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Grete Eliassen wins $25,000, gives it away

Ullr girl donates prize money to charities

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By Andrew Mitchell

Ullr: Norse God of skiing, God of hunting, and, now, the Goddess of giving.

After six months of voting narrowed more than 420 submissions down to 14 finalists, one girl emerged from a week of on-snow competitions and cultural events to claim the grand prize of the Whistler-Blackcomb sponsored If Ullr Was A Girl contest last week. That grand prize was a cheque for $25,000 — and the winner promptly announced her plan to donate every cent of it to charity.

It was a huge gesture for 20-year-old Grete Eliassen, made all the more impressive because she almost didn’t make it to Whistler.

“I was debating whether to even come up, I was so tired after being on the road since the beginning of March,” said Eliassen, who lives in Salt Lake City. “After a while I decided to just go, have some fun, and with everyone there it was just a ball. The contest was great, the skiing was great, all the people were so good to hang out with.”

Eliassen split her prize money between two charities — the Women’s Sports Foundation, which promotes women in sports and is lobbying to get equal prize money for women in the X Games; Stand Strong Again, an organization that was created to fund spinal cord research after Eliassen’s close friend Lars Veen was paralyzed during a ski training accident; and a hunger relief organization.

It was the most money Eliassen had ever won, but she came into the competition with her mind made up that she would donate the prize to charity.

“I can’t really explain my mindset, but I feel so blessed already with my skiing, this was one way I could think of to give something back,” she said.

The winner in the pro category was chosen based on a second round of voting, which wrapped up last week, as well as an arts and culture showcase, and results in both the McDonald’s Stompede and a big mountain competition. Although she’s no stranger to competing, and did well in both the Stompede and Ullr contests, her favourite event was the Ullr Unleashed arts showcase.

“We never get to do stuff like that. Usually we’re just skiing and snowboarding and we never get to see the creative side of people. I can’t paint, I can’t take photos, I can’t make a table like Sarah (Burke) but I speak a little Chinese. Standing in front of everybody and singing in Chinese was pretty crazy for me.”

Eliassen, who usually focuses on events like slopestyle and halfpipe, was also new to big mountain competitions.

“I had no idea what I was supposed to ski,” she said. “In slopestyle everyone skis the same thing, the same line, although you might get to choose a jump or a rail here and there. With big mountain we all got to ski different lines, and it was interesting to see how creative people could be and what they were skiing.”

The 11 other pro competitors in the Ullr running were snowboarder Joanna Dzierzawski of Tahoe, snowboarder Vanessa Stark of Whistler, skier Pip Hunt of Salt Lake City, snowboarder Bev Vuilleumier of Nevada, snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll of Whistler, skier Lynsey Dyer of Jackson Hole, skier Jess Cumming of Colorado, skier Sarah Burke of Whistler, snowboarder Leanne Pelosi of Whistler, snowboarder Dominique Vallée of Squamish, and skier Meg Olenick of Colorado.

In the Stompede, Eliassen was the top skier and Joanna Dzierzawksi the top snowboarder. Dominique Vallée won the arts showcase. Lynsey Dyer and Vanessa Stark won the big mountain competition and Meredith Eades won the online voting.

There was also an amateur contest, which featured Sun Peaks snowboarder Angie Seeley and Vancouver skier Meredith Eades. Seeley won the contest, along with a pro package that included a spot in a video, a professional photo shoot, and free gear.

For more on the If Ullr Was a Girl contest, visit www.ifullrwasagirl.com.

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