July 9th, 2009
Shay: So tell us about yourself?
Nicole: I’m a 23 year old one-legged snowboarder and outdoor recreational enthusiast in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Shay: What is your job title?
Nicole: Snowboarder! To fund the habit, I’m a Polysomnographer. Aka, Sleep Tech. I help diagnose and treat sleeping disorders.
Shay: How did you get into competiting in USASA?
Nicole: Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit out of California contacted me and talked me into trying it out. I had NO idea what I was getting into!
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Nicole: Never, my parents have been supportive from day one. I don’t think they’ll be surprised if I ditch the medical field and evolve into the industry.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Nicole: 143 Sims with step-in-bindings.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Nicole: 149 Capita Saturnia
Shay: What was your first job?
Nicole: Concessions at a movie theatre, I was 14.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Nicole: Any day you throw down something new or dial in something you’ve been working on, or just shred really hard and have a blast. So most days.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Nicole: There are so many awesome snowboarders and amazing people that have created the soul of this sport, many of whom you’ll never read about in Transworld; that’s who influences me. I owe a lot to Tye McDonough for giving me a chance and helping me stick with it. Most of my family and friends aren’t really involved in the industry so when I meet people who are, its exciting for me.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Nicole: 5 years
Shay: How long have you been competing?
Nicole: 4 years
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Nicole: Never enough, 100 or so.
Shay: What makes you different from the other athletes?
Nicole: Um, I only have one knee and one foot. I didn’t know board sports even existed before I lost my leg so I think that sets me apart from the most of the adaptive crew.
Shay: What is it like competing in USASA?
Nicole: Competing is about having fun in a controlled environment and being consistent. In Regionals, I don’t really have a competitor so I start comparing myself to everyone else and I end up being very critical of my own riding. Nationals is where I get to compete against other adaptive snowboarders. I’ve become good friends with most of the riders it’s a lot of fun to hit up USASA at the end of the season and see who’s improved and kills it.
Shay: Is competing in snowboarding more about talent or hard work?
Nicole: Talent plays its part, but Hard work is what gives it strength. In the adaptive world, there aren’t really a lot of dedicated snowboarders. By dedicated I mean, they put in the days on snow, train, compete, do what it takes. Snowboarding is hard, throw a fake leg into the mix and we’re talking serious business.
Shay: What’s your favorite competition to attend?
Nicole: I think you should rephrase that to: What competition would you like to attend? I wouldn’t mind a run through the X-games pipe. I want to hit up the US Open in Stratton, VT, and I’m hoping to witness the Grenade games too.
Shay: What is competing like behind the scenes?
Nicole: Hurry up and wait. They tell you to be there at a certain time and then they are ahead or behind schedule so they tell you another time. Sometimes the waiting can make you nervous, but then it’s your turn, everything comes together, and you get this adrenaline rush.
Shay: What do you think makes a good coach?
Nicole: You can’t replace a real leg or the way it functions, so it’s important for a coach to be creative and be able to consider limitations. Patience, persistence and great communication skills are mandatory.
Shay: What’s your trick of choice?
Nicole: Uh oh. Since I focused and started dialing in my prosthetic and mechanics, I’ve just kept it simple and sweet. Straight air, boardslide and Front 1.
Shay: Do you have any sponsors?
Nicole: Challenged Athletes Foundation(CAF) and the National Ability Center made my season happen. Ossur USA for prosthetics and Symbiotechs USA designed my snowboard knee. Thanks to the local rep, the CAPITA-UNION-COAL-686 gang helped me out this season. New equipment was not in my budget so thanks a million!
Shay: How is working with your sponsors?
Nicole: CAF is a foundation that gives grants to “challenged” athletes once a year. The National Ability Center gives grants to members of its teams and once in awhile they receive private donations for specific athletes. I have to submit an application several months in advance for both. Ossur USA and Symbiotechs have been there when I needed them so that’s super cool.
Shay: What is your favorite mountain to ride?
Nicole: I really loved Big Sky, Montana. Park City is my home though.
Shay: How do you progress you own riding?
Nicole: My third season I rode alone a lot, so I didn’t really progress and that was frustrating. The next season I talked the director of the Park City Snowboard Team into letting me ride with them. I really had to step back at that point and work on some basics. Things, like ollies and grabs are really hard when you only have one knee that you can lift up. I returned to the team this season and I’m stoked with my progression.
