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This Is Me: Tammy Esten

Regular readers might recognize the founder of the Mint snowboard school from our December issue, but for all the rest of you we’ll share her insights on moving to France, breaking ribs and defying daredevils once again and online!

Photography by Dan Milner, interview by Sam Haddad

My dad’s a mountaineer so as soon I could walk he dragged me everywhere on the end of a bit of rope. When I was a teenager I kind of rebelled and stopped doing it but this summer I’ve got really into rock climbing. I was like, “Right I don’t want to hang out by the pool, I want to do something more exciting.”

We went ice climbing in a secret cave and I had to abseil down a 100m of vertical ice face in the pitch black. One of the Mint instructors is a pretty gnarly mountaineer so he and another friend took me. I’d had 10 seconds of tuition and it was really scary. I think even they were scared. But they wouldn’t let me wuss out, it was like, “Here are your axes off you go.” You progress so much quicker that way, as with snowboarding.

It can be hard teaching a lesson on a powder day, but you get used to it. There’s always the opportunity to show someone who’s never been in powder the joys of it, which is brilliant. You can be a bit like, “Yeah keep going keep going, no don’t slow down oh no no!” And then you have to get them out. But as long as whoever I’m teaching is into it and keen to learn, it’s brilliant.

A good teacher needs to be friendly and to make things fun. Snowboarding is one of the most fun things ever so you can’t turn it into learning like school. You also need to understand the individual needs, as you’ll teach every single lesson in a different way.

I’m one of only four female pure snowboard instructors in France. I’ve been teaching for nine years and running Mint for the last five. Traditionally to teach snowboarding in France you had to be a ski instructor but BASI (British Association Snowsport Instructors) put the pressure on the French so they let the top instructors at the time through. I went to see a lawyer and accountant and then Mint just sort of happened.

Looking back I think it was complete madness what I did. Moving to a new resort that I’d only ever been to visit, setting up a school… I must have been terrified, and I’m still terrified every year.

I decided on Morzine rather than Chamonix, as people don’t really go to Chamonix to learn, they go there and think they’re already great even if they’re not haha. I thought about Val d’Isere or Tignes but I wanted somewhere I could live all year round.

Parks in Europe need a good kick up the arse, as the parks in the US are so good. I’m stoked that we have a pipe here, as not that many resorts have and we have the Stash even though it’s often overrun with punter skiers haha. We had an awesome park a couple of years ago but they closed it and the baby park is so busy.

A lot of the girls I teach are keen to have a go at the park. They’re often more tentative than guys so tend to hop over jump rather than properly going for it the whole time but it’s just about encouraging them. Often all they need is more repetition and confidence building.

Last weekend I went to the wedding of my first ever Mint client. She got married out in Morzine. Before her lesson she’d tried snowboarding three times with French instructors, but it always ended in frustration and tears. Her friend forced her to give it one more go and she loved it.

I really don’t think you need to fall over that much when you’re learning. It can and does happen but if you have good tuition you shouldn’t be coming home battered and bruised.

Impact shorts work for some people but not others. If they do work a lot of time it’s psychological rather than physical but then sometimes just wearing them can freak people out as they think they must be doing something really dangerous.

Board technology has definitely made it easier to learn than it was 10 years ago. Boards are more flexible, and softer cambered boards have helped. But it’s important that people progress all the way through with coaching and stay on a board that is suitable for them.

I ride a Roxy Eminence and I love the whole wiggly edge thing, haha I mean the magne-traction. It’s absolutely brilliant. Snowboard technology progresses every year but you often don’t notice if you’re a half decent rider, as you should be able to ride anything, but the magne-traction you definitely notice. You get a lot more grip with it.

I got bronchitis and broke a rib through coughing. I then re-broke it at a wedding dancing with a 73-year-old man. It sucks as I wasn’t even doing anything gnarly.

I completely love being rubbish at surfing. That phase where you’re learning and it doesn’t matter if you’re a muppet and trip over your lead, you just get such a buzz off that progression.

Visit mintsnowboarding.com

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