Michaela has been kicking around the snowboarding scene for a while now. Originally a slopestyle rider, competing around the globe and having a blast. Over the past few years, she’s made a transition into the freeriding world, blowing minds. In the space of three years, she’s gone from full rookie to now ranked number two in the world on the World Freeride Tour. Michaela’s the only Australian to ever win a freeride event on the World Tour out of men, women, skier or snowboarder. She’s got her eyes on the top spot of the podium this winter and ain’t letting anything get in her way.
Transfer: Hey Michaela, how’s things? You’re currently in full VIC lockdown mode right?
Michaela: Hello! I’m doing good, keeping reasonably sane in lockdown, stage 4!
That must be hard! Have you been able to snowboard at all this season in AUS?
I got 1 trip to Mt Hotham before the lockdown kicked in! It was only a weekend trip and the chairs weren’t running, but still had an awesome time and hoping it’s not the only trip I get in this season.
Crazy times. Do you know if anyone in VIC is spending their hour of allowed outdoor time to ride the backcountry? Would have be amazing this week…
If they already live in the mountains I’m sure people will be getting after it!
You’ve had a couple recent really successful seasons competing overseas on the World Freeride Tour. How has the tour been? And how have you found the transition into pursuing the freeride path?
The tour was amazing! It’s crazy to think that it was this year! I’ve really enjoyed switching it up from slopestyle to riding the big mountains! It’s been great exploring something new and seeing what else I can do with my riding!
I was on the tour’s site last night and by the looks of things, for the 2020 season, your currently sitting in second place? Is that right?
Yes! I came second overall this year! Not too shabby for my rookie year! Fingers crossed everything can run next year because I’m coming for that number one spot!
That’s an incredible achievement! So this was your first year on the Wold Tour? Before that you were doing the Qualifying Series?
Yeah, first year on World Tour! Last year I won the qualifiers. It’s a pretty brutal setup to get there and then to stay on it. So there are six snowboard women on the World Tour and every year the bottom two get dropped to make room for the US Tour Qualifiers and the Europe Qualifiers, but they only take the winner from each one.
The pressure is real. So you’re at the top of the freeride comp scene, do you get any time to film or shoot anything throughout the year?
Yeah for sure, there’s five events over four months so lots of time in-between to film or just explore some new mountains! And during the Aussie season I’m still discovering new places! I recently went out into the backcountry last year with The North Face team and we made a really cool film called ‘Western Faces’.
Rad, what was the ‘Western Faces’ trip like? How do you find the terrain in Australia compared to all the tour stops you ride overseas?
I honestly had no idea we had some of those big mountains here in our backyard! They might be a bit more of a mission to get to than in Europe, but you can definitely find some big lines out there! The trip was pretty awesome! It was my first time camping in the snow and just split boarding for a whole week was an awesome experience. We were a bit unlucky with conditions and weather but we made the most of it! I loved being out there!
Yeah the weather looked really gnarly in the film during some parts. How’s the tent go at night with 100km winds?
We did have the pleasure of a 140km wind storm one night! I felt like we almost got blown off the mountain. Luckily we had the legend himself, Tim Macartney-Snape helping out and after one tent being completely blown over, and too far from anywhere to bail, we just held down the fort and had to wait it out.
After that trip, I feel like all the next ones I go on will be a piece of cake!
Totally! So what else are you up to outside of snowboarding? Do you need to support yourself financially to follow the Freeride Wold Tour throughout the year?
Yes, I do need to support myself financially because freeride is outside of the Snow Australia funding regime. I rely entirely on sponsors to compete at this level and pouring beers when not in lockdown. I’m so grateful to have joined The North Face team last year, it’s given me so many opportunities and support. I’m also sponsored by SunGod, NFPD Brand, Twelve Board Store and have been riding K2 boards forever!
Since the lockdown and not being about to ride I have started a diploma in Film & Television which has been keeping me busy! I was surfing a bunch before lockdown stage four, I took up the ukulele and have been doing some training as well.
Training is a lot harder with everything closed. I’ve been working with Snow Performance based in Melbourne with some home workouts and trying my first ever zoom workout later today!
Keeping busy! It’s a solid effort you manage to get yourself around to all the events. You’re currently ranked number 2 in the world! Do you think more support will come soon? Any cool projects you’ve thought of doing?
It would be great to have some government support like some of the other riders get from their home countries. I’m building some great long-term relationships with my sponsors and it’s all up from here! Always thinking of something epic to do next! The latest ones are a film trip to Alaska with freeride skier Billy Lloyd-Blainey and starting a freeride camp for anyone wanting to shred the big lines and have a crack at a freeride qualifier event.
Nice. Where’s your favourite place you’ve ridden?
I think I’d have to say Switzerland! Nendaz & Verbier are some of my favourite places to ride! The finals of the Freeride World Tour is on the famous Bec Des Rosses. It got cancelled this year, but I have ridden down it once before on some lovely ice. Can’t wait to hit it and put in some fresh lines next year!
It is insanely steep, 500m of near vertical snow, it 100% gets the heart racing!
Fingers crossed we’ll all be able to head back overseas soon, to chase snow. What’s your vibe on COVID right now? Are you hopeful you’ll be doing the tour this season?
Yeah I’m feeling positive it will all go ahead, thats’ what the organisers are saying! I just need to be able to get out of the country to Japan for the first stop of the tour in January.
Awesome, well we wish you all the best on the tour. You’re holding it down for the Aussies in the freeride space. You feeling good for number 1 finish on the tour this year?
There’s some great riders on the tour, but next season I’m going after World Champ!
Best of luck Michaela!