Hucking huge cliffs, flying through icy moguls, and navigating the tightest trees runs are just a few things in the repertoire of our beautiful cover bunny this month. Audrey Hebert likes to go fast, go big, and she’s not slowing down as she begins to climb the ranks in the world of pro-snowboarding at this year’s Freeride World Tour. Just don’t go mentioning the presence of any birds! Turns out, that’s the one thing she is afraid of. Hey, even Superman has his kryptonite, and besides, this lady is doing it all sans cape.
This dedicated athlete achieves goals with grace and a light heart, as if their is no other option but to succeed. In this exclusive SBM interview, we caught up with Audrey Hebert as she embarks on her first ever Freeride World Tour. Not only is she an inspiring athlete, she is a real sweetheart who knows how to enjoy life.
There are two ways into the Freeride World Tour. One way is to have an ongoing snowboard career and be a huge name in the industry. The other way is to win the Freeride Tour Qualifier for one’s respective region, of which the world is broken into two, America and Oceana. Our girl, Audrey was the winner for America at the Freeride Tour Qualifier last year. We met up with Audrey at her first stop on the tour in Chamonix, France and got to ask her a few questions about how she got here, how she is feeling, and what the future holds for this incredible lady shredder.
SBM: Ok, let’s start with a few icebreaker questions. What is your spirit animal?
AH: Probably a monkey. I climb a lot.
SBM: Chapstick or lip gloss?
AH: None. Au natural.
SBM: What is the most important item in your pack?
AH: A screwdriver, you never know when your bindings will decide to dance the cha cha, and hand warmers.
SBM: What’s your favorite mantra or life motto?
AH: “Live and Let Live”
SBM: Little known fact about yourself…
AH: I am absolutely terrified of birds!
AH: Yes! I don’t know where that phobia comes from. They are just flapping around and unpredictable. I almost fell off of a mountain once because of a bird.
SBM: Who are your sponsors?
AH: Ski Big 3, Defending Awesome, Unlimited Skate and Snow, Mons Royale, Smith Optics, and Tahoe Lab.
SBM: What have been your greatest snowboarding achievements thus far?
AH: Still having a functioning body after all the falls. Jokes aside, making it to the FWT was definitely my biggest goal. I wanted to reach the highest level of competition that I could and this is it. Freeriding does not have a championship or Olympics, so the FWT is the highest level of freeriding competition in the world.
SBM: When not snowboarding what can we find you doing?
AH: Well, this year has been a lot different for me. I have had to work a lot in order to afford doing the tour so I didn’t do too much. I like to climb, camp, fish, and do all sorts of outdoor stuff.
SBM: You mean to say that you aren’t raking in the dough just being a pro snowboarder? How is it that you financially support this dream?
AH: Snowboarding is my main focus, but it’s not like I get money from my sponsors. Because of that I have to work a lot. I do different jobs. Summer is busy in Banff due to all the tourism, so I work at two different restaurants during the peak of the season. In October, tourism dies down, and I head to Calgary to hang Christmas lights on houses through the end of December. It’s pretty fun. He only hires climbers because he knows we aren’t nervous about being up high on ladders. The pay is good and it’s somewhat physical, so I get some training in there.
SBM: Will you explain how the Freeride World Qualifiers landed you a spot on the Freeride World Tour and how you are feeling going into this competition?
AH: So, this gets a bit complicated. There are two tours. The Freeride World Qualifier and the Freeride World Tour. In order to get into the FWT, you have to have an ongoing snowboard career (pros) or win the FWQ for your respective region. There is America (that includes North, South, and Central America) and there is Oceania (that includes Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia). The way it works, they take your top 3 results at the FWQ that you competed this season. So last season, I only competed in 3 (there were only 4) and I got 2nd in Taos, 1st in Crystal, 1st in Kicking Horse. This made me win the FWQ and granted me a spot on the FWT. I have no results this year yet except one 4th place in Japan at a FWQ two weeks ago. So really my season has not started until this stop here in Chamonix, which is a stop on the FWT.
SBM: What was the feeling like when you started taking first in the qualifiers?
AH: I had no idea what to do. I thought go big, go fast, just charge! Turns out they like turns. It also turns out that getting after the biggest cliff and landing it with a butt check will lose you more points than if you would have rode past it. So it was definitely a learning curve at first, but once I figured it out it became obvious what to do. I started to go after runs I knew I had a good chance to stick, but still pushed myself a bit.
SBM: Was this year your first time riding in Japan? Was it the powder paradise that we all dream of?
AH: It was more than that! It was so unreal. We got there and everyone kept saying, “Oh, we have had such a bad season.” We were a little nervous, but then it started to snow and it just didn’t stop. You get there, and as much as you have been told that it’s crazy it still blows your mind. 80% percent of the competitors crashed because none of us were used to it being this deep. I mean, nobody is used to riding this stuff. Then Travis Rice comes in and he just makes it look easy. He blew everyone out of the water while we were all there struggling. I was reminded that this is what he does, he rides the best powder all over the world. The snow was so deep and really awesome.
SBM: As we conduct this interview you are in Chamonix, France, home of the first ever winter Olympics back in 1924 and beautifully nestled beside Switzerland and Italy. I mean, the FWT takes you to some amazing places! Is there time for you to explore and experience these places outside of the competition while you are on tour?
