One rad thing about being in the line of work we are in, is we get to meet some incredible women. Women of all ages, who are really pursuing their dreams and stretching their talents. One of these such women is teen freeskier, Nikita Rubocki. We met her last year at our 2nd Annual Mamma Jamma Rail Jam and ever since, we’ve kept our eye on this young athlete. Just 16 years old, she has been making a name for herself in the freeski scene, competing at national and international levels. She recently returned from the Winter Youth Olympics in Norway, where she got to compete against some of the top freeskiers in the world. We don’t know about you, but at 16, we certainly weren’t traveling the world and competing in Olympic venues. She’s a sophomore at Bishop Kelly High School, right here in Boise, ID and when she’s not skiing or in school, she’s swimming competitively.
Nikita is a young person with a good head on her shoulders – determined, talented and recognizes the challenges ahead with women’s freeskiing. We got a chance to connect with Nikita to find out a little about her and see where she plans to take her talents.
SBM: We first met you at the 2nd Annual Mamma Jamma Rail Jam – what are your thoughts about women’s freeskiing and where it’s at currently? Do you think there are many outlets available to female freeskiers that allows them to thrive and be acknowledged?
NR: Women’s freeskiing is still a very young sport. In comparison to men’s freeskiing, a big gap remains between what women’s freeskiing is and what it can become in the future. I believe that we just need to keep advocating for resources and awareness, and keep encouraging more girls to compete at higher levels in the sport. Right now, we get fewer spots in competition, thus less of the purse and less recognition. Additionally, the scoring in the competition is different, since our level of tricks are less technical and less difficult than those of men. Furthermore, women don’t have as many resources or sponsorships available, so most women who could be skiing or representing aren’t because of how expensive this sport is. But that’s about to change with the next generation of young women entering the sport. We are all taking the path forged by people like Sarah Burke, and bringing it to the next level. Even in the few years I’ve been in this sport, I’ve seen a higher and higher level of difficulty of competition, and I think the next few years are going to bring a lot of change.
SBM: Well-said and we completely agree! It has been encouraging in the past few years to see the gender gap lessen with upcoming female athletes who are speaking out against the imbalance. With that said, what got you interested in skiing and competing?
NR: While my parents were never avid skiers growing up (as they’re from the east coast and the Midwest they did not have regular access to skiing), when they moved to Boise (when I was about 6 months old), they insisted that they had to get all their kids into the activities of the area. I’ve been skiing since I was three years old, starting at Bogus Basin. At 7, I started racing, and while I loved the speed, I never really took to the constant drills and the same races over and over again. So when the freeride program opened back up on BBSEF, my parents immediately signed me up, saying that if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have to ski anymore. I took to it immediately.
Ever since then I’ve stuck to it, at first just learning to ski the trees and hit powder jumps, and eventually taking to the park as well. I, then got into competitions, first just small local competitions and some USASA events, but never really having a competition plan or focused training. Then, at the end of the 2014 season, there was a Revolution Tour at Sun Valley. My parents signed me up for it, kind of a test to see if this skiing thing would really be worth pursuing. I was 14 then, and I got 2nd in the competition. That’s when skiing became more of a sport for me- not just a weekend hobby. Last year was when I really started competing, as I competed in the whole Rev Tour (with a few podiums and finishing 2nd overall), Junior Worlds in Italy and the AFP World Tour Finals in Canada. The results from this season are what got me invited to the Youth Olympics Games.
After all this competition and decent results, I realized I needed a lot more consistent training to compete on an international level. So last summer I spent a few weeks at Mt. Hood, and even went to Australia for a week of training. I then made the commitment to join Team Park City United (TPCU). While BBSEF Freeride is an amazing program and I love my coaches and friends there (plus there’s no mountain like Bogus!), I realized I needed something a little more intensive to be able to compete at a higher level. This ski season has been mostly training for me, with some competitions mixed in. I’ve been down in Park City a lot, and also down in Colorado for a few weeks, all to train. For competitions this year I’ve done the whole Rev Tour, USSA Junior Nationals and the Youth Olympic Games in Norway.
