Until this year, it looked like UK snowboarder Coco Merz would be spending her days decorating skin instead of chasing snow.
Last year, London-born Coco did a tattoo apprenticeship, but she never got the chance to finish, as she qualified for the UK team instead.
It was crazy. My whole world flipped upside down….
“It was crazy. My whole world flipped upside down,” says Coco. “From that point onwards, snowboarding became my main focus.”
While having been on skis since the age of four, Coco didn’t strap her boots onto a board until she turned fourteen. This was mainly done out of rebellion.
“I wanted to be different from my brothers and parents, so I gave snowboarding a go. I remember it being painful and falling over loads.”
Coco does boardercross, but says she’s never been tempted by other disciplines like slopestyle.
“I try to ride the park as much as possible, but it’s a bit like gymnastics. And I haven’t ever been a good gymnast. I prefer going fast.”
At the age of 18, Coco did her first winter season, before going on to do three seasons back to back.
By her third season she knew she wanted to go professional and entered local comps before taking on the British championships – where she finished fifth.
After meeting some Team GB coaches, Coco was invited along to the trials in Austria, spending a week on the Hintertux Glacier with other hopefuls.
“The British team coach James Foster guided us. Even if you didn’t make it onto the team, you’d had a good week of coaching.”
On the last day, she was told that she’d made team and was signed onto a one-year contract.
We have to take ice baths. We’ll sit in glacier melt water for three whole minutes…
The team has to do on snow training and off snow training. The off snow training, mainly done during summer, focuses on weights and cardio. Then when it comes to the start of the season, training is intensified.
“In October and November, we don’t have any competitions and do two solid months of training. It’s five days on, two days off.”
Pre-season training can be particularly gruelling. “One of the daily things we have to do is take ice baths,” Coco says.
“On the way back down from the mountain, we’ll stop at the river and sit in glacier melt water for three whole minutes. It really hurts, but it’s so funny seeing everyone’s reactions.”
As it’s Coco’s first year on the team, she’s currently learning the ropes.
“I’ve been competing in the Europa Cup, with the main goal of learning instead of racking in points. This involves anything from doing video analyses to learning which waxes to use.”
“The goal the year after that will be to compete in the World Cup. But the Europa Cup is a good start.”
Want to learn how to snowboard? Coco has one tip above all others.
“Just keep at it. The more time you spend on snow, the easier it becomes. Even when the weather isn’t that good, go up the mountain on those days too.”