Towards the end of last year I took a trip up to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead and caught up with Team GB snowboarder and Winter Olympian Aimee Fuller. In between her session and teaching some Radio One Extra DJs how to snowboard we grabbed a drink and found a quiet corner to talk about her experience at Sochi, the state of women’s snowboarding and her plans for the coming winter season.
She was understandably a bit tired after a full days snowboarding and filming with The Snow Centre crew, and after all the media activity during the Olympics I thought she might be a little apprehensive to do yet another interview – this wasn’t the case. Once we got talking it quickly became clear that she’s stoked for winter, excited to ride for herself and inspired by everything she’s done in the last year.
Aimee snowboards for all the right reasons, mostly for the fun of it but at the same time she is pushing women’s riding and promoting the sport around the UK. This, in my opinion, is a great thing to be doing, particularly for a girl who is so quickly becoming a role model in her own right.
You just came back from Austria right? Top 5 in the Pleasure Jam?
Yeah, I’m fresh off the slopes, first comp of the season, Pleasure Jam. I had a bit of a break this summer, I have been doing some snowboarding but normally we go away for four weeks and train. Instead I went on a cool snowboard trip which was motor biking and snowboarding. So it was just a few days riding, more for the enjoyable side of it, then I went to Australia but I ended up getting hurt out there in August so I’ve not really been riding much. So anyway, it was my second day on jumps before that contest. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, I wanted to go out there for a podium but it was still a decent start to the season, I’m pretty happy.
Who did you go with on your trip to Austria? Tell me more about that.
Yeah, in Austria I was with the British Team, it was Jenny [Jones], Jamie [Nicholls] and some of the younger guys, so we had a cool crew out there. And some of the Euro chicks were around so I was riding with them as well. It’s always nice to mix it up and ride with people from different countries.
What are the Euro girls like?
The Euro girls are rad: Cheryl Maas was there, who’s a bit of a legend. She’s just turned 30, she’ll kill me for saying that [laughs] but yeah, she’s a super progressive rider and it’s always good to mix it up and shred with everyone and get influenced by everyone’s different styles.
So Pleasure Jam was the first competition for you this season, what’s next?
Yep, first comp under the belt, so now I’m back in the UK for about ten days which is nice, smashing the gym, trying to get ready so I’m on form for the next trip, which is the Dew Tour, I just got my invite. It’s a pretty big competition in the States so it’s always good to get that invite through the post, you know you’re one of the few riders that are there to compete in it. So yeah, I’ve got ten days in Colorado before that starts and then we’re straight in. It’s a big course so it should be good. I got in the final last year so hopefully I can make it again this year.
You’re obviously on the road quite a bit, how do you find it?
I live in Belfast as well so it’s always a bit of an extra mission. I flew over here today to hang out at The Snow Centre which is cool. All the travelling is definitely hard on your body, it takes it’s toll but it’s so cool; I mean, some of the countries that I’ve been to, I never ever imagined that I would get to go to Australia, to go there snowboarding is just so epic. But yeah, you know, when it gets to the depths of the winter, or you’re in the last few weeks, you’re on more flights. I flew to the states four times last year in three months, it’s savage but it’s so good, I love it at the same time.
Do you ever go a bit stir crazy? Is there anything you do that keeps you sane when you’re travelling?
Sometimes when you’re away for a long time and you get bad weather, like four down days in row, up in the mountains you can definitely get cabin fever. I guess we all lose the plot a bit. In the states there’s a place called Woodward Camp, it’s a giant freestyle centre with trampolines and foam pits so you can entertain yourself with that. A bit of shopping and stuff is always good too. [Laughs]
There’s obviously a lot of preparation and work that goes into being a contest snowboarder right? What sort of stuff are you working on in the build up to the season?
So, seeing as I’ve had quite a bit of time off I’ve been working a lot on my strength and conditioning. I had a few shoulder injuries the year before last so I’ve been smashing out the chin-ups, repping up ten, ten, ten at the minute, pretty happy with that! A lot of weights, just to be strong so you can take the impact on those real heavy hits. Also explosive strength, you know, when you’re throwing the bigger tricks you’ve got to have the speed and the agility to get yourself into those positions and then react to those quick landings.
So you see the benefits of all this work in your riding?
Yeah for sure, I felt really good on my snowboard today, after not riding much it just came straight back and I felt good; light on my feet and it’s just to be ready for anything. If you’re fit and strong before an injury then you can boss through it quicker.
What was the build-up to the Olympics like? It must have been pretty mad.
Yeah the Olympics was crazy, I actually had a bit of a weird run-up to it. That was the year that I hurt my shoulder three times. It meant I had to qualify in the last two events. Everyone was like “you’re going to the Olympics, you’re going to the Olympics”. It was savage. I went from being quite relaxed about qualifying for the Olympics to suddenly, it came round so quick, and I was like this is it, this is crunch time, I need to get my shit together. I was hurt in the third to last competition in New Zealand, flew out to Canada to learn a new trick, separated my shoulder on the first day, and then I had three weeks until the next world cup. I went there and I couldn’t ride, you know, I rode through the course with my arm to the side, it was pretty much a write-off. So in the last two competitions I had to get a top twelve: there were sixty odd riders and I got eleventh, and then in the last one, I need top six or better and I got fifth. It was the best feeling ever, but at the same time made me go into the Olympics with a bit of a yellow attitude, it was just go big or go home, I wasn’t prepared for it because it came around so quick. I qualified, went into X Games and then the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Sochi, and it was just wild.