SBM: That’s a pretty impressive resume, especially considering you’ve only started competing two years ago! If it only took you two years to get to where you are today, we can only imagine where you’ll be in several more years. Tell us about the Winter Youth Olympics in Norway. What kinds of emotions and experiences did you gain from competing on that stage?
NR: One word: unreal. The whole thing from start to finish was absolutely amazing. There was so much going on, I don’t know if I can describe it all! First off, the venues were awesome, and I imagine it’s really similar to what the actual Olympics are like. From the village to the actual slopes, everything was built for this special occasion, right where the Winter Olympics were back in 1994. The other crazy part was that everything was designed for the athletes, which seems obvious but is so much different than what it sounds like. We had our own huge cafeteria open almost all hours of the day, athlete tents at our respective venues that only we (and our coaches) were allowed into, special dorms with our own security access and even our own police escorts! Plus, having our own credentials made it even more official.
Getting the opportunity to compete in this event was a great experience and I had a ton of fun doing it! It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from shocked to ecstatic and everything in between. From the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing Ceremonies the whole thing was awesome and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be the one chosen as a freestyle competitor to represent women, my country, and the state of Idaho. My favorite part of the whole thing was probably meeting all the new people, which was cool because they were from all over. Making all these new friends around the world really put a perspective on things, and how different and similar we all are, even if we live on different sides of the planet.
SBM: That’s pretty rad and you probably felt like a boss! So, is your ultimate goal to get on the U.S. Olympic Freeski Team?
NR: Making the U.S. Olympic Team would be amazing! Being on the U.S. Freeskiing Team is one of my goals, since that’s the main team of the States. Going to the Olympics for the U.S. is definitely on my list of things to accomplish in skiing, although I would definitely be okay with an invite to the X-Games! Ultimately though, I just want to help out the sport and make it easier for girls to compete at the same level of guys.
SBM: That’s a great perspective. Ever think about joining the dark side and try snowboarding, us snowboarders are always looking for more converts?
NR: While I’ve never actually gone snowboarding, I’ve always wanted to try it. I actually had a snowboard coach for a little while when I was at BBSEF and I’m pretty sure he thought he was paying some kind of penance when he had to coach the skiers. I don’t think I would ever go fully into the snowboard community though, because why restrict yourself to one stick when you could have two?
SBM: Ha! Touché. What advice do you have for women who want to get to the level that you’re competing?
NR: All I can really say is keep at it. Persistence is key, and while some things may be scary or intimidating, you just have to take a deep breath and go at it anyway. There will be people out there who will say women’s skiing isn’t worthwhile, or those who make fun of it during training or competitions. I’ve been told to my face that our part of a competition wasn’t worth the time, since we “wouldn’t throw more than 360s anyway”, but no matter what anyone says you just have to go out and prove them wrong. Push the limits of skiing; throw a new trick, hit a new rail, keep up with the boys, but no matter what, show that there’s nothing you would rather be doing than skiing like a girl, because being a girl is freaking awesome.
SBM: Being a girl is awesome indeed! Any inner most secrets you want to share with the world? Now is the time to share it!
NR: I would lick someone’s foot for a good M&M milkshake. I know how to program (using Java mainly) and I want to be an engineer someday, preferably doing something that involves computers.
SBM: Gnarly! I can’t even touch another person’s foot! Lastly, who is hooking you up these days as far as sponsors go?
NR: I’m sponsored by JumpTime Boise and Oakley, but my main sponsor is the Bank of Parental Funds. I’m totally open to new sponsorship opportunities though!
Not only is Nikita talented but she has a lot of wisdom and smarts. You can bet this won’t be the last you hear of her; we can tell that she is just getting started and we can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
Photos by John Rubocki