Langely McNeal, world-class skier - XGames, World Cup, National Champion and 2014 Olympic hopeful. A lifelong dream supported with dedication, hard work and sacrifice. And, in one brief moment, it all came crashing down.
It is rumored that Langely could ski before she could walk. Raised in Sun Valley, Idaho at the base of a ski mountain by a mother who was a teacher, a father who has served on the ski patrol for over fifty years, a brother and a tight-knit community with a deep respect for skiing and Mother Nature.
“I was raised to believe that I could do anything. I never felt that being a girl should or would stop me from mountain and dirt bike riding, playing soccer and baseball.”
Langely loved all sports but chose to go all-in on skiing as soon as she was old enough to join the local ski team. It became her social life and gave her a sense of self. She was good enough to turn pro. If Langely needed a title for this story it would be Keep Skiing at All Costs. She drove herself hard to win enough to attract sponsors that would allow her to keep skiing as her full-time job.
But, being a world-class athlete is not without personal challenges. Langely suffered a series of big race losses and the loss of a friend to a ski accident followed by her own minor injury. She was disqualified, quite publicly, from the XGames which then left Langely thinking about quitting the sport. She was at an all-time low. Her confidence was shattered and her fear was at an all-time high.
She started working with a sports psychologist and learned about visualization techniques, breath work and positive self-talk. Additionally, Langely focused on nutrition and got stronger in the gym. She renewed her love of skiing and won the National title.
It was December 19, 2013, just weeks before the start of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, when Langely was competing at the World Cup in Italy. She went from 60mph to a crashing halt that shattered her pelvis. Langely lay in the snow knowing that everything she had worked so hard for, all of her dreams, had come to an abrupt end.
Life changed dramatically at that point. She had no idea who she was without skiing. She felt aimless without something to get up and train for every day. The worst part was thinking that the best years of her life were over and how would she ever find anything she loved as much as skiing. Langely believed that she had peaked, and now it was all downhill for the rest of her life. She was 29.
It was then that a good friend told Langely that she was tired of watching her sulk and suggested that she attend a Summit Series to be exposed to new ideas, industries and people. Summit had just purchased Powder Mountain, a 10,000-acre ski resort, an hour north of Salt Lake City.
“My first Summit experience blew my mind.” said Langely, “They created this magical world on top of the mountain that had LED forests by night, and talks and experiences by day led by founders of companies like MTV, Warby Parker, Netflix, athletes like Kobe Bryant and Djokovic, conservationists like Sylvia Earle and Jane Goodall, and mountain biking, hiking, and dancing under the stars.”
These fascinating entrepreneurs, artists, performers, non- profit leaders reminded Langely of professional athletes. They were passionate about what they were creating. These were people who were adding value to the world through their work, no matter how hard it was.
Langely remembers, “I came out of that event with an inspiration and newfound energy that left me buzzing for months. I knew I was not only gonna be ok in the next chapter, I was excited about life again.”
Six months later Langely moved to Powder Mountain to help build the Summit Series brand and community.
“We wanted to flip the model of business conferences and make it less about speaker-to-audience formula and much more about participation and experiences. Most conferences run the same playbook -- buy out a hotel, listen to panel after panel of speakers, feel forced to network, eat unhealthy food, and come out feeling absolutely depleted.”
Summit found that people connect best through shared, immersive experiences that help get them into a different frame of mind. Make them more creative when problem-solving, and take out the tedious transactional nature of networking.
10 years later Summit has produced some of the most exciting events on the planet ranging from taking over ocean liners to building out ten blocks in downtown Los Angeles. They reach from the ski slopes of Utah to the Matthew Mountains of Kenya to the jungles of Costa Rica.
Reflecting on her role as head of community for the last decade, Langely sees that it can be a very isolating and lonely journey being a human. Especially for anyone who is not following the typical blueprint. Starting your own business, being an artist, athlete, parent, non-profit leader – all can be very exciting but also exhausting. Summit builds experiences that connect, recharge and rejuvenate people. Expose people to new ways of doing things by linking them with others in and outside of their industry, mixing and matching generations and people from all sorts of different backgrounds.
The Summit philosophy can’t be overstated… every connection has the ability to change the world.
Langely adds, “My advice to young athletes and innovators is to find the thing that you want to spend the next ten or twenty years working on. What is the thing that you can’t wait to get up and do? You will need to redefine your why constantly and rediscover that original passion and love for it on the days that knock you down. Having your core mission/goal figured out from the start will keep you going in the right direction. “
How did Langely get from Sun Valley to Salt Lake to Stamford? “My wife is an incredible Sports Medicine Doctor for performance horses. Many of the horse farms she serves are in and around Connecticut as is her family so it made sense. Stamford offered so much. Here you can find great parks, beaches, programs and schools.”
The last few years have been spent creating a family of four, helping steward Summit through the global pandemic, and moving to Stamford.
“I’m excited to get to know Stamford a whole lot better. I hear this place is pretty great so I can’t wait to see who I meet and what we create together here.”