The Olympic course looked insane, some of those jumps were massive, was that some of the biggest stuff you’ve ever hit?
Yeah! I’ve ridden big jumps on chutes where you get to session it and it’s just one jump, but to have three jumps the size of buildings… you’d stop on them and look down, and think oh my god, if I fell off this right now I would break both my legs they were that big. But it was such an experience and it was really good for my snowboarding, to be put under pressure like that, to have to get through a course that big and in the end it turned out that the jumps we’re good but it was definitely a challenge.
How do you feel about competing? You said that there’s so much pressure sometimes, do you like it?
I thrive off pressure, for sure. When I’m on top of my game and I’m happy with my riding I love a bit of pressure. It motivates me more and makes me more hungry for it, but you know when shit’s not going good, and you put pressure on yourself it’s the worst thing. It depends. It totally depends, but pressure in general, I try and take the positives from it and utilise it to push my riding as much as I can.
With women’s snowboarding progressing so fast at the moment, where do you think it’s gonna go? How far do you think it can go?
We talk about it quite a bit, it’s really hard to say. There’s quite a few different girls doing doubles now which is really cool, but being able to do a double and then putting a double into a contest run is a different kettle of fish. I’ve tried it, I’ve done it, but it wasn’t the nicest looking one. I’ve been working on my cab double which I’m really happy with and I like the way it looks, it’s quite a consistent trick. The double backflip was kind of ‘let’s give this thing a rip and get it down’, just throw the thing! It’s a bit of a crowd pleaser and also it stoked me out, I was pumped on getting it down. I think I was the first girl to do it in competition, so that was cool. I was pretty hyped on learning that for sure. I really want to focus now on getting a really smooth, consistent run and I’ve love to put my cab double in there, no-ones doing it yet in competition so if I can put that in with a few good rail tricks, I need to work on my rails, then some solid, smooth, stylish smaller spins I think that’s my goal. To get a solid, good, good run down. Show them girls.
There’s always that argument between crazy progression, big tricks and massive spins, against style. Where do you stand on that?
I think if you can mix a combo of it and get a good balance it’s good, because then you’re progressing the sport but bringing the style into it which is what it’s all about really.
Do you ever think all the obligations you have to your sponsors is too much? Do you ever just think fuck it; I just want to go snowboard, I just want to go ride for myself?
I definitely ride for myself, but I’m very lucky to have sponsors that support me to do that, I think I’m going to do that this year and go away for three weeks and just go and ride. But at the end of the day, I want to go ride and push myself as much as I can. I get enjoyment out of pushing myself, and that will stoke my sponsors out anyway so…
There’s quite a lot of backcountry stuff in your season edit from last year, is that something you want to do more of?
I do like the backcountry, I would like to do more of that. I feel like this year I want to spend three weeks just sessioning a big jump and seeing what I can do. Seeing where I can push myself. I spent a lot of time travelling from destination to destination so I want to stay in one place for a few weeks to see what I can do. I don’t really know where yet, either somewhere in Europe, or in America. Just see what’s good. I think it would be kind of nice to stay in Europe for a change, I’ve been in America a lot the past few years. Yeah, it would be cool to just go a ride, maybe have a filmer out there, nothing crazy just cruising, getting shit done. Yeah, yeah. Get a few good girls. Do you know Anna Gasser? I’m thinking maybe do something with her for a few weeks.
Is she your favourite person to ride with?
Actually I normally ride with Jenny Jones, I was just out in Austria with her. But I think Anna and I could dynamically work quite well, she’s quite flippy so I feel like we could push each other to do some stuff which would be cool, something a bit different again.
Any other tricks you want to try this season?
I’d like to get a cab double 1080, and I definitely want to work towards the backside double 1080 like Katie Ormerod did. I’ll give that a rip at the end of the season, or at some point. I can visualise it but yeah got to work on the stages before that.
I guess you’ve got to find the right jump too?
Yeah exactly, you can’t just do it, everything’s got to align.
So, you have a Pro Model glove with Level. How much involvement did you have with that, did you do much product development and testing at all? Or did they just make a glove for you?
No, no, no. I was sat in a van last year on a twelve hour drive and I just started drawing it, I’m not the best, but I had the vision. Basically I drew it, and sent it to them and then they sent it back how it looked drawn properly. I was stoked, it came out exactly as I’d imagined. I’ve ridden for Level for a few years now so there’s certain parts of different gloves that I really like; the bungee cord so you don’t get snow in; the bit to fasten it, I like to have something tight on my wrist when I ride, it’s optional though, you can have it loose or tight; and the zips to make it look a bit different; and it’s got to be leather, you gotta have a leather glove.
