Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson talks Olympics and how fear is healthy
As the first American woman to win two gold medals in snowboarding, Jamie Anderson has her eye on one more before the Olympic flame is extinguished in Pyeongchang.
Having defended her slopestyle title from the Winter Games in Sochi, the 27-year-old will be cooling her heels until the big-air competition — a new sport for the Winter Games — on Feb. 21. A caballerial (cab) double 900, a frontside 1080 and a cab 1080 (requiring three full rotations) are some of her bigger tricks, but non-Olympic viewers may recognize the blonde-haired Californian as one of the Team USA athletes in the Polo Ralph Lauren ads.
Arriving at WWD’s offices last summer for an interview direct from the airport, Anderson had one request — a quick change of clothes. On the road for eight to nine months a year, she knows how to control her comfort level on the ground or soaring through in the air. Raised outside of Tahoe as one of eight children, Anderson started pitching sponsors at the age of 10 with the help of two of her snowboarding sisters (one of whom medaled at the X Games.) “My home mountain, Sierra, was my sponsor because we couldn’t afford all the equipment. We obviously weren’t making money, but they gave us everything we needed to go snowboarding, which at 10 years old felt like Christmas,” she said. “I kept pursuing it and chose to be home-schooled throughout high school. From 13 on, I went to my first X Games and at 15, I got my first actual sponsors. Back then slopestyle wasn’t an Olympic event. When they added it in 2014, I was right in my prime. It was such a privilege when they added it.”
Off the slopes, Anderson designs snowboards with GNU and goggles, outerwear and activewear with Oakley. For added positivity, “Live for the Moment” is printed on one of her snowboards. A line of journals, earrings, hair gems and cool accessories are also part of her game plan. She wants to create gemstone-adorned beanies made with alpaca from her mother’s alpaca farm in Vermont to benefit a charity. But riding is still her main focus. “In these last three years, there just has been an insane progression in women’s snowboarding, which is incredibly fun to be part of. All these amazing women, who are beautiful and grounded, are doing tricks that men were doing just a couple of years ago,” she said. “There used to be a little controversy with the industry almost not supporting women riding, because it stayed pretty low level. Now, it’s like girls are showing guys up. There are a lot of girls who could actually compete with the men and do well.”
WWD: How fast do you go?
Jamie Anderson: Pret-ty fast. We’re going 50 mph at some points from 70-foot jumps. Some are a little smaller so you can go slower. Also, it depends on the pitch. Sometimes a run is a little flat. Sometimes it’s really steep, so you have to kill a little speed to make yourself slow down with little turns so you don’t go too fast. It’s a really fun way of working with gravity. “Tranny-finding” is what we call it because you want to land on perfect transition. Versus hitting a jump landing on the knuckle — that hurts. You want to land on the graceful downhill because that’s super gentle and feels so fun.
WWD: What’s the greatest challenge about what you do?
J.A.: I would say the fear — overcoming the challenges of the consequences. There is a lot of high risk. You have to be very conscious and trust your intuition, the conditions, how you’re feeling, the technicality of it — making sure you land. Obviously, the conditions can be a little rugged. I know I’m capable of doing all these things, but of course sometimes I’m afraid. I don’t like to do stuff when I’m in that state of mind. So I’ll take a step back, be patient and wait for the feeling to be right, not forcing it. Of course, I also want to work hard. It’s a good kind of ebb and flow. Fear is healthy. You don’t want to not be afraid of anything. But I also don’t want to overpower my capability of what I can do.
WWD: Do you do a lot of trampoline training?
J.A.: Some. Last year the U.S. team invested in a big air bag that riders could hit after taking a 60-foot jump. It is kind of like a Slip-’N-Slide thing so it’s the perfect area to try the tricks. You feel safe that you’re going to land and can find yourself in the air. Then you move it to snow and learn how to make it work.
WWD: What is a typical day?
J.A.: As a kid, I’d be on the mountain from 9-to-4. Now I train six to eight hours a day — gym, yoga and snowboarding. I might go for a bike ride. I like to do other fun activities like slack-lining where you balance like you’re on a tightrope. That’s gotten very popular in the last few years especially in mountain towns. It’s really good for your whole body, core and mental balancing. Also, you’re out with your friends hanging out in the trees. You can set it up however high you want. I usually set it just below my chest but some people do it across huge mountains with harnesses on. But I’m very scared of exposed heights like that.
WWD: What do you think of the 2018 uniforms?
J.A.: They are super fun and they have them made all in the U.S. Sometimes they are a little different. In the last Olympics, the pants didn’t have zippers because there isn’t any zipper manufacturing in the U.S. They wanted to have it all U.S. made. There is a red, white and blue flag that is kind of subtle, not too in-your-face. Good fit, good quality, it feels nice.
WWD: Have you met Ralph?
J.A.: I’m dying to meet him and his wife, hear their story and how they built that establishment. It’s so amazing. [Her agent offered: She got a handwritten letter from him. He writes all of the new athletes a personal letter welcoming them to the team. Apparently, he is a huge fan of the Olympics and that’s how the partnership started. It’s cool because he’s very hands-on. He goes through every single picture of the athletes and picks the ones out that he wants to use for the campaign.]
WWD: Did you study design?
J.A.: No, when we were kids, we would always make stuff by sewing, crocheting beanies or making beads. I have five sisters. We were pretty crafty. With Billabong, I had my own line of streetwear and outerwear for five years. The outerwear was some of their best-selling pieces. I was able to put a little personal flair into functional snow clothes. You could feel a little more feminine and “stylie” on the mountain as opposed to when I grew up, it was mostly boys’ clothes — really big and baggy. Now that this is my second Olympics, it would be really fun to go to school and just learn more. It’s hard for me with clothing because I work pretty closely with Ralph Lauren and Oakley. But I would love to do my own label of clothing.
WWD: Why do you think women are catching up to men in snowboarding?
J.A.: It’s the time for women — women empowerment. We’re just tapping into our power and not letting fear and limitations hold us back. We’re realizing that we’re all capable of whatever we set our minds to. Of course, physically we’re different but there is still a lot more that we’re able to do. Right after the last Olympics I was just feeling really inspired and wanted to learn the really big new tricks that no one had ever done. I think that was a big push for a lot of other girls.
WWD: What do you like to wear when you’re not snowboarding?
J.A.: If I’m going out to a show, I wear some fun, funky clothes — wraps, shawls, dresses, cool wedges, different hats or cool earrings. I’m a little bit bohemian, but kind of New Age-y, not too over-the-top. I love shopping for different brands to see what resonates. I really like shopping in Canada, Vancouver and at yoga and music festivals that have a lot of one-of-a-kind stuff.
WWD: How did you get started?
J.A.: I grew up right outside of Tahoe. My dad was a big skier and snowmobiler. From the age of five, we would go tobogganing. I got a snowboard when I was nine. I just loved it. I was like, “Wow, it’s like a sled, pretty much surfing on the mountain.”
WWD: Why did you start your foundation?
J.A.: It is such a privileged sport even kids in my own community never had the opportunity to go snowboarding. My home mountain gives lift tickets or passes if the kids continue to get straight As. I get to work with all of my snowboarder friends. I say, “Give me your hand-me-downs.” We all have so much equipment. I’ll give them to the kids, who need it. It’s fun to kind of spread the love to the next generation of shredders.