Young riders push Anderson to go big

Ed Stoner
Vail Daily
Jamie Anderson, right, of South Lake Tahoe, California, laughs as teammate Hailey Langland looks on during a news conference for the U.S. slopestyle snowboarding competitors Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Ed Stoner | |

No place like home

Anderson said she’s feeling rested and ready after taking a few days at home at Tahoe before hopping on a flight to Korea.

“I really wanted to go back to the lake and just take a minute. I think that area is really powerful energetically. With X Games being pretty chaotic and a lot going on, I really needed a few days. I actually spent two days in Aspen and we got to ride at Snowmass and I got to go visit some natural springs that are always really nice to hang in. Going back to Tahoe was really nice, couple days with my family, doing some laundry. ... (Going) home before you take off for a big trip is really key. Thankfully I got a few days there.”

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Jamie Anderson is more at ease in her return trip to the Olympics — but is still feeling pressure from the young U.S. slopestyle snowboarders that aim to dethrone her as reigning gold medalist.

“I think my approach has changed,” the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., native said. “I’m trying to enjoy it more. I was really really stressed out in Sochi and had a lot of pressure. I feel like this time around I’m really feeling stoked on the privilege to be here.”

The women’s slopestyle snowboarders took a quick tour of the slopestyle course on Tuesday. The course is technical with huge rails and potentially bad consequences for a mistake, Anderson said.

“To be honest, I was pretty scared, so I just went and rode powder on the side for, like, five laps with a couple friends,” she said.

They will begin practice on Wednesday, with qualifications Sunday and finals Monday at the Phoenix Park slopestyle course.

The veteran Anderson, 27, is joined on the team by repeat Olympian Jessika Jenson, 26, as well as Olympic rookies Hailey Langland, 17, and Julia Marino, 20.

Anderson — who was one of nine American gold medal winners in Sochi — said she welcomes the infusion of young talent into slopestyle snowboarding. She said the sport had grown stagnant — that is, until young snowboarders like Langland and Marino burst onto the scene. Langland and Marino both won gold at X Games in 2017 — Langland in big air and Marino in slopestyle.

“At first I was freaking out when I met Hailey and Julia,” Anderson said. “I was like, ‘Oh, snap, I’m going to have to retire sooner than I thought.’ But I realized that more than anything it’s super inspirational. … I genuinely didn’t think that girls were capable of certain tricks, so I was proven wrong.”

At the same time, Langland and Marino are benefiting from tapping into Anderson’s experience. They all traveled to Korea together and are staying together in a house.

“To be at the Olympics with these girls, especially Jamie who’s been here already — even last night we had a chat, all three of us, we were feeling stressed and we talked to her about it,” Marino said. “It’s just good to have your friends there to talk to to keep you grounded.”

The strong roster gives the U.S. a chance for its first podium sweep in women’s snowboarding, Anderson said.

“I think we are totally capable of it,” Anderson said. “We have some amazing riders. It really just comes down to one day in four years. It’s pretty dramatic. Hopefully we kick some ass.”