Is product development something you’d like to do more of? I guess the dream for every snowboarder is to have Pro Model board, but in terms of outerwear, that kind of thing, would you be into doing more of that?
I’m not too fussed, I would love it, but it’s not something in my career I’m aiming for. It would be great and I’d love to wear camo pants and a bright orange jacket but there’s nothing really that strikes my mind that I want, I’m still pretty stoked on the gloves for now. I actually got to design my helmet with Red Bull. It’s pretty unique, it’s a bit different, the whole helmet is like a timeline of my life from where I’ve lived. It starts out in Kent, then London, and hidden in the helmet there’s all these different things: my lucky number six, so Big Ben is at six o’clock; there’s a stamp with my date of birth; I lived in America for three and a half years, so there’s the Washington Monument from when I lived there; a plane; a little boat because we used to go out on this river and then it moves round to Belfast which is where I live now and then the front is like a flight path with planes and stuff.
So you’ve lived in a tonne of different places, How old were you when you were living in America, were you riding loads out there?
No, I moved out there when I was twelve, I skied when I was twelve still, I learnt on dry slope and lived in England until I was twelve. I picked up snowboarding out there, I lived there for three and a half years. I was just a complete punter, some of my friends used to go at the weekend, it was about an hour and a half away in Pennsylvania. I would be buzzing to go like any time I knew anyone was going, I’d hop in the car and go up with them. It’s pretty expensive there so I would go like max five days a year just at the weekends. Then for my sixteenth birthday I begged my mum for like a year to go to Mount Hood, Oregon, and I got noticed there and then when I moved back to the UK I got my first sponsor Roxy, so it was crazy how it all happened.
What’s it like being the Roxy team?
It’s the best, we’ve got a good crew, a really good team. The boards are the same as Lib Tech or Gnu boards, so they’re pretty funky, they have all the C2 banana, magna-traction and stuff. I tried a normal board the other day and it was really weird. I’m stoked on the magna-traction, it’s good. It’s some crazy rocker combo board, it works good though, definitely. Especially in powder actually. You know how normally people are like ‘get a bigger board’, I don’t do that, I just ride my board and it works fine. It’s like ‘bullshit I’m cruising, don’t even worry about me!’
That guy who came up to you before this interview… [Aimee was approached before the interview by a guy trying to get her to advocate his product] Do you get a lot of that kind of thing, people coming up to you to try and sell you stuff, or use you for the gain of their product?
Does it annoy you?
I’m honoured that people ask me to do that but yeah it’s kind of intense, the way some people can approach you. That was a bit different, it hasn’t happened like that before… but it’s super cool seeing the amount of people here shredding and it’s rad to be a part of that. Some of the younger kids are like “yeah, I started snowboarding because of you, we saw you in the Olympics and started snowboarding!”. It’s mind-blowing to think that I could have inspired someone like that, to actually do a sport. It’s really cool and a huge honour to be a role model so I just want to be myself and get people into it.
Places like The Snow Centre at Hemel in the UK, it’s kind of all we’ve got, but it’s still great to be able to snowboard right.
Ah, it’s so good. I just had a proper session there, I’ve not had a proper session for a while indoors, and you can get a sweat on, and get some stuff done, it was fun. I was running up, I couldn’t be bothered with the lift queues. [Laughs] I was running up, and then if there was one free, grabbing it and walking up.
What are your top five favourite things to do when not snowboarding?
Banana pancake breakfast, go surfing, a good night out dancing with the girls, lying on a boat or a beach somewhere tropical, I love the heat, love the sun, and going for a cruise on my KTM Duke. It’s a road bike, that’s a new hobby.
You used to do Motocross when you were younger right?
Yeah I did that, and then I did my motorbike license literally just after the Olympics on a three-day crash course and then I just got a KTM. A bit of fun on the side.
Top five places to ride?
The Snow Centre in the UK, Mammoth in the States, Vans Penken Park in Mayrhofen, Laax in Switzerland and Red Bull Camp at Aspen. That’s so good but it’s not really a place. Buttermilk at Aspen is pretty cool, it has a chilled vibe and there’s never that many people there which is always nice. People see it as a posh resort, but there’s no-one there so…
Do you listen to music when you ride?
I don’t listen to music when I ride, but I love tunes on the way up. I’ve probably got pretty bad taste in music to be honest, I just like shit that gets you up and going, but I can never remember songs off the top of my head, I’m shit.
Top five Snowboard video parts?
Halldor Helgason in Nike Never Not, Mark McMorris in Burton 13, Jamie Nicholls’s season edit really motivates me. Then from the girls side of things, Cheryl Maas open air video project from a few years ago. Or Shredbots, or what’s really sick is the RK1 edits with Stale Sandbech. That’s got to be top of the list.
Have you seen any of the stuff coming out of the US, like the ‘Too Hard’ crew?
I’ve seen some of that stuff. It’s pretty badass what they’re doing on rails, but I’m not much of a rail rider myself, I enjoy watching the jumps more.
Cool, thanks Aimee, let’s leave it there.
Words: Will Sleigh