Tahoe Magazine: Q-and-A with Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson
A version of this Q-and-A first appeared in 2015-’16 winter edition of Tahoe Magazine, a product of the Sierra Sun, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe Action.
Twelve X Games medals, an Olympic gold, back-to-back-to-back Dew Tour championships, a 2015 Burton U.S. Open title and reigning No. 1 female slopestyle rider on the World Snowboard Tour, she’s Tahoe’s golden girl — Jamie Anderson.
But with all her accolades, the soft-spoken snowboarder is still just Jamie-Lou from South Lake Tahoe — the humble girl who’s immensely grateful for the world of experiences she’s been given and looking to give back.
Though currently recovering from an injury, she’s set on pushing the boundaries of women’s snowboarding once again. The 25-year-old rider told Tahoe Magazine she’s even looking to step it up a notch this winter, and will be taking on a coach for the first time since age 15.
Tahoe Magazine caught up with a slightly jet-lagged Anderson by phone while she was taking a break from a busy summer at her mom’s farm in Vermont. Between stacking wood, tending to her mom’s veggie garden and feeding eight alpaca, Anderson spoke about what she’s been up to, the season ahead and what’s behind her success.
First off, how are the alpacas?
“They’re amazing. My mom uses their wool to make really cool mittens and sweaters and beanies and alpaca wool accessories. They’re a little bit shy. They don’t really like to be pet, but they’ll come over and give you kisses if they like you. And they’re so sweet.”
Based on your Instagram, it looks like you’ve been busy. What have you been up to?
“I’ve been having so much fun. I got to do some cool events in the summer time. I hosted the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail (Colorado). I went to Summer X Games. Then I was in New York for some Oakley events. They have one of the biggest women’s races in the world in central park. I did that — my first 10K.
“I got to spend a little time in Tahoe. I did Wanderlust — the yoga event – a little bit of camping, little bit of exploring. Then I went shredding. I went to Dubai for some work stuff and to check to out the city, then flew right to New Zealand to do the first World Cup of the year, which was awesome — really fun, really beautiful. New Zealand is one of my favorite places on the planet.
“I spent three weeks in Austraila snowboarding at Perisher.
“It was super fun; they have one of the best parks in the world. Vail actually just bought Perisher, so they’re even stepping it up more.”
With all that travel, have you had time to unwind?
“Kind of, it’s been so much moving around, but I’ve been pretty good trying to chill out when I can and where I can.
“I hung out with some kangaroos, and did some exploring, and then spent two weeks in Bali, surfing and kind of unwinding — eating some good food checking out the culture. I’ve never been to Indonesia so I was definitely stoked to go somewhere warm and just kind of chill out, try to surf.
“Being here at the farm now is so good, eating out of the garden, hangin’ out with the alpaca, spending time with my mom, which I don’t get to do much any more. So it’s been a real treat.”
Looking back on the last year and a half, how has life changed since winning gold in Sochi?
“It’s just gotten a bit more busy. I’ve had a lot of cool opportunities. I got to do some really cool speaking engagements, some talk shows. I got to meet Ellen and Jimmy Fallon … Kind of just a little more attention. I got to go on the Apprentice and do some cool stuff with Trump. I got to play for POW — Protect Our Winters. It was cool to bring some awareness to climate change and to our environment, which I obviously care so much about.
“Yeah, just kind of meeting different people. I don’t know, I’m a pretty humble, down-to-Earth person. I wouldn’t say that everything has changed a lot, but I guess I’ve had a little bit more attention — and maybe some more Instagram followers.
“Other than that I’m still the same Jaime Lou from Tahoe, keeping it real, giving thanks for all of the cool opportunities that I have.”
You’ve won X Games, the Dew Tour and Burton Open a bunch of times, the gold in Sochi. What’s left to accomplish?
“I don’t know. I guess I’m just inspired to progress with everything I’m doing. I really love snowboarding. I love the opportunities it’s been able to bring me. Combining that with yoga and mountain biking, hiking and some other stuff I love, I just feel like they all go hand-in-hand. Definitely snowboarding and being on the mountain is where I feel the most connected. It brings me so much joy. I’ve been really passionate about it since I was 10 years old. So it’s pretty crazy to say that I’ve been snowboarding for 15 years and have done well in a lot of events. But I’m still inspired to progress and do more and kind of lead they way of women’s snowboarding.”
All of that success without a full-time coach, you’ve made it look easy. How do you do it?
“I guess I’m pretty mellow. The only coaches I’ve ever had were on the Sierra-at-Tahoe team. That was till I was about 14 or 15, then I just kind of rode with the boys, rode with my friends and learned along the way.
