Raquel Vélez was an engineer in the tech industry for a long time and got into skiing about 7 years ago when she moved to the Bay Area. Raquel said she wasn't particularly an outdoorsy person when she was young but she fell in love with skiing immediately. She wanted to invest in her love for skiing as it isn't a particularly cheap hobby, but when she tried to buy ski pants she was shocked by the lack of options available in her size. Raquel got so fed up with it a couple of years later that she decided to make her own pants, and this led to her starting her own company called Alpine Parrot. Raquel says that "Alpine Parrot's mission is to create outdoor apparel specifically for underrepresented groups, namely people of size and people of color." Raquel wants to encourage and see more people from underrepresented groups in the outdoors and on the slopes. Learn more about Raquel below!
If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner who would they be?
This is impossible because there are too many amazing people out there! I think Stacey Abrams, I want to have dinner with Stacey Abrams because I want to know how she can be so incredibly well rounded, and not totally loose her cool on everything all the time. Not only is she this incredible politician and community organizer, she is also a romance novelist, like how do you have time write romance novels in addition to organizing your community and trying to do what’s best for Georgia and the country. How did she not lose her mind when it was obvious that everything was stacked against her? Like how did she turn that into, “alright fine, I’m going to turn the state blue,” I would have just lit everything on fire, but no, instead Stacey Abrams totally turned into action. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the guy behind Hamilton. He is such an incredible artist; I just want to talk to him because I want to know how his brain works. There’s so much stuff that he’s done, he’s incredibly prolific, and yet he also spends so much time on his work, he spent eight years making Hamilton before it even got out on stage. He also wrote, In the Heights, which is the very first Broadway play that I ever watched where I actually felt like, “wow, that’s me on stage,” I’d never seen me represented in Broadway. It’s something that my mom and I used to do was go to New York, because I grew up in New Jersey, and we’d go see Broadway plays. So yeah, I’d love to have dinner with Lin-Manuel Miranda. For the third person I’ll cop out and say my mom, because she died four years ago after battling like five different cancers. I just want to have dinner again with her. She was just the most incredible and badass woman, and I think just the three of these people together I wouldn’t even have to say anything, I could just sit and watch.
How do you relax? Do you have any favourite hobbies that help you wind down?
Yeah, definitely. Besides skiing, and hiking, and we just discovered snowshoeing. I actually knit; I’m currently working on my first cardigan which is pretty fun. Sewing used to be my relaxing hobby and now it is my day job, so not so much anymore. I really love logical games like sudoku and things like that, it keeps my brain active while also not having to deal with anything outside in the world. Those are kind of my big things. I also have two dogs and they are so ridiculous and silly.
What do you love most about Coalition Snow?
I love how unapologetically feminist it is. I have a tendency to over apologize, and Coalition doesn’t apologize unless it’s something that’s genuinely warranting an apology. They’ll mess up just like anybody else but when it comes to taking up space, setting boundaries, there’s no apologies there it’s like, “no, we deserve this space just as much as anybody else.” The other thing I really love about them is that it’s cool if you “shred gnar” but it’s totally cool if you don’t! And I haven’t seen a ski company really embrace that perspective at all.
What is your favorite product? Why?
I currently own a few Coalition things, one of the things is the SOS skis which I literally just skied on for the first time this week, and they rip so hard, so good. They are the fattest skis I’ve ever had, which at 108 they aren’t that fat, but my other skis were a 93 under foot so now I’m like, “woah! I’m on planks here.” But yet I was able to get onto edge really quickly, I was actually more confident on SOS’s than on my other skis and that felt so cool. And then the other products I have are face masks, which again are unapologetically feminist, and I’ve been wearing them while skiing.
How long have you been working with Coalition Snow? How did that relationship start?
The way I met Jen was when I was in Truckee last winter and they had the Coalition HQ, like clubhouse, in Truckee and I thought “I keep hearing about this feminist ski company, I’m going to go check it out.” Jen wasn’t there but I was like, “hey, I’m about to start this company and I’m wondering if I could talk to Jen?” and whoever was working at the front desk gave me her email so I could reach out. I emailed her and she replied “yup, let’s talk on the phone,” and then we met up, and then it just kind of blossomed. We were talking on the phone and I said, “honestly, my skis, I just don’t feel like they represent me, they’re beautiful skis don’t get me wrong, but they didn’t represent me and who I am, what I care about,” and then Jen asked if I wanted to be an ambassador for Coalition. I actually got my first ride on my Coalition skis this week and it was the greatest experience.
What is the best advice you can give to younger athletes or people aspiring to come into the snow sports world?
Yeah, I think it really is finding your community. It can get really lonely really fast if you don’t find a group of people that you feel like are at your same level, at your same speed, and have the same sense of safety as you. You could do it by yourself and there are days when I love skiing by myself, but knowing that there is someone else you can talk and try to improve together. And then the other big piece of advice is to take lessons, please for the love of all that is good if you want to even remotely do well in this sport definitely get lessons, it’s not something you can just learn from a friend.
Do you have any tips for finding motivation to push through tough days?
My favorite way to think about it is this notion of building time, when you’re on the mountain or in your start-up or anything, every single day is another opportunity to tweak your understanding of the world around you. I used to do stand-up once upon a time, and before you get on the big stage you go on the little stages, and you will bomb, you will bomb so incredibly hard, like no one will laugh at a single joke that you make. And yet those are the most important days, because those are the days where you figure out what you are made of and what is actually funny. If you are succeeding all the time you have no idea what it’s like to fail, you don’t know what mistakes are, you’re not actually learning anything. It’s the days that suck the most that actually make you better, but it’s impossible to remember that in the moment.
Do you have any tips for handling the stress or anxiety, when you feel like there’s too much on your plate?
Yes, definitely, breathing exercises are so amazing. It seems so simple, we all breathe, we all just know how to breathe, it’s in and out, but there’s so much more to it and it’s such an art. When you really get into it you calm your mind and start to break things down. Or I like to throw everything I have in my brain onto paper, and then start prioritizing all of it.
What is your least favourite type of music?
Mariachi music, I cannot handle mariachi music, it plays at every single Latinx event ever and I’m sorry, I’m not Mexican and I did not grow up with mariachi music. And every time I hear it, I can appreciate that other people love this but this is not my culture, not my background, and the fact that you’re assuming that it’s my culture and background really bugs me. Haha that has so many layers to it.
Do you snore?
No, but I do talk in my sleep.
What did you eat for breakfast?
I used to live in Berkley, so this is the most Berkley-esque thing ever. I ate homemade yogurt with homemade granola and strawberries.
What is your favourite movie?
Pretty sure it’s Dirty Dancing
Coffee or tea?
What is your favourite season?
Fall I think, I found reasons to love every season but fall has the colors.
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Dark, not a question
Would you go to a movie alone?
Yes? Yes, I would
Window or aisle seat?
Window every time
Favourite ice cream flavour?
Mint cookies and cream
(ed. note: interview has been edited for length and clarity)