Former pro skier, snow photographer and sled tamer Nadia Samer chats injuries, bad luck and an irrepressible love for the white gold.
Interview by Vera Janssen
Skiing has always been my escape in a way. My parents had a very messy divorce and resulting custody battle that put me and my three other siblings through hell for 8 years. In the mountains, none of that mattered. I was free of pain, fear and problems that were daily burdens. There were simply no physical limits on a pair of skis. I found happiness again teetering on the edge of being out of control while pushing my limits and finding what I was made of.
Skiing is a huge passion for Austrians, in runs in their blood, along with a love of being in the mountains.
My father emigrated over from Austria with his family post World War II. Skiing is a huge passion for Austrians, in runs in their blood, along with a love of being in the mountains. His father (my Opa) used to volunteer at a small ski resort on the Island (Vancouver Island, BC) called “Green Mountain”. I was born and raised on northern Vancouver Island and was bombing down ski hills at the age of 2. I loved speed, and didn’t like to stop or slow down. Around age 8 or 9 my father decided to put me into racing because I was fed up with waiting for slow ski school groups. I ended up winning every single race I entered until age 11.
My first summer going into FIS I blew my knee on the glacier training. “One more run” cost me a massive set back. I also got kicked out of the house and ended up being billeted with families in Whistler, working full time at the grocery store while trying to graduate high school a year early at age 15. It took me two to three more years to finally get my head back in the game and body back in shape but I finally got there, just to I blow my other knee training downhill on the infamous Dave Murray Downhill on Whistler. To be so close to being back where I was and ending up in surgery again killed me inside.
It was still too early to give up though and so I entered the newly formed Canadian Ski Cross Team. At the same time I also purchased my first snowmobile, that I had been saving up for for two years. My coach saw the snowmobile as a distraction though, which it most definitely was. But with my oppressed body I was no longer able to maintain that fierce competitive mindset and so after two more years I decided to retire.
I love flying through the air and scaring myself silly.
I never intended to try to make anything happen with snowmobiling – it just happened… I love flying through the air and scaring myself silly. Even though I am a girl, I grew up with brothers and most of my friends have been guys. I’ve always played soccer or rugby with the boys, so it seemed completely natural to want to do what they were doing on snowmobiles as well. And when my room-mates had all hit the infamous double stage cliff Air Jordan after I came home from an event, I didn’t want to be the odd one out in the house who hadn’t. So I hit it on a cloudy day with only 10cm fresh. To my knowledge Jen Ashton is the only other girl who has hit it. I’ve jumped off it again since that day and love the feeling of standing on top of it. I hate being told I can’t because I’m a girl. Skiing and snowmobiling are gravity sports, there is absolutely zero reason why women can’t be sending it as hard or as big as the guys do.
Every sport I’ve done my entire life has always been timed or black and white for who wins. I had a very hard time coming to terms with Big Mountain competitions sometimes as they were judged events. Not only for myself or my own results, but also friends and fellow competitors. The criteria seemed inconsistent from event to event, and the competitions always seemed to be in the most brutal conditions. After a while I decided it made a whole lot more sense to stay at home and ski bottomless pow on the resort (Whistler Blackcomb) and by sled-skiing in the backcountry and focus on photos and filming.
Skiing and snowmobiling are gravity sports, there is absolutely zero reason why women can’t be sending it as hard or as big as the guys do.
Along the way I produced, shot and edited a series called Love at First Turn which featured skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and other sports like BASE-Jumping with a focus on female athletes (but not exclusively). I also amassed segments in 5 different snowmobile movies along the way, including BRAAAP 10, Our time is Now, RISE, Boondockers 8, and Fourcast 2. I am currently filming with Highmark Films for Fourcast 3 and with Unicorn Picnic Productions for Pretty Faces which is an all female ski movie.
Integrity is huge to me. I’ve never tried to play the “chick card” to get ahead or be recognized. At the end of the day I want to know I’ve gotten where I am and what I have off of hard work and ability. A lot of girls use their looks or sex appeal to get ahead. While I understand this is part of how the industry works and will never change, I think it is important to send a message to younger girls they can be more than “just a pretty face” or that they should only aspire to be “good for a girl”. It’s been a constant uphill battle for me, through injuries, rehab, losing friends to accidents, crashes and avalanches and dealing with sponsors and media. You have to stick to your guns no matter what. I love doing what I do, and that is the only reason I do it.
Every year I see more girls out there sending it and pushing their own limits on skis, snowmobiles and in other sports as well. Nothing makes me happier than taking other girls out skiing or snowmobiling for their first time and seeing their faces light up when they learn a new skill. I think that has a huge crossover into their personal lives, work and self-esteem.