With the snow season approaching heavily (first flakes were reported to have landed in the South of Germany last night!), we caught up with Austria’s new talent in the making, Birgit Rofner, to chat park vs pow and last chances for an Olympic appearance at the Hintertux Opening last weekend
Interview by Anna Langer, photos by Völkl / Patrick Steiner
Hey Birgit, can you give us a little intro for yourself?
I’m from a little town called Kühtai in Austria, 20 minutes from Innsbruck and right enjoying the Betterpark Opening on the Hintertux Glacier in the Zillertal.
How is the park?
With the weather it could be a little bit better at the moment, but it’s still a lot of fun and definitely worth coming here!
[It was actually raining cats and dogs as you might have seen from our instagram feed but Birgit is a positive thinker!]
Is it good for girls?
Yes, totally! I haven’t tried the big line yet but it’s definitely for everyone, boys and girls. The medium line is perfect for learning new tricks and the rails are good as well, so yeah, great for girls. I’m always here in Hintertux for pre-season riding, it’s really good!
How long have you been riding now?
I started snowboarding when I was 13, so that’s five years ago now, and I got my first sponsor a year later when I was 14. That was Völkl Snowboards and after that I got a new one every year, so stoked!
How did you get picked up by Völkl?
Völkl are always looking for young riders, especially from Austria, and so a friend of mine, Benny Mösl, one of their team riders, suggested me. So they called me and asked what I’m doing and if I wanted to go for a ride with them. I did that and signed the contract straight away.
Wow, that’s pretty straight forward! You must have blown their minds…!
[giggles shyly] I guess… But mainly probably because I was only 14 back then…
When I was 11 or 12, it was the time when my mum decided me and my sister could go skiing on our own now. That was when we went to the fun park the first time and there we met all these cool people.
Did you ski before?
Yes I did, but no racing, just normal skiing, family skiing… [laughs] But then my sister got a snowboard when she was 8 and started snowboarding for a year and then she stopped again. When I was 11 or 12, it was the time when my mum decided me and my sister could go skiing on our own now. That was when we went to the fun park the first time and there we met all these cool people. Then we wanted to start snowboarding too, to be as cool as them, and so I got my first snowboard when I was 13.
With the twin tip skis and the growing free skiing scene it’s quite easy to stay on skis and do tricks. What made you want to switch to ride sideways?
I don’t know, snowboarding is a sport where you just have to learn to never give up. I don’t know, when you can ski, you can’t snowboard but when you can snowboard you can ski as well, so it’s more of a challenge… You have to have a little talent for it as well and the determination to do it.
When you can ski, you can’t snowboard but when you can snowboard you can ski as well, so it’s more of a challenge…
So you enjoy riding park a lot?
Yeah, I’m a proper park rider.
What’s your favorite obstacle and your favorite trick?
Hmm… My favorite obstacle is the whole park and my favorite trick is the backside 180, it’s just so smooth and slow and you can style it.
What’s the most fancy trick you’re learning right now?
I don’t know, I wanna learn a cab 7. I still have to learn proper cab riding, I mean I do ride cab but I definitely wanna go for a cab 7 this month! And what else…? I don’t know…
Can you do the normal 7 spins?
No, not yet, I’m still learning. But I’ll get it!
Can you remember the first trick you learned?
Indy grab! [laughs]
How did you start learning tricks?
I learnt with my sister first, we pushed each other and then I got to meet all these snowboarder scene guys and they pushed everyone. I don’t know, just learning it…
Any experience with macho-ism?
Some of my friends always go to shoot street rails and I always ask if I can come along and they’re like “No, I don’t think thats something for you”…
How do you deal with that?
I just say “okay then” and go ride with girls instead!
Is there a big girls scene going on in Austria?
Not really but I hope it’s going there. At the moment it’s only 7 girls riding professionally, but I think there are more girls coming again.
