Interview with Torah Bright, Aimee Fuller and Robin Van Gyn: Behind the Scenes of Pro Snowboarder
Posted on: Jan. 29, 2019
Recently The Maples Niseko was honored to host three of the world’s best winter athletes, snowboarders Torah Bright, Aimee Fuller and Robin Van Gyn. During their busy schedule these three champions joined us for Q&A session for guests and locals in the Maples Lobby. Everyone enjoyed an amazing evening relaxing by the open fireplace with many laughs, cups of hot chocolate and brownies, and enjoying a great talk with the girls after a ride.
Torah is an Australian Olympic Gold and Silver medalist and known for her humility and endless smile. Aimee is one of the worlds most exciting up and coming snowboarders having represented Great Britain twice in the Olympics. Robyn is a goddess of backcountry and has built a reputation as one of the worlds best free riders and has numerous extreme skiing videos.
How are you finding Japan and Niseko together?
Aimee: From the people, the locals have been super friendly and hospitable. The food has been out of this world. The actual Niseko itself, the dynamic, how it works, your accommodation, everything has been like top class. And the snow is just like, I’ve never seen anything like this! It is ridiculous. It is what you have seen in the magazines. And it's been amazing to share it with these guys.
You ride to make a living, so is riding a job or a passion?
Torah: It is a job some days, when you're just not delivering what you need to deliver. So, I don't know, I just find myself on a journey of continual evolution and progression. Often it is just finding ways to make it fun.
Robin: When you do what you love, it doesn't really feel like work. You know, it's like, every day you're out in the mountains, and even if it seems super hard, you're like “Okay, I'm not on the desk! This is actually what I do!”
Aimee: It's minus 14 and you've got to hit an awesome jump and you feel like you might die.
Torah: And you are at a contest it’s like monkey and dance, monkey dance! (*lots of Laughter*) But no matter what, it’s happening. But to be honest, it's a blessing.
Aimee: It's a dream that I never thought was even possible.
Torah: And now we're riding powder in Japan you guys all know how that feels.
What do you think is the next big thing that is going to happen and change things up?
Torah: That's an interesting question. Because there are a lot of 13-year-old freaks out there doing some credible things, but for me personally, it's just making it really, really fun. I mean, riding with Robin and learning from somebody who's been in the backcountry their whole life. It's just like, whoa.
Robin: I feel like what she said is we're going to see the backcountry come to the fore in the next 10 years. I think we're going to see a lot more competitiveness on a backcountry stage like the supernatural and the ultranatural. I think that's going to be coming up again in the next few years.
Aimee: Taking it back to the organic routes!
Any advice you have that going out exploring backcountry?
Robin: I would just say you kind of know before you go and that's like a blanket term. What we do is we glorify the backcountry a lot. But what we don't document is everything that goes in behind the scenes. So, making sure that you're ready to step onto the softy run because it can get really real super fast! And it seems like it's all planet dreams. Oh my God, this is so amazing. Everything's great until something happened. So, know you're learn yourself. Take your time to learn what you're here does, don't just have it. Use a beacon, use a probe, use a shovel, practice with your friends. You know, the best, most productive cruise I've ever been on are the ones which are super prepared, because we can go and get on anything and communicate with each other.
What advise do you have for young athletes?
Aimee: Take it slow in terms of progression, with step by step and just keep it as fun as possible. For me, it’s been about who I've been riding with. Riding with people that I love no matter what the environment or what situation. I think it's about being around with people, it’s what made my career so good. Looking out to these guys.
Torah: Yeah, I think it's really understanding yourself and how you work best as well because everybody works differently. For me, I've got to be creating fun in anything I do, you know, up top of the Olympic finals, crashed those around, and got one round to go. I'm freaking dancing and singing. Because no matter where I'm at, I need to be creating fun and that's my progression of the athlete too. And putting yourself within great groups, riding with people better than you. The young kids coming up and the pressure on the bigger events and really performing at such young ages and getting sponsorships and whatnot. I just tell the kids “Have fun.” that's why we snowboard. And I have to take myself back to the roots to re-inspire myself, and it really is getting out on a mountain with your buddies and your family. Just keep tapping into the true essence of the sport and who you are as a person and how you work.
Robin: I actually feel like you just need to have a little bit of a tough skin. You're going to hear a lot of no’s, people are not going to like what you do, but if you know that's what you want to do, and you stay focused on that then you'll never have any trouble. It's all about like knowing what you want and not caring what anybody else thinks of it.
