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Snowboarding icon incorporates hot springs, journaling, and giving back in her training for the winter season.
When gold medalist slopestyle snowboarder Jamie Anderson had a break at home near Lake Tahoe this winter, she drove her Audi SQ5 about an hour and a half south to Buckeye Hot Springs. The rocky pools, fed by a mineral-rich warm waterfall, relax her mind and muscles, while a quick plunge into the adjacent icy Buckeye Creek breaks up the lactic acid. An athlete of Anderson’s distinction has access to state-of-the art training facilities and futuristic devices that massage out lactic acid, but she makes time for the real thing. “It’s like a nature spa for your whole body,” she said.
Anderson’s bond with the mountains began long before she was tall enough to shred the slopes. The world champion athlete and her seven siblings were born, raised and homeschooled near South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The northern Sierra Nevada mountains were their classroom and playground. Beyond math and English, her mother schooled the children about the local wildlife, the medicinal properties of natural herbs, and the wild berries to forage.
The hunter-gatherer habits Anderson learned have stuck with her, helping to fuel her success as a top-medaling snowboarder. “I find feeling good and having vitality comes from the energy you put into yourself,” she said. Anderson learned about the dangers of commercial meat before “grass-fed” was a trendy term, and if fresh local game isn’t available, she sticks to rice and beans. For optimal recovery, Anderson drinks water straight from the spring, but when that’s not possible, she uses a filter that removes toxins and adds oxygen.
Stepping back from the slopes
Anderson credits her connection with Mother Nature to much of her continued success in snowboarding, even as the stakes and skill level increase. Today, the sport requires year-round travel, especially for Americans whose home turf has lacked sufficient snow in recent winters. To keep up with the competition, athletes use glaciers in Switzerland as training grounds in the fall, and they move around the world to take advantage of peak seasons on both sides of the equator.
The lifelong earth-lover feels conflicted about these endless winters. She’s an environmental advocate for organizations such as Protect Our Winters and curses the 50-degree weather seen in Tahoe last December. Anderson spoke earnestly about effects of climate change she has seen while traveling the globe. “It’s been difficult to stay on top of my game and be the professional athlete that I am, while also having that sympathy in my heart for nature,” she said. This struggle led her to limit her time in New Zealand and Switzerland this season.
Minimizing her off-season travel time is as much about self-care as the environment. Anderson said taking a break helps get her re-inspired for winter. “I am different than most athletes as far as a certain schedule and program, and I am definitely free-spirited,” she said. “I go with whatever feels good in the next right moment.”
“It really gave us that sense of appreciation to work hard for the things you have and not take things for granted.”
This relatively loose approach has so far proven effective. Anderson earned the first spot on the American team. Off the slopes, her cross-training involves skateboarding, practicing yoga to center her nervous system, and journaling with her left hand to channel both sides of her brain. She said working through the stress of being a professional athlete on paper—with either hand—allows her to be her own best teacher.
“I find feeling good and having vitality comes from the energy you put into yourself.”
The mental aspect of any sport is critical, but the individual, intuitive nature of snowboarding make an athlete’s mindset essential. For Anderson, practicing gratitude helps her keep her ego in check. She took her first run at the age of nine, decked out in second-hand gear from a close family friend. If it wasn’t for hand-me-downs, she might not have tried the sport and gone on to a take home 15 X Games medals and win gold in Sochi in 2014 and 2018 in PyeongChang. Before the medals and the sponsorships, Anderson and her sisters mowed miles of grass for her mother’s lawn care business during the summers to afford competition travel in the winter. “It really gave us that sense of appreciation to work hard for the things you have and not take things for granted,” she said.
Giving back and letting go
Anderson considers the opportunity to get into snowboarding a blessing. It inspired her charity, Give Back with Love, which provides underprivileged children with snowboarding gear. When she doesn’t have time to host giveaway events, she often leaves snowboards, headphones, boots and other swag at a specific location posted on her social media channels for a lucky follower to find. Recently, a follower arrived where Anderson was staying in Breckenridge so quickly that she was still packing up when she heard a scream from an overjoyed fan. Anderson aims to inspire people, like that tearful girl outside her room, to pass on good karmic energy and create a ripple effect. The act of giving benefits her, too, because the boost of joy she feels from being in service to others helps her in her own life.
Anderson planned to hold onto this positive mindset as she prepared for the pinnacle competition of her event in February. Even though the slopestyle course had been revealed, she didn’t study any of the access jumps beforehand. She said she sees it as a puzzle and likes to figure out how to approach it authentically. Until the competition in PyeongChang, South Korea, Anderson said her plan was to actively enjoy the process and keep spreading the love. Her unbothered head space and oneness with nature enabled her to power through severe cold and wind to take home slopestyle gold and later silver in the debut of Big Air. “I feel like I’m already living my dream and I feel so grateful every day,” she said. “The Olympics are just a bonus.”