AH: The FWT is a product they sell, so they want a big commitment from us. The first day we got here we had a signing thing to sign autographs for kids downtown. It was so weird. I don’t think I have signed anything before! Then we had a photo shoot, a special dinner, the safety workshop, and so it is very scheduled. You have a little time for yourself, but this is a little more structured.
SBM: In another interview you addressed facing fears by saying, “The pain won’t last but the memories will.” What about the memory of the pain? What was the most gnarly snowboard related injury you can remember?
AH: Sure. Well, it goes hand in hand, you are obviously going to get hurt if you try to push it. Once you get a really bad injury you have to keep it in mind and be more careful in taking care of your body. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago, I kneed myself really hard in the face. I had two pretty bad black eyes, a broken nose, and my teeth went through my lip. I thought, “How is my knee this fat?! It got my entire face.” My boss told me that I didn’t look good enough to work. I was off work for almost a month. I didn’t get money for that, and I was struggling for a second there. I started to think that if I am going to do this I need to get some insurance and do things right. I have to be careful. I still have to work. I can’t be too broken. It was a wake up call. This is why I don’t like to ride park. Metal is unforgiving. I broke three teeth taking a rail to the face. It blows my mind that so many girls I ride with bomb towards those rails, but they wouldn’t drop a cliff to save their life!
SBM: So the park is out. What sort of riding excites you most? Describe the best day ever.
AH: I love to go fast. I love cliffs. I love anything challenging. Like everyone, I love powder the most, but if there isn’t any you will find me in the nastiest, most challenging stuff. No kidding! I love icy moguls and steep, tight trees. But the best day ever would be a blue bird with endless powder fields, a great crew of strong riders, and nothing short of 30 high fives.
SBM: Do you have a favorite shred buddy?
AH: I like to ride solo often, but my boyfriend would be my best shred buddy. Also, my best friend, Bobby. My boyfriend is a very talented snowboarder. He is a former World Cup boardercross racer and an Olympian, so obviously he likes to go fast too. And oddly enough, he likes the same type of weird terrain as me. He’s very technical and very knowledgeable. It’s really inspiring to ride with him. As for Bobby, he’s just crazy! It’s always a good time and high spirits.
SBM: As a professional snowboarder, it is assumed that you have had to make many sacrifices to support this on-the-road lifestyle. What have you had to prioritize and what have been the key factors to making it work?
AH: Organization and planning is key. It gets costly very fast when you’re on the road 3 to 4 months without a paycheck. Make a budget and stick to it. Look for cheap options. Determine what is necessary versus luxury for you. You can’t afford it all, so yes, prioritize. For me, having gear that works is crucial so I invest more there but I’m totally fine with sleeping in my car to cut back on hotel cost. I have a lovely Toyota Highlander. I have been on so many adventures with it and it has never failed me. I have a roof top carrier that I can store gear in and I keep a little camp stove with me. I have made it pretty comfortable. I think it’s really fun and it makes me pretty happy when I go to bed at night. I get as much rest as if I were to go to a hotel and pay money.
SBM: Besides slaying snowboard competitions, what other goals do you have on the docket?
AH: I’m pretty open. I feel that getting on the FWT was such a big goal it didn’t leave much room for a lot else. But now that this is done, I am enjoying the freedom of not focusing all my energy on a goal and living in the present-doing what makes me happy and feels right. I’d like to eventually go back to school. My boyfriend has done so, and seeing him go through it made me realize that I’m missing it a little bit. I love to learn, but as I said, it will come when it does. I’m not forcing it.
AH: There have been a few ideas I have been having. I think I would like to go into business management. I like having some freedom. Being on my own schedule. Having my own business could work. People who live outside of an organized life, like us, we are always moving around chasing snow, we don’t have people making deadlines and objectives. To us, it is normal to structure our lives for ourselves. It’s not overwhelming. So, I think something like that.
SBM: What trick would you consider to be your, ‘Blue Steel’ (Yes, this is a Zoolander reference)? Follow up question: What is your ‘Magnum’? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
AH: Haha, I love this question. I don’t trick much. I love to feel how high above the ground I am. You don’t really get that when you are spinning and such. So, as sad as it sounds straight air always puts the biggest smile on my face. That being said, Tame Dog (front flip) is my stock trick. I love to get inverted so backflips are a fun feeling too.
SBM: Should we be watching for some Tame Dogs as you make your way through the FWT?
AH: I’m not sure. It’s something I want to do obviously. I always want to throw it in every comp. I tried to throw one in Japan and didn’t land it quite right. I would like to throw a good one, but it will really depend on what the conditions are like. In this competition you don’t get to see your landings, so it’s hard to fully commit and throw yourself into something like that. It is a little more nerve racking to decide to go into this on this tour. In Japan, I knew it was nothing but powder so I went for it, but the Alps don’t have very much snow right now. I don’t want to hurt myself seriously. I will see when I get there. It is a big goal of mine but if the conditions aren’t right I probably won’t. It just won’t be worth getting injured.
SBM: We wish you the best of luck with the rest of the tour! Thanks for taking time out on your first tour stop to talk with us. Hope you start to see some snow falling so you can get out there and rip it, and we will keep our eyes peeled for your signature moves.
AH: Thank you! I will do my best to represent America well!