More girls should just go out there and dare themselves. I know so many girls who think park riding is really cool
What’s your experience at school with your peers etc?
I went to this business school in Innsbruck and nobody even knew that we had glaciers in Austria!! I went snowboarding in May and they were like “Where?? There’s no snow!” That’s pretty crazy…
What’s up for you this season?
I’ve finished school now so it’s the first year I can concentrate only on snowboarding! Right now I’m riding here in Austria, then I’m going to colorado to do the last two World Cups, then Europe again, then US again…
World Cups for the Olympics? Are you planning to go there?
Yeah, I’m planning to go! I’ve been at the Youth Olympics last time, after the Battery Cat Fight, it was the best event ever! I really want to go again but I didn’t have a chance to qualify yet, unfortunately I’m not on the Austrian Team and you normally need FIS points to go the World Cups which I didn’t have. But the guy texted me now that I can go to one in the US so I got a last chance now….
At first I didn’t like all this training and thing with coaches etc but I now realize that I kinda need it… And I really hope there’s still a chance!
How come you’re not on the Austrian Team?
Because I always did everything by myself. At first I didn’t like all this training and thing with coaches etc but I now realize that I kinda need it… And I really hope there’s still a chance!
Would being in the Olympics be a dream goal for you?
Yeah definitely! But if it’s not happening this year, I’ll try again next time – I’m only 18 so I still got a couple of years.
Are you gonna do a lot of contests too, or more filming?
I think more filming as a lot of contest got cancelled because of the Olympics. But I hope the Battery Cat Fight in Finland is happening again, that’s my favourite contest. Last year was cancelled but I was there 2 years ago, I was still in the Rookie Category back then and I think I got 1st or 2nd, I can’t remember… There were only 4 rookies anyway! [laughs] It was the best trip ever. We filmed all day, from 8 in the morning until 8 at night. And we had a contest with only girls riding, so that was my favorite so far.
At Battery Cat Fight in Finland we filmed all day, from 8 in the morning until 8 at night. And we had a contest with only girls riding, so that was my favorite so far.
Who will you be do filming with?
I don’t know yet but probably just with my friends and a photographer called Patrick Steiner.
Is there gonna be a Völkl team trip again too?
I’m not sure yet, I heard we’re going to Bear Mountain but I think it was a joke, because I’m always like “we’re NOT going on a powder trip” because I prefer park riding so much more… So maybe they just wanted to make fun of me…
What’s up with you and the powder, normally everybody loves it?!
[laughs] I don’t know… I just don’t like it, I find it really boring… I don’t know why, I just enjoy doing tricks more. Powder is just going down and making some turns while with tricks you can push yourself, you can just always go one step further and it’s a good feeling when you learn a new trick. While as in powder it’s just “I’ve been snowboarding” but I think that’s just because I’m still so young, my friend Sarah hates powder as well…
Powder is just going down and making some turns while with tricks you can push yourself, you can just always go one step further and it’s a good feeling when you learn a new trick.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
More girls should just go out there and dare themselves. I know so many girls who think park riding is really cool but just can’t get over themselves when actually there’s nothing to it! There’s not much more than can happen than hurting yourself! And the Austrian girls scene should be pushed a bit more, we don’t really have anything just for girls. There are the Austrian Masters but that’s guys and girls together. At the Winter Mäsh last year for example we were the only girls group and while in the beginning it was all about “you have to come, you have to set an example!”, afterwards it was like we’d never been there. We weren’t mentioned in any news or press releases or anywhere, not even our run was announced… That was really sad, as at least we were there, dared ourselves and gave our best! It’s never to late to start learning! Anna Gasser only started snowboarding 3 or 4 years ago and has come pretty far already, got on the podium at O’Neill Evolution. And that after first stepping on a snowboard aged 17! Such girls are a great inspiration, I admire how they push the limits.
Birgit rides for Völkl Snowboards, Billabong, Vans and Red Bull