Pro Chat: Charlotte Van Gils

We caught up with the Dutch slopestyler, who just did her second X Games final of 2012 in Tignes, to talk contests, medals and the invincibility of Jamie Anderson.

Interview by Sam Haddad, photos by Beckna

You started snowboarding at 11. Did you start on dry slopes like your fellow Dutch rider Cheryl Maas?
I did my first turns on a snowboard when I was 11. This was in Grunau, Austria. I went there with my parents and sister for our annual ‘wintersports vacation’. Until I was 18 that’s the only time I rode. I first came in contact with freestyle snowboarding when I moved to Amsterdam. There was a indoor snowdome close by. They have ‘real’ snow there. This is where I hit my first jumps, started to hit rails and where I started to ride more often.

Did you love it right away?
I did! I already really liked just cruising around the slopes when I was younger. But absolutely fell in love with snowboarding when I started to ride park!

Is Cheryl a hero of yours? We all think she’s super rad!
Absolutely. She has been my idol! She is such a huge part of the progression in women’s snowboarding. And with having a simular background: growing up in Holland, not having mountains around but still making it to X Games and World Champs. She showed me that it was possible…

You scored fourth in your first Winter X Games in Aspen? How was that experience for you? The course looked pretty gnarly…
It was an awesome experience, being there as a competitor (last year I was there as an alternate [reserve]). It was such a fun week riding practice everyday and then competing in finals during the end of the week. The X Games course in Aspen is definitely one you need some practice on to get a run through. The jumps are extremely close together. So you kinda have to build your run until you don’t really have to think too much in between jumps, since there is no time to do that.. Getting fourth place was a good feeling. I was happy to get a run through, even though it wasn’t my best snowboarding ever… The course was extremely slow that day, which limited me to certain tricks. Hopefully I can show my best riding next year and get on the podium… we’ll see!

And how are you feeling about the Euro X tonight in Tignes?
I’m excited for it. It’s a really nice course! The weather has been amazing. Four degrees [celsius] and sunny, slushy but a fast enough course, sled-rides up, I’m having fun! And the course isn’t too gnarly either so I’m expecting some good runs from all the girls later!

Can anyone knock Jamie Anderson off the top?
I think so. Jamie is an amazing rider. She has been riding for so long and is naturally talented. She is extremely consistent and she has a big bag of tricks. By riding so well, she pushes me and the other riders to ride better everyday. I think women’s snowboarding is progressing pretty quickly now and we might see more riders stepping it up and getting on top of that podium once in a while!

What other comps have you enjoyed this winter?
There have been soo many! I think I enjoyed the Winter Dew tour in Breckenridge last December the most. It feels like home for me, I love the course they set up there. There is lots of practice time. We had good weather this year and the level of the women’s riding was higher then ever. It was the first time there was no holding back for any of the girls. We already needed a full run during semis!

Describe your dream slopestyle course?
I like to see every slopestyle course different. This keeps you creative and makes it challenging and fun every new comp you go to. I have some favourite features though. I like step up jumps. Lots of airtime but not that much impact on landing which makes the jump safe and gives me the oppertunity to try some new tricks. I think there should be either three or four jumps in every slopecourse. For rails I really like down flat down rails because there are so many options on it. And then of course the classic downrail!

Do you hope to do the Olympics in 2014? Have you ever competed in Russia?
Yeah, I would love to be part of that one! The Olympics have been around forever, even though slopestyle snowboarding is a pretty new sport it can still be part of something with soo much history as the Olympic Games. I think it would be sick to walk into a massive arena at the opening ceremony and be part of it as an athlete. I’ve never competed in Russia before. I believe they’re is going to be a World Cup in Sochi next year though, so we get to test it out before the Olympics.

Have you done much filming? And which film parts have you enjoyed this winter?
I have not been filming much. I would love to and will hopefully get the opportunity to do so later. I filmed a little bit riding Breck’s Freeway park in December and put an edit together: so check it out! My favourite movie from this year is the Art of Flight. Just because besides the amazing snowboarding it also shows the other side of the sport. The danger of avalanches, different weather conditions and the beauty of nature. Something we see everyday but sometimes forget to enjoy. The other film parts I really enjoyed watching were the open air episodes from Cheryl Maas. If you’ve watched them then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that she has been a huge part of the progression of women’s snowboarding.

Europe’s had a pretty sick winter. Have you spent more time here than in Breck this year?
I did. I still had to ride a lot of competitions but I got to spend a week in Davos during the O’Neill evolution and was in Mayrhofen the week after. It was the most powder I’ve ever seen or ridden! During the Evolution there was soo much snow that practice for the comp was almost impossible. I really didn’t care too much since there were bottomless runs all day. The week in Mayrhofen was also one I will not forget soon. I was there to shoot with my sponsor Vans. It just wouldn’t stop dumping! It was the first time I tried cliffdrops, natural lips and to actually do some tricks on them as well. Never in my life have I done so many cartwheels, and that says something after doing gymnastics for 14 years… I brought four different lenses up to get through the day. Still it was the best time ever!

What do you love about Breckenridge?
Its park! They have perfect jumps. And the park crew there does such an amazing job maintaining them through out the day! They have soo many different sizes of parks that you always have an option riding the one you want! No matter what the weather is like! And since I have been there for the last five seasons now I got to know most of the locals and really feel at home there.

Who are your favourite people to shred with?
It’s fun to ride with the other girls! I can’t name em all because I probably forget somebody. But it’s fun to ride with the whole crew I normally compete with.

And lastly do you have any other burning issues in snowboarding you’d like to raise?
There is soo much happening in snowboarding: becoming an Olympic sport, more and more competitions, federations, sponsors, media…In the end it will only work out if we don’t forget why we started riding in the first place: for the freedom and for doing something we love! So keep enjoying it!

Charlotte is sponsored by Vans, K2 and Big Airbag. She’ll be at the tenth anniversary of the Van’s Wangl Tangl this week


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