Everyone knows chicks who ski are rad.
Yeah, that’s a vague statement that might cause you to pause and ask, “But, what kind of skiers are you talking about?” I’m talking about the chicks you see on TV tossing their bodies around 900 degrees with the same amount of effort you use to tie your shoes.
So you might wonder, what goes on in the heads of these ladies?
We talked with Brita Sigourney, who recently proved her talent when she competed in Women’s Skiing Halfpipe at the Sochi Winter Olympics (Yes, she hucks it.), to help us answer that question.
You’re from a charming sunny town called Carmel, California. There’s no skiing there. How did you learn to ski, and well enough to where you represented the U.S. at the Olympics earlier this year?
My parents had a condo in Lake Tahoe and they drove my three older siblings and me the five hours every weekend during the winter to ski.
My brothers joined the freestyle ski team when I was really young and then I joined it when I was eight. I competed in everything: moguls, aerials, halfpipe, big air, slopestyle.
What was your home mountain at Lake Tahoe?
Alpine Meadows. They had a halfpipe where I was able to train early on when I was a kid. After a few years they had to get rid of it because it was too expensive to maintain but I was already competing in halfpipe by that time along with my other events.
You’re primarily a halfpipe skier but you grew up competing in events all across the board. What made you decide to specialize?
It came down to whether I wanted to be skiing all day during competitions. The organizers space it out so that you can compete in slopestyle, halfpipe and big air (if they have it), but limited training slots during competitions means you’d be on the mountain all day.
It’s exhausting going from competing right into a training session, then back into competition all in one day. I don’t like to be that busy, and it’s a lot of wear and tear on your body. I prefer just focusing on halfpipe and getting good at one event.
Wear and tear on the body seems to be every pro-skier’s worst enemy. What are some of the injuries you’ve dealt with?
(Laughs) Last year I broke my collarbone, separated my AC joint and tore the two ligaments in my shoulder. I did that at the Olympics Test Event at Sochi in February 2013.
When I got back to the U.S. my doctor wanted to check out my knee also because it had been bothering me for a while. After an MRI we found out I had broken off a bunch of cartilage in my knee so that every time I landed I was hitting bone-on-bone.
Since I already needed shoulder reconstruction surgery, which was a four-month recovery, my doctor decided it was best for me to get surgery on my knee at the same time. The knee was a six-month recovery.
That’s pretty amazing you were able to come back from those injuries and still qualify for the Olympics this past February. How would you describe the Olympics qualification process?
The U.S. does qualifying differently than most countries. We have our Olympic qualifying competitions the year of the Olympics, whereas most countries give their athletes a year and a half to accumulate enough finishes to qualify.
Last year was insane because we only had 5 competitions before the Olympics to qualify. We pretty much had one competition every week besides Christmas. This year is much better. There aren’t as many World Cups that we have to do because we don’t have to qualify for anything. We only have the X Games, the Dew Tour and two grand prix events. Last year, we had all of that plus 4 grand prix events.
Sochi quickly got a bad reputation for being unprepared for the Olympics this year. Did you think those reports were exaggerated or pretty accurate?
(Laughs) Oh yeah. They used the cheapest appliances; everything was breaking in our room while we were there. One day we got back from practice and there was a giant hole in our bathroom and a construction worker that didn’t speak any English standing in our room.
The food was even worse. They had cafeterias in each of the two Olympic villages. The one on the coast was a little bit better than the one in the mountains because it had a McDonald’s. I never ate more McDonald’s in my life than when I was at the Olympics; it was the best thing we ate while we were there. They tried to do different ethnic food stations like sushi, pizza, pasta. The pizza and pasta were literally sitting in puddles of grease and the sushi was—I was skeptical about the sushi. I ate a lot of yogurt when I was there.
Where do you train and call home base now?
I live in Park City, Utah now and when I’m home I usually ski at Park City Mountain Resort. I came out here to train with the U.S. Ski Team and also to take advantage of the free physical therapy the Ski Team provides us. That’s helped a lot in recovering from my injuries.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming season?
I definitely want to stay healthy, definitely want to learn some new tricks. I’m going to do all of the high level competitions this season but since we have a lot of breaks I want to get more into backcountry skiing, maybe go to Japan or Europe or something like that, maybe film. I need to talk to my sponsors a little bit more and see if they’re into it.
In the past three years I’ve had no time to get in the backcountry because I’ve either been recovering or competing. I’ve only skied four days of powder in the last two years. One of my sponsors, K2, has a heli-lodge in British Colombia that I want to go to this winter.
If skiing didn’t exist, what would you be doing with your life?
I’d probably be playing water polo. All of my brothers played water polo so I always played growing up. I played at UC Davis for a couple of years too before deciding to compete full time.
Brita placed sixth in women’s halfpipe at the Olympics and she’s one of a small army of professional skiers who call Park City home base. She’s healthy and looking forward to a competition season that will give her time to work on new tricks and carve some deep butta in the backcountry.
As of the writing of this article she is in Switzerland eating croissants and training on halfpipe. Keep an eye out for her this season and browse her website to see what she’s all about.
* Sponsors: Monster, K2, Oakley, Giro, Coal, Full Tilt, POW Gloves,