Shay: What do you do in the off-season?
Nicole:Wakeboard, kayak, hike, downhill mountain bike, take college classes, work, chill, all that good stuff.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from competiting?
Nicole:Halfpipe 2006 USASA, I had NEVER ridden a pipe before and everyone’s like, doesn’t matter, just try it. It was a disaster, but a lot of fun.
Canadian Nationals 2009, I FINALLY got to use my passport.
USASA Regional 2009, Slopestyle. My two legged competitor only beat me by .01 of a point or something like that. It was close.
USASA Nationals 2009, Giant Slalom. After my first run the Canadian coach walked up to my coach and says: “I didn’t know Nicole could race!”
Shay: What’s a typical day in your life?
Nicole: Wake-up, stretch, eat, snowboard, shower, chill with family/friends, sleep. Half the week I replace the snowboard factor with work.
Shay: What are some other activities you do outside of snowboarding?
Nicole: Photography and Graphic Design, I still play the piano on occasion, and I have a DVR these days. I’ve never been a homebody though so I’m usually out and about doing the “off season activities.”
Shay: You have your own website and blog focused on you as a rider, what were the reasons behind starting those?
Nicole: It got really hard to try and keep everyone updated so I created a central place for people to go. It also gives me a place to thank everyone for their support and provide a reference for other riders.
Shay: Do you see social media as an important tool to reaching out to snowboarders?
Nicole: The industry is growing fast and as more people get involved I think its becoming increasingly important to have a good blend of both the old fashioned ways and the advantages of technology. Social Media isn’t for everyone but it can be a great tool to help others stay connected.
Shay: What would you like to see improve with adaptive sports and snowboarding?
Nicole: I would love to see more adaptive riders that are dedicated and really want to push the sport. Only about a handful of us are focused on that. We’ve only had a few opportunities to demo in “two-legger” events and it’s usually the same people that get to ride because the others haven’t had the opportunity to progress that far yet.
Shay: What do you think the industry should do to welcome and bring in new snowboarders?
Nicole: Being part of the Park City Snowboard Team has been the most positive experience for me. There are adaptive “learn to ride” programs and camps across the country but once the individuals complete the program that’s it, there’s nothing bridging the gap to a competition level. The only reason I still snowboard is because my instructor went out of his way to help me keep riding. It doesn’t have to be anything that big but just be open to the idea that someone with one leg, or arm, or partial paralysis might want to do more than link turns. They are capable of doing more so why not give them a chance?
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from competing?
Nicole: Competing is a challenge and I enjoy it. It gives me an incentive to get better, to keep riding and really test the limits. It gives me confidence. I think that’s a great perk!
Shay: Any disadvantages of competing?
Nicole: They don’t and can’t take disability into consideration so it doesn’t matter if my competitor has a MAJOR physical advantage over me we’re still judged as if we we’re the same. Guess I just have to charge harder.
Shay: Since you started snowboarding, what’s been the biggest change?
Nicole: The biggest thing for me as a rider was self-esteem and confidence. Being a cancer survivor isn’t easy, especially when it leaves you with scars that remind you every single day of what you once were. Cancer taught me how to be strong but I hadn’t really figured out how to move on. Through high school I found “refuge” in work and classes. Life just wasn’t fun. Then snowboarding came into the picture and I re-discovered what I could be capable of. I chose to chase a dream and it’s been a rough road; but exciting and fun and constantly surprising.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Nicole: January thru April. Comp season.
Shay: Any upcoming competitions or travels you are looking forward to?
Nicole: New Zealand National Championships, July 26th-31st. I’ll be plunging into the top ramen when I get back, but I’ve already decided I’m going. As of right now, I will be the only rider from the USA to compete alongside Canada, Italy, Australia, France and the Netherlands.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Nicole: Experience because it is education. Don’t get me wrong, school is cool, but there are a lot of things you can’t learn from books. The most successful people are the ones that are brave enough to stick out rather than blend in.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to compete in snowboarding?
Nicole: Do it, love it, have fun. Don’t hold yourself back because you think you’re not good enough. Everyone starts somewhere and you can’t expect to win your first competition, or even the tenth. Be patient and work hard.
Shay: Final Thoughts?
Nicole: PEOPLE magazine just said that fanny packs are back! Seriously?!