Here at Vine Styles we have some seriously incredible customers. Meet Grace, she hurtles herself down an ice track, head first, reaching speeds of around 120km/h (that’s what most people drive down Deerfoot Trail…) for fun! A Skeleton athlete with a love for food and wine, Grace shares how she balances the things she loves the most in life, why she shops Vine Styles and which bottle she’s hanging onto for a special occasion!
VS: Tell us how you came to be a Skeleton athlete.
GD: I started Skeleton in 2012, after growing up figure skating for 14 years. I always think of it as one of those stories where if one thing would have gone differently I don’t think it would have actually happened. A family friend’s son was on the Olympic team, they suggested I try it (skeleton) out. There is an event at COP called Passport to Sport so I got to try it from the ‘Tourist Start’ (corner 11), I remember it really well, 2010 Olympic champion John Montgomery was there! He told me I had a good build for skeleton and gave me some advice. I was really nervous, even just the 4 corners were terrifying but for some reason I was drawn to it. Next thing I know I’m in a recruitment camp testing things like sprinting, throwing and long jump, after that I was invited to a “driving school” where you learn how to race over a weekend, and on the last day you actually do a run from the top! I completed both of my two runs and I was invited to be on the Alberta Provincial Development team.
VS: What does your average day look like?
GD: It really depends on the season. When I’m in competition season my day is full of sliding. I’ll slide in the morning, get home, train and then go over my notes and repeat! On tours it’s much more hard-core. When I’m home, I’m really not a morning person, my dog Ivy gets me out of bed and I enjoy a slow morning with her, that’s a pretty important constant in my life! After that I head in for training and in the afternoon, when I’m most productive I do work, promo stuff like podcasts and interviews like this. I’m a night owl, which works well since my lifestyle is far from typical.
I work at the Cochrane Multisport Program for Sport for Life Cochrane. I work full time all summer when the programs are up and running, in the winter they don’t need me as much after the programs have been coordinated. It works well while I’m training and sliding!
VS: Your sport takes you all over the world, what keeps Calgary as home?
GD: I’m a born and raised Calgarian so my family is all here, that’s my number one what keeps me here. I just bought a house in June so no matter where I travel/for how long (8-10 weeks this year) it’s so nice to have my place to come home to, and that certainly keeps my roots here. My friends are here too, and we have a great training facility so it’s a great fit for me.
VS: Most of your travel seems to take you to more “wintery” destinations, if you could take a wine and food trip anywhere, where would it be?
GD: This year I competed in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with some vacation time in Poland. If I could do something more wine focused it would be Spain and Portugal. They are next on my list for a “real vacation”. I’m going to San Francisco this summer too, I’m really looking forward to that! I’d also like to go back to Italy, I went as a teenager with my family but I’d love to go back and be able to appreciate the wine!
VS:You’re a foodie, as an athlete, how do you find time/space in your busy life for food wine and culture?
GD: When I’m traveling during my competitive season I really like to eat locally. We often stay in family-run hotels, the family often lives in the house behind the little hotel. There was one place we stayed at in Germany where the Grandmother of the family cooked for us which was amazing! You really get to see what the local fare is like and enjoy the local wine and beer that you can’t get at home in Canada. But it does depend what part of the season it is, when I’m two weeks up from the Canadian selections that determine my races for the year, I’m eating pretty clean, cooking for myself and only enjoying wine once or twice a week. Now that my season has wrapped up for the year I can get be a little freer and enjoying wine and going out for dinner. For athletes, food is fuel but I really believe food should be good for you, good for your belly and good for your soul!
VS: Where are your favourite places to grab a bite in Calgary?
GD: The Guild, Juree’s Thai (seriously, you need to try it!), Monki, The Beltliner, Model Milk and Hayden Block are at the top of my list but I could go on forever.
VS: What is your most memorable wine moment/bottle?
GD: I don’t think I’ve had my defining wine moment yet. I have a bottle in my wine fridge, 2015 Sage Hills Pinot Noir and I’m hoping is ‘the one’. It’s the first bottle I bought with the intention of saving for a while. I think I will open the Black Sage after my Team Selections in October, especially if I make the jump to the National Team. If not for then, maybe during the Olympics next year. Or just for a Thursday, who knows! Sunday dinner with my family is really important to me, we gather over food and wine every week so that pillar of my life really makes wine special for me.
VS: If you could give advice to people trying to make time for wine and exercise in their life, what would it be?
GD: It’s all about moderation and finding your own balance of what keeps you sane and happy! There is no “one-size fits all” answer to this but I’m more of a quality over quantity kind of wine drinker, I’d rather have one great glass than a whole cheap bottle. Drinking can really impact your recovery and sleep so moderation is really important.
VS: If you weren’t a skeleton athlete, what sport/athletic activity do you think you’d be doing instead?
GD: I’ve been an athlete most of my life, after I quit figure skating I didn’t really know how to be active without that structure in my life. If I hadn’t found skeleton I really don’t how active I would be. My university degree really goes along with that, it’s in Health and Physical Education, my major is Physical Literacy. It’s a relatively new area, it’s always been around but now it has a name for it since kids have stopped being physically literate. Meaning that they feel confident, competent and motivated to move and participate in sports. When I started learning about that I really identified with that when I was between figure skating and skeleton and just starting to remember all the things I could do as a kid!
VS: What is your greatest personal achievement (athletic or not!)?
GD: It’s a real toss-up between a few things. Last year I got my university degree, I became a homeowner and went to World Junior Championships for Skeleton all within 6 months of each other!
VS: What do you enjoy most about shopping at Vine Styles?
GD: My first visit was a Discover Your Style Day with my Mom. It was so much fun to try different things. The store isn’t intimidating and being arranged by style helps give direction for customers as to what they would like. I don’t really focus on regions, I don’t have biases against any region and I found organization by region was hard to navigate for me, I’d just end up going up and down the aisles aimlessly. Vine Styles is easy to shop at for buying for people too, if you have an idea what they like it’s easy to know what section they would probably enjoy!
VS: Which one of our signature styles describes you best?
GD: I think I’m ‘Smooth’, but sometimes ‘Bold’. I think that corresponds to my personality, I like to think I’m pretty smooth and easy-going, I don’t talk a lot, I listen a lot, like a ‘Smooth’ wine, it doesn’t loud talk, but it is always there. But sometimes I’m ‘Bold’ in the right situations I am very outgoing and you need to ‘