With the first snowflakes dumping it down over the Tarentaise valley in time for last weekend's Tignes glacier opening, we caught up with Kate Wood to see what she's been up to since scoring third in slopestyle and fourth in the Rail Jam at this year's British Champs
Interview by Corinne Mayhew
Where are you from and how did you first get into snowboarding?
I'm from Burton on Trent in the middle of the UK. There aren't any mountains or an ocean but it's where Marmite comes from and lots of famous beer is brewed there!
My school ran annual ski and snowboard trips and I've always been into sport, especially gymnastics. Some of my friends decided to go one year so I was definitely in... no hesitation! I don't think skiing even entered my mind. I just wanted to snowboard and that was that. It looked exciting and challenging and I enjoyed it so much that I went again the following year. I didn't really do much again until my first season in Verbier after I graduated, but by then, I was hooked!
Where's your favourite place to ride?
I've ridden all over the world: Verbier, Les Arcs, Tignes, Cardrona, Remarkables, and Whistler. My favourite has to be Whistler, followed a close second by Tignes! The people in Tignes are amazing and I've met some great friends over there. The variation and sheer size of the terrain, especially with easy access to the adjoining Val d'Isere resort, is epic. There's really good piste riding, lots of back country hiking, glaciers and of course two freestyle parks. You can keep entertained for like... ever!
My ultimate for Tignes are those perfect blue sky, dry, fresh, powder, steep open bowl days of riding. It becomes just you and what nature has to offer. Floating across the top of untouched snow, down the natural fall line, at high speed. I don't think I've visited anywhere in the world yet that is as good as Tignes for that. When it's on in Tignes, it is most certainly on! Though I'd also love to go to Alaska one day!
How are you affected by other riders?
There are a lot of really good girl riders in Tignes, especially in the backcountry and on the pistes. However, there seems to be a distinct lack of ladies in the park. I mean, there are never as many girls as guys wherever you go, but in Tignes I often found it was just me on the bigger lines in the parks (except the times when Katie Blundell was there, which was great!).
I went to the Roxy 'Princess in the Park', which was a day of park riding with instructors, open to girls of all abilities. I was surprised by the number of chicks who turned up for it! It was a fun day, everyone was super encouraging and new tricks were being thrown left, right and centre! It was really good to see but it left me a little curious to why these ladies hadn't been riding the park before. I did see a few more since that day though, which goes to show that these girls-only park days are a great idea.
Riders in the Tignes park are so friendly and supportive of each other so it would be good to see more of a balance of gender in future years.
You placed 3rd in the Slopestyle event at the Brits last winter! Congrats! How did it feel?
I was super stoked to have come third. I was unsure if I would enter at first as I'd only ever competed in two local Tignes slopestyle competitions before and I didn't know what to expect. The weather wasn't on our side that day either, so my initial thoughts were, “What am I doing?!" I was so surprised to have even qualified to the finals and couldn't believe it when I finished in third place overall too. Guess I did have a 'home' advantage though!
I competed in the boardercross event too but my 142 park board probably held me back a little!
You've just got back from a back to back winter in NZ. What was it like down there?
I love New Zealand! I was staying in Wanaka this time and riding at Cardrona. It's one of my favourite countries to visit as it's so beautiful, the people are really friendly, helpful and chilled and hitch hiking a ride with a complete stranger is totally normal!
Cardrona park is well looked after and it has lots of challenging features. It hosted the Audi Winter Games back in August, which counted towards the qualifiers for the Olympics in Sochi next year. Some of the top skiers and snowboarders in the world were practising and competing there and it was really good to be riding the same park as them. It was amazing to be surrounded by such high level riders and it really opened my eyes to what sort of standard there is out there.
You won the Remarkables TRIC Slopestyle Series contest while you were there. Awesome. What happened?!
Ah well, I just thought I'd give it a shot! After the fun I had at the Brits I thought I might as well enter. In previous years of riding at Remarks there were very few female riders in the park so I was half expecting the female turnout to be low. I was wrong, which was awesome! Both the guys and girls, were killing it and I was quite intimidated, especially as the girls were throwing fives and cab fives.
I was having a bad time in warm up and practice was over by the time I got the confidence to spin. My first run was the first time I spun on those kickers. I somehow pulled it off and landed my run so I couldn't believe it when my name was called out for first place at the end. Some of the other riders fell on their runs, so I think the judges were looking for clean landings, rather than difficulty of tricks. It was nice that some of my old friends from previous seasons came to support and of course my boyfriend Muds was my personal coach, haha!
What's on the cards for you this coming winter?
Good question! I'd love to go to Breckenridge and check out the amazing parks they have over there. (I've heard so much about them from Katie Blundell!). Also, having had the chance to go trampolining at SITE, (the new indoor sports training facility in Queenstown), I've realised just how important it is for improving your riding. Working with the best facilities, learning new tricks and improving existing ones, is my dream.
Either Laax or Mayrhofen are definitely on the cards... or both! There are lots of tricks in the park that I would like to master this season too, as well as hit some bigger jumps. I'd love to step it up to competing in TTR competitions too.
Who inspires you?
All riders who are having fun no matter what level they are. If I see a rider who is really enjoying themselves it inspires me to ride with the same enthusiasm.
Any shout outs?
Yeah! A massive thanks to Endeavor Snowboards for supplying me with my awesome 'Boyfriend' snowboard - I love it! Of course Tignes Spirit for all their support, JL photographics, Thomaslvq Photos, SITE trampoline and everyone else who has given me encouragement and support. Huge thanks to you all!