Growing Up Dirtbag
Around Christmas time my grandpa (Papa Pat) asked me “Who are you?”. If you need to know anything about my grandpa, you need to know that this is a trick question. He knows who I am. But I didn’t really have an answer. My grandpa said he didn’t want to know that I was a skier, he already knew that. He wanted to know my character. He wants to know who I will become as a person. I’m not sure I have an answer, but my grandpa and I know that the way I am growing up will make a big difference in who I become.
Right now, I am growing up Dirtbag.
When someone gets called a Dirtbag, you might think of a stinky jerk. I think a lot of people use this word in a derogatory way. When I hear Dirtbag, I hear fun, exciting adventures, traveling and pushing the boundaries. Dirtbag’s are the skiers, climbers, and boaters of my community. My Dirtbag community is very smart. Some are rebels and some are professionals. In my community, a Dirtbag does what most people can’t do or are afraid to do.
We spend allot of time on the road exploring and looking for adventure, which means telling stories, and making new Dirtbag friends. We have some amazing friends. We even have a Dirtbag parking lot at our ski area (it’s the best parking lot ever). We spend a lot of time on tailgates eating lunch and sharing stories. We have group adventures, travel to rivers together, and camp out together. When my parents have to work, and can’t get me to the mountain, there is always someone playing hooky from work who can give me a ride. We are a community and helping each other is our lifestyle.
One of my favorite things about growing up Dirtbag is that when we are on an adventure bathing is not important. Brushing my hair? No big deal. When you’re looking for adventure there are more important things to worry about. No one judges me because of the way I look. My Dirtbag community judge me on how I act. They judge me on how I chose a safe line skiing.
Whatever adventure we are on we push the boundaries. In 2015, my parents and I skied all of the fifteen Montana ski resorts in fifteen days. I rafted the Lochsa river every year since I was 9, and my parents stopped logging my river miles once I passed 500 miles by the time I was 5. My parents find weird jobs in new locations and because of that I have skied in Canada, Argentina, Chile, and the French Alps. We even lived in New York once, but we made time to do an East Coast Ski Extravaganza. We skied most of New England, New York and even hit Quebec. I have walked the trails of Lewis and Clark, climbed Colorado’s fourteeners, fished in Argentina, explored caves in Mexico and climbed pre-Columbian pyramids of Mesoamerica. But Montana is definitely home.
When people ask me who I am, I say: I have a community that encourages me to be strong and caring. Brave and safe. Athletic and smart. I train hard, and play hard. I have traveled to the places we learn about in books and I have experienced the plants, animals, and environment you watch about on TV. I am a kid who is 11, and I’m not sure who I am yet, but I’m growing up Dirtbag.
Vay O’Brien is a two time USSA U11 Women’s Slopestyle Junior National Champion.
When she is not in school she can be found on the Mt’n skiing free or playing on her raft. Follow Vay’s adventures on Instagram @bavloveski, on her FB Athlete Page, or subscribe to her skiing and rafting videos on her YouTube Channel.