Do you have any advice for getting back to snowboarding from injury?
Robin: Definitely, definitely. You know what, um, I think one of the biggest things is taking the time to rest. Early in my career, I did a lot of snowboarding as soon as the injury was like kind of feeling better. I'd be like “Okay, I'm going!” It’s taking the time to just let it fully heal. Take the time. Life is long, your snowboard life is super long. I've been snowboarding for 20 years, and I feel the best that I've ever felt. I think it's because I learned to take the time and like do the yoga, do all the stuff that you don't like, to get the result that you want. It just takes patience. So yeah, good luck with that.
Torah: Yeah, rehab sucks. Um, I think it's really being kind to yourself too. I've kind of struggled with concussions. So, over the last few years, and the biggest thing I can take away from that type of injury, you know, your arms work, your legs work, but it's just a different kind of recovery process. It's just being kind to yourself, allowing the time, respecting your body and trusting in an intuition that is going to do what it needs to do to heal itself. So, be kind to yourself.
What do you do to train when off the mountain?
Torah: Well, we have a certified yoga instructor right here! For me, it varies definitely different times of the year. When you're gearing up for the winter, you go a little bit more intent to build strength before the winter. I kind of take it down these last few years. It feels good to just do yoga and Pilates and maybe some, you know, day training. Now it's the sort of feels good to the body. I've learned to really listen to my body and not push it too far. And that's a big thing for me too.
Aimee: I don't know about that recently, eating all the pizza. But I would say strength in mobility. So, having strength in a good range and I think that really helps your performance. And just the way you move on the mountain, whether you're on ski or snowboard. If you've got full range and you've got strength in that range as well, it's just going to prevent injury and also just make you feel good like especially as a snowboarder like moving, grabbing, if you can move well and the fluidity from yoga and the strength training combined. And yes, the ultimate little bit running as well just keep the lungs going, so you can go all day, right?
Robin: I kind of do what they called cross training? So, in the summer, I surf most of the summer and I do a lot of hiking. It's not like I'm in the gym all the time or doing yoga every single day, I do both of those things. But normally it's just like getting outside and getting your body moving a little bit every day. Whether it's like go take the dog for a really nice walk or ride your bike somewhere. Just little things and I think if I wasn't pro snowboarder, I will be doing that constantly. But I am, I do yoga constantly, all summer. In the winter, it's a little bit more intermittently but I stretch almost every single day. And I usually spend like a solid month and a half in the gym right before the season opening. Make sure that I'm not flailing.
Torah: By the way she is ripped. But also being strong prevents injury. If you're a little weaker, you are more likely to be injured. So that's kind of why most people hit the gym.
Do you have warm up routine before you ride every day?
Torah: For me, my lower back gets quite tight, so I'll do some kinds of halfway lifts, and just move your body.
Aimee: Yeah, always do at least 10 minutes. I think just 10 minutes of movement in any direction, like waking up your muscles, you know, slowly, still gently but just engaging your core, your glutes and all the important stuff that you actually use when you ride, and with a little bit of stretching. But yeah, I definitely will do at least 10 minutes. 10 minutes is better than no minutes. Right?
Robin: You know what dynamic stretching is? It's literally takes three minutes and warm up your legs and your hips and everything. So, when you go on the mountain, you're like warm already. Because it's cold out there, you just go up and you're all stiff. So, you should look at a dynamic stretching, super simple, really fast.
Aimee: On YouTube, I've got flow, 10 minutes warm up for snowboarding.
What's your favorite place to board or ski?
Aimee: Tough question, and well, riding powder obviously it's Niseko, no brainier. Riding in the summer, it has to be Australia because you've kind of got both in the sunshine and snow, and you can maybe get a cheeky surfing so it's amazing down there.
Torah: That's a really hard question for me because I'm like a kid in the candy store. Wherever I go, it's always different. There's always something different to see, something unique about it. But I do love shredding among the country back home, the most epic, but I think I did in Utah for many years, so it got a special place in my heart. But here the snow is just like Robin was saying, “You never really felt anything like it. It's incredible. It's a wait list.” And it's like you're trying not to like face shower yourself every turn like you can't see but you can't open.
Robin: Yeah, we spent our whole first day being like "I can't see!" I'm a Canadian and I love all the places that I've seen in the world, especially, Japan. But I have to say that Whistler is my home mountain and I will always love it the most.
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