“Now I’m actually thinking about working with Brady Gunsch again, the coach from Sierra, and bringing him to the Dew Tour and the X Games, and just working with him on some stuff. Because now I’m really pushing my level of riding and wanting to learn bigger tricks and do different things.”
Why add a coach now?
“I think it can definitely help to have the support of a coach. I think there’s a time and place. It gets a little bit crazy when everyone at a contest has like two coaches on their case. But I kind of feel a little bit lonely now … So I thought it would be really cool to go back to the roots and someone that I trust and I’ve known for a long time … I can be pretty casual most of the time, which is good and who I am, but I want to see what I’m really capable of if I focus my energy and set bigger goals and work hard.”
At contests you tend to look like you’re just out there having fun. What’s your approach?
“I try to relax. I try to chill, do a lot of yoga, visualize, stay calm, have fun and enjoy it. It’s such a privilege to snowboard and do these sports and get to go to different mountains all over the world. I don’t want to stress. I don’t want to freak out. I want to enjoy what I’m able to do. It’s so much more fun when you’re having fun.”
Do you ever stress?
“Definitely. It’s kind of a part of the game. It’s been a fun challenge because it’s ever changing. Some days you feel great. Some days you feel a little more stressed or maybe not as solid on your board. It’s part of it. Life’s a roller coaster. Especially being a female athlete I think we’re dealing with even more of the emotional body.
“But it’s fun to be able to play with nerves. I mean, I always get nervous at events but it’s kind of what keeps you going.”
You’re a huge yoga advocate. What role has yoga played for you in managing that stress?
“Yoga has been awesome in my life. Snowboarding is quite impactful and kind of gnarly on the body. It can be really stressful at times. I’ve found that yoga has really helped me counter balance the physical, spiritual … every aspect of it.
“I probably started doing yoga when I was a teenager — like 18 or 19. Just the whole philosophy and lifestyle and really having a practice; it can be anything like meditating or sending out prayers or taking some time for yourself. I think it’s something everyone can benefit from living in the crazy world we live in. But for me in competitive snowboarding, it’s definitely been really, really, helpful.”
How do you view the state of women’s snowboarding with younger girls like Chloe Kim bursting onto the scene?
“It’s awesome. I mean there are so many talented girls and it’s been so cool to watch everyone evolve. Chloe Kim, for sure, she’s one of my favorite young-buck shredders. I think she’s got the best style. It’s just fun to watch.
“It’s so fun to see that it’s not just the crazy big tricks. It’s actually a lot of style and a lot of integrity that goes into it. It’s cool too that all the girls are really feminine and really beautiful. You don’t see that in a lot of sports. I think it’s pretty cool that we can all do whatever we want. We don’t have to be afraid of being around the boys.
“It’s definitely this new generation and it’s such a privilege. I know that when my mom was in school she wasn’t able to do sports at all. It wasn’t really even something people cared about. It’s definitely taken a huge turn and I think it’s changed and it’s helped a lot of women’s lives. I’m so thankful I get to be an athlete for the time being.”
Why slopestyle over halfpipe?
“It’s really creative and fun and different. It’s a different course on every mountain. It kind of brings out a little more personality. I think that’s why it was such a good showing at the Olympics. It’s really light. It’s really fun and creative, just totally different than halfpipe.”
Why call Tahoe home?
“Because it is home — born and raised. Just have a lot of heart and soul there, my family is still there, most of my siblings. My dad has a cabin up by Sierra. It’s just a really, really special place on the planet. I love the lake and I love the rivers. I love the people. It’s just nice to go home and recharge in a really pristine place.”
With so many options in the Tahoe Basin, what is it about Sierra-at-Tahoe that makes it your home mountain?
“Because I grew up in Meyers and Sierra was my very first sponsor and really helped pave the way of my competitive snowboarding. (They) paid for things when I wasn’t able to do it. My coach, Brady Gunsch, and John Rice, the general manager — they’re filled with heart and soul and that mountain is all about family and community. It’s really, really special to have a resort that’s so open-hearted and kind. I love it. The energy there is magic. My dad has a cabin there right near the mountain. It’s home. Always has been, always will be.”
What’s in store for you this season? What are you looking forward to?
“I think it’s going to be awesome. I’m really stoked to shred and not do as many events. I’m going to do a couple major ones like X Games, Dew Tour and the U.S. Open, and then I’m going to spend a lot of time capturing content — filming and shooting photos, going to places on my bucket list, like Revelstoke. I want to go to Japan and I want to spend some time in Switzerland and kind of just follow the snow.”