When we shot UK slopestyle wizard Aimee Fuller exclusively for the cover of our October/November issue 2011, we chatted about her need for speed, the X Games, the Olympics and how she wants to catapult women’s snowboarding into the next dimension
Words by Sam Haddad, lifestyle photography by Nicole Maria Winkler, action photos by Matt Georges
I’d like to progress as much as I can and really push the sport for women.
The first time we met Aimee Fuller she was 17 and surrounded by journalists in their late 20s supping champagne in a chalet in Morzine. She looked entirely unfazed and pattered easily with the crowd. And the last time, at the Roxy Pro in Biarritz, we ended up challenging a local French girl to a handplant duel in the street. Again Aimee took the, somewhat odd, situation in her stride and went on to pull some mean moves on the cobbles. We’re yet to see a situation she didn’t look chilled in or a person she couldn’t chat to. She’s confident without being showy and cheeky without being annoying. You can fake a lot things in life, but you can’t fake having a personality.
And then there’s her riding. She’s bold but not risky, smooth but progressive, and most of all incredibly enjoyable to watch. Under the tutelage of ex-pro rider and Roxy Snow team manager Lesley McKenna, the Miyagi to her Daniel-son, she’s grown into one of Europe’s most exciting young slopestyle riders posting some good TTR results last winter, including a fifth at the O’Neill Evolution 6 Star in Davos. But she has far bigger goals in her sights, and we’re not the only ones thinking her future looks mighty bright.
When did you first hit the snow?
I started dryslope skiing when I was four. It was really fun and I remember getting a big adrenaline rush off going fast. I used to go every weekend and the excitement of going was the highlight of the week. Saturday morning lessons with Andy, gunning it from the top, it was a good life!
I get nervous when I don’t land the first time because if you get the first one wrong you only get one more chance, and if you get that one wrong you’re out of the comp. It happens so quickly
What about snowboarding?
When I was 12 my family moved to America, and the nearest hill was an hour and a half away. My friend Tarrick was mad into snowboarding and I really wanted to get into it, so I started to go with him at the weekends, it was a small mellow place but I just loved it. I’d done gymnastics for two years, but snowboarding was something else I could get into that was way more fun. I didn’t like being stuck in one hall doing serious routines and having my hair slicked back. It was too regimented for me.
Did you skateboard much then?
I’ve always been into wheels and fast-moving bikes. I had a quad bike when I was four and used to do Moto X. When I was eight I had a 60cc bike, I raced at the British Championships and came second. It was actually quite a big scene, and quite serious!
Why did you stop?
I had a pretty bad accident when I was about eight and that scared my mum to death. She didn’t really like me doing it anyway.
What kind of accident?
I was in a race and I was just sending it hahaha. It was a pretty big jump, like a table top, and I just went far too big, landed on the front tyre, went over the handlebars and got thrown like a rag doll. My mum and dad were there watching and just realised how dangerous it was. I actually don’t think it fazed me at all though, I just got up.
How did you first get sponsored?
I saw this leaflet for High Cascade camps at Mount Hood, Oregon and I didn’t even know you could snowboard in the summer. I pretty much begged my mum for six months, until she eventually packed me off to the other side of America when I was 15 on my own. Gretchen Bleiler taught me how to do a handplant.
Did you know who she was back then?
Oh yeah I was well into it, even back then, I absolutely loved it. Gretchen was the pro that year and she was awesome and then the following year I met Erin Comstock and Leanne Pelosi and it was Erin who hooked me up with Roxy. Then my family moved back to the UK, I met Lesley McKenna [the Roxy Europe snow team manager, who was then still a Roxy pro rider] went on a week’s Roxy camp and then two months later did the Roxy Chicken Jam as my first comp. I hadn’t snowboarded in between, but I qualified in fifth, but then they moved to a different park for the final and the jumps were really big and way beyond my ability and I just nailed myself.
Had you ever imagined getting sponsored?
No, I was literally there for the love of it. They had all these different comps where you could win a snowboard and that’s how Leanne remembers me to this day, as I pretty much tore the place apart in desperation for a snowboard. And I won.
How influential has Lesley McKenna been on your career?
