You may know her as the Duchess of York, but if you happened to ski Squaw Valley, Calif., in the late '70s, Sarah Ferguson may have been your instructor. Teaching skiing was just one of the jobs that supported the adventurous teen on Her Excellency?s excellent adventure. Ferguson's mother had her skiing at the age of 3. Before her divorce from Prince Andrew in 1996, Ferguson continued the family tradition, introducing her daughters—Beatrice (now 14) and Eugenie (12)—to skiing also at age 3. With her royal days behind her, Ferguson, 43, has exchanged a fairy tale for a single-working-mom success story. In addition to her ongoing work as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, she has a new book, What I Know Now: Simple Lessons Learned the Hard Way, and is producing a daytime talk show, Fergie, that's set to debut in September. Despite her busy international work schedule, the family spends about three weeks each year skiing together.SKI How did you end up in Tahoe?
SF When I was 17 years old, I set out on an adventure to crisscross America by bus. I had my father's blessing, but not his financial backing, so I had to work my way from city to city. One of my most memorable stops was Squaw Valley, where I was a waitress at the local strudel shop and a human ski lift for kindergarten skiers.
SKI What are your best and worst memories from that trip?
SF My best memories are of the people I met. My worst was my fear of being pulled over for speeding on the slopes!
SKI Do your daughters share your love for the sport? SF Absolutely. I love the fact that each is such a confident skier. That makes the sport fun and keeps it challenging for them. I also like the fact that skiing is a sport they can enjoy their entire lives.
SKI How does it rate as a family activity?
SF I love the whole atmosphere of the mountains—log cabins, snow, log fires, hot chocolate. We feel such joy and freedom when we are all together out on the mountain. Of course, coming back indoors after a great day of skiing offers some of the finest family time I know.
SKI Three ski-lodge words: chili cheese fries. Skiing can be a total diet sabotage. Can you offer any advice?
SF Just because you are on skis or taking exercise, it doesn't give you a reason to overeat. I try to be smart about it. I plan what I'll eat based on what I am doing, so for a day of skiing I'll eat a good breakfast and lunch that will boost my energy level, then go lighter at dinner.
SKI You once said, "I was never cut out for royalty...I have my life back." Is it easier now to ski anywhere you want?
SF Though my days in official life were a great honor and privilege, I never really adjusted to the intense scrutiny and rock-solid structure that came with it. I am a passionate and spontaneous person by nature, and today I feel more at ease without the press questioning whether I've had too many ski holidays at the taxpayers' Expense.