The Womens’ Snowboard Freeride World Champion for 2010 picks her favourite five spots for snowboarding
Interview by James Bedding
“When people ask me the best resort to ride, I always say: it’s the place you know best. You know the danger points, you know what it looks like in summer, you know about all the cliffs, what’s underneath the surface of the snow.
For me, that would be the mountains near Lake Constance, where I grew up, and around Innsbruck, where I live now.
I totally recommend the Arlberg – places like St. Anton and Lech. The whole area is amazing to ride. It has everything – tree runs, steep faces, gnarly faces if you really want to go crazy. I’ve been riding there since I was a little kid – it’s just an hour away from Lake Constance and an hour from Innsbruck. I know the danger zones, I know which cliffs are kind of gnarly, and where I should take care.
If it’s really safe and stable, there’s always a lot of lines to do, but if it’s just dumping with snow, you can always hide in the trees – where there’s a good feel, and it’s not so dangerous because it’s a lot less steep.
If friends come to visit, and there’s not a lot of powder, I love going to one of the parks. We often go to Mayrhofen – I really recommend the Mayrhofen Vans Penken Park. I’ll still do some kickers and rails – it’s like going back to my past.
Before freeride, I started with competitions in the half-pipe and slopestyle. In fact, I think it’s important to do all kinds of riding. You shouldn’t be just a freerider, or a freestyler, or do just boarder cross – being an all-round snowboarder is what makes a snowboarder good. So every time friends come to visit and we go riding in a park, I’m totally stoked.
One place that is special because it is so close to the city – Innsbruck – is Axamer Lixum. It has really nice, steep slopes, but it’s also a great family resort. If there’s powder you can also go in the trees. It’s not super-gnarly, but the mountains are amazing – you feel like you could be in Chamonix, the views are like – wow!
Outside Europe, I have been riding quite a lot in Squaw Valley lately – but I would recommend the whole Lake Tahoe area.It’s not known for super-speed gnarly lines, but it’s great fun to ride there. It has super-nice mountains with an amazing view down to the lake, and tree runs all over the place.
If they have a storm, it goes on for three days, and you can have a metre of fresh powder – and then you can be sure that you’re going to have a week of sun, because it’s California. It never gets that cold, either – here in the Alps you have sometimes minus 20 degrees; over there, minus 5 to minus 10 is the coldest it gets. Sometimes it gets really warm, so you have to get up really early.
Number five would probably be my home town, where I learned skiing. A lot of people haven’t heard of it. It’s called the Bregenzerwald, in the Vorarlberg in Austria.
It’s where Gigi Rüff comes from – he’s an amazing snowboarder. It consists of lots of different villages; but Damüls would be the one for me – it feels like home. It has everything you could ask for – you can go backcountry and find really nice slopes. And it’s great for learning, too.
If you want to go off-piste, though, you should always check out the avalanche risk, and make sure you know how the snow layers built up over the season. It’s really important to get training in off-piste safety.
Axamer Lizum (www.axamer-lizum.at) was the venue for many of the alpine events of the Winter Olympic Games that were held in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976. The ski area is 50 minutes by bus from the city, one of the most appealing in the Alps; the journey is free with a local lift pass. Ski packages to Axamer Lizum are available from Crystal (www.crystalski.co.uk), and city/ski breaks based in Innsbruck from Inghams (www.inghams.co.uk).
Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest and clearest freshwater lakes in the world, surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Nevada – which tend to have gentler contours and thicker tree cover than, say, the Colorado Rockies. The best views of the lake, arguably, are from the ski slopes of Heavenly (www.skiheavenly.com). There are seven ski areas around the lake, including the venue for the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, Squaw Valley (www.squaw.com). Trips to the two resorts are available from Ski Safari (www.skisafari.com) and Ski Independence (www.ski-i.com).
The Bregenzerwald (www.bregenzerwald.at) consists of 22 villages, little known among British skiers, in the far west of Austria, close to the borders with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. Damüls has access to 109km of piste rising to an altitude of 2,100 metres, and is regarded as reasonably snow-sure. You can buy day passes for the different ski areas; passes of two and a half days or longer cover all 17, plus a couple of neighbouring regions. For advice on arranging an independent touring holiday, contact the Austrian Tourist Office (www.austria.info/uk).