in your specific terms?

A: I spent my first three terms on the team traveling to different areas around the country nearly every week. Creating community, tapping into inspiration, building better skiers and teachers, and encouraging curiosity about snowsports on a broader scope is an accomplishment I feel proud of.

Being a part of building the first version of our Alpine Technical Fundamentals was one of the most meaningful projects I worked on with the alpine team. We had not clearly defined what our “best” skiing was all about. We had the “skills concept,” which is about all the different things that we can do with our skis, but we wanted to define what GOOD skiing was about. Of course, each of us on the team had biases about that and the process of distilling it down to truths that were present in all skiing was pretty awesome. The conversations and debates that ensued brought our individual and collective understanding of truths together.

Along with that, the relationships that team members create with members while traveling to different regions around the country, relationships with our international counterparts during Interskis, and relationships with team members that are rich and fulfilling. Also, the opportunity to create those relationships that are all connected to snowsports education is really cool.

Q: Are there a few highlight reel moments that stand out more than others  and why are those the memories that stand the test of time?

A: In Levi, Finland, Jonathan Ballou and I went through great lengths to find the best bar trays fit for sliding down the mountain. We eventually found them, coerced one of the employees to join us, and descended down the mountain together hooting and hollering. It was long and it was pretty steep (for traying). We were in street clothes and were completely soaked at the bottom. It was a blast. Antics like that are commonplace when you get creative team members together.

All of the Interskis have been massive highlights. The learning that goes on when sharing with others from around the world who are at the highest levels in their respective countries is just incredible. I’ve learned about their systems, but the process of comparing has helped me to understand and learn more about our system, too.

Sharing my national team experience with Michael Rogan has been special. He’s a special person as a life partner, but also as a teammate and coach. I’m incredibly fortunate that we’ve been able to share 16 years as teammates. It’ll be hard next fall when he jaunts off to team training and I don’t join. I’ll look forward to stories of the new team and new teammates, new accomplishments, and new antics.

Q: What does it actually take to get on the national team?

A: The obvious answer is that it takes a very high level of athletic performance and exemplary coaching and communication skills. That’s all very true. Team members need to show versatility and adaptability all the time in their roles. What is less evident if you have not been around the team is the ability to support each other and our membership, be accessible, and authentically care about our organization and snowsports. Team members have to react in a moment’s notice to be able to present on a current trend or be ready to roll up our sleeves and give an impromptu presentation on a bus, in the bar, at lunch, etc. on anything under the sun about skiing/riding/coaching.

Q: What’s the application process for someone who would consider this a future goal?

A: The application process could seem like “jumping through hoops” if you don’t take the time to make the process about learning, reflection, and defining who you are and what you believe in. Candidates are asked to submit writing pieces, videos of themselves, cover letters, etc. in the application process. Through that process there is self-discovery and more importantly the ability to express discovery and purpose to others. It’s valuable. We should all do it more.

Q: Is there any advice you could share about how someone could start to train for the 2028 tryout?

A: Yes, pay a lot of attention. Surround yourself with others who are striving. Go to National Academies where you get to interact with team members. Work on mental skills. Get fit, really fit. Pay attention. Broaden your scope of influence, both in where you have influence, but also where you get influence from. Ride or ski on difficult terrain that others steer clear of. Seek feedback. Listen to feedback. Lean in to what makes you uncomfortable. Love what you do, every day. Did I mention, pay attention?

Q: From whom or where do you continue to find your inspiration? (Kudos or shoutouts?)

A: So many teammates provide me with inspiration in different ways. Ann Schorling was a big influencer of our people skills. How she manages and leads through people skills is an inspiration for me. Each of my teammates inspire me in different ways at different times.

I also find inspiration in World Cup racing. If you see what those athletes do and if you recognize the slopes and snow that they are doing that on, it’s just amazing. Power, finesse, accuracy, adaptability at its finest.

And then, I get so much inspiration from Mike Porter. He’s been at this game for a long time and is utterly relevant. He loves this sport and he loves sharing it, and helping others.

Q: What are your next big goals?

A: Next big goals are to make sure my skiing and coaching stay at high levels. I have a different leadership role at Heavenly Mountain Resort, and it’s important to me that while I grow in this role, I always feel like an athlete and to be able to perform on skis and as a coach at a very high level. This is an important part of who I am.

Learning more about our industry, what it takes to run a resort, and especially creating strong teams to work with who are inspiring to others is another goal. Doing the simple, important things with consistency matters.

Q: How has the national team experience helped you prepare for what’s next? 

A: How much time do we have for this answer? The national team experience has helped in every imaginable way for what’s next. Teamwork, resilience, communication, collaboration, fortitude, athleticism, handling pressure, building relationships, writing, listening, supporting, leading, sleep deprivation, love, curiosity, friendship, openness, influence, and gratitude are just some of the wonderful things around which I’ve grown with my four terms as a national team member.