Very. It’s great to have a role model. She’s always at the start gate and it’s so nice to have someone there you know and trust, so that you can say, “Do you think I can do that?” She generally says yes.
You don’t seem like you get nervous, do you?
I get nervous when I don’t land the first time because if you get the first one wrong you only get one more chance, and if you get that one wrong you’re out of the comp. It happens so quickly. But I don’t get too nervous, if it’s a really big jump that would make me more nervous but not actually competing, I really enjoy it, I froth off it.
Is women’s snowboarding in a good place?
There are so many girls that are progressing so much like Cheryl with her cab dub 9s, that’s so sick. Hopefully next year the progression is going to keep going, the girls are going to start catching up.
Why does Britain produce so many good riders, seeing as we’re a small country with no mountains?
I think it’s just the desire to get out of the UK and do something different. And it’s so accessible from the UK and the flights aren’t too expensive. As it’s something we can’t access it gives us more drive to get out there and do it. Living the dream…
Can we talk about your speeding fine now?
Errrr are we allowed to talk about it? I better check with Michelle [her Roxy team manager]. [We shout over and I suggest it makes her seem badass]. I won’t say what speed I was doing but when the police caught me, I said I was going fast to pick my mum and dad up from the gym.
Haha were you?
That’s good we need some controversial stuff to go in…
Some people say negative stuff [about women’s snowboarding] but I don’t want to. Shall I say what I want to do with the sport? No I don’t want to claim anything.
Yeah go on…
Ok. I’d like to progress as much as I can and really push the sport for women. I feel like there’s a lot of new things that girls haven’t tried yet and I’d really like to try some new stuff.
Like what, more backflips?
I do like a good backflip, it’s a crowdpleaser.
Why don’t people do them more?
Why don’t people do them twice? That’s what I want to do. And I definitely would like to try some of the new things the guys are doing like double corks, I like being upside down, I like being inverted. So next season, I want to try some doubles, Cheryl’s proved that it’s possible.
I’m just waiting for the right jump, with a bit of a slushy landing. I think it’s something I’ve just got to go and rip but kids don’t try that at home. I need to stop being a pussy and try it.
How big a deal is the X Games to you?
The X Games is sick, I was gutted I didn’t get in this year. But you’ve got to earn your spot so I’ve got to earn my spot and get there next year.
Has Jenny Jones doing so well given you confidence?
It’s sick to see another British rider doing so well in such a big event, it makes you see it’s possible. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you live if you have the motivation it’s possible.
I definitely would like to try some of the new things the guys are doing like double corks, I like being upside down, I like being inverted.
How much of doing well is motivation and how much is talent?
A lot is motivation, if you work hard you’ll reap the benefits.
Would you rather have an X Games Gold or Olympics Gold?
Olympics has a lot of recognition but the X Games is very exclusive. It’s so sick that slopestyle is going to be in the Olympics.
Is that now your career aim, to get there?
It is definitely a goal of mine.
To qualify or get a medal?
I’d dare myself to dream to get a bit of bling, hahaha.
Why, for the wider recognition?
Snowboarding isn’t a well known sport, especially in the UK, and it would really put it on the map if someone did well at the Olympics. It’s definitely a goal of mine but I’m not doing to let it affect anything that I’m doing right now. It’s a goal to do well in the X Games too, but my main goal is to progress and if you’re progressing and you’re doing well then the Olympics is just something that happens anyway, hopefully.
What do you think the Olympics in Sochi will be like?
I imagine lots of people in those Russian hats, haha. It’ll be a pretty good showdown, and they’ve sure got the money to make it massive.
I want snowboarding to be massive, the more people that know about it and can get involved in it and have a good time the better. It’s a good way to socialise and it’s nice to get away from the computer, to get off facebook and get out for the day and do something you know.
Aimee is sponsored by Roxy, Vans and Red Bull, follow her steady rise on aimeefuller.co.uk
My main goal is to progress and if you’re progressing and you’re doing well then the Olympics is just something that happens anyway, hopefully.
Styling by Britta Burger
Hair and Makeup by Daniela Koller at Balconyjump using Kiehls and Clinique
Photography assistant: Giulia Frigieri
Styling assistant: Sophie Eggs
Thanks to Roxy