Long blonde hair seems as much a part of snowboard style as wearing goggles. But girly looks belie steely determination and inner strength for top pro rider, blonde bombshell, Katie Blundell, winner of the Big Air in 2010 and Slopestyle at The Brits inTignes
Katie Blundell talks to Style Altitude about looking good, hucking it – and her ambition to change her 'girly' looks. But only when it comes to riding.
What is about Slopestyle/ Freestyle riding that you love so much?
I love the adrenaline rush it gives you and the fact you can be creative. I enjoy kickers and rails equally, so a discipline that includes both is perfect for me.
As soon as I started snowboarding I was immediately drawn towards the terrain parks, more than just cruising around the mountain. I think this has maybe come from my gymnastic background? I just loved the feeling of learning tricks and the fact there is always more to learn. And then once you have a trick, trying to perfect it and bring style into it and linking it with others into a Slopestyle run
Do you think that your background in gymnastics has helped determine how you ride?
Yes, definitely. I think it has taught me spacial awareness and how to fall properly. As well as practical aspects, it's also given me self-discipline and how to 'train'.
I always start off with learning the easier tricks first and progress my way up to more difficult ones. I don't like doing things before I'm ready. And I guess it's taught me the importance of safety. I always do stretches before I start riding and I'll never do tricks first run through the park. Warm up runs first.
What’s your favourite trick to do?
I know it's nothing crazy and not technical at all, but I really love doing tail grabs. I do them quite a lot, probably more than I should, but they just feel so nice. Obviously, more difficult tricks feel awesome when you land them ,too.
How beaten up do you get doing tricks?
Very beaten up. A lot of the time when I'm learning a new trick, I have to go through the stage where I take nasty bails every time. Normally the day after I can barely move out of bed I'm so sore. But then, finally, it clicks, and then you've got it and the pain stops. Haha.
But I have had some pretty serious injuries from riding, too. I always seem to hit my head and I really can't afford to loose any more brain cells. My helmet has saved me so many times.
You tore your cruciate ligament a few years ago. Does this affect how you ride? Are you more cautious?
Yes, I tore it in NZ doing a 50-50 on a box on a warm up run. Hence, now, why I never hit any park features during my first run in the morning. But I had dodgy knees anyway from gymnastics so I think it was just waiting to happen.
I ended up being on crutches for six months and over a year off riding. But I had messed up my meniscus pretty bad too. It was perfect timing though as it was my last year at uni so it made me knuckle down – I couldn't really walk anywhere anyway.
It definitely changed my riding, I'm a lot safer now. I don't do things before I'm ready and I'm not as reckless. It took my confidence away for a little while after and I was really cautious of everything.
But I think it's important not to let an injury get into your head too much and stop you from doing things because you're scared. You should just put it down to bad luck and bad timing - a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I kinda think that if it's your time to get hurt, so be it. You can try to be safe, wrap yourself up in cotton wool but accidents can occur at any time, doing anything.
Unfortunately snowboarding comes with a high injury risk, but this doesn't seem to put snowboarders off it as we love it so much.
Is there anyone’s riding style that you admire at the moment?
Girl-wise I really love Christy Prior's style, she rides like a guy. My friend Jess Rich has a very similar style, too.
What determines ‘style’ to you? What makes how someone rides look stylish?
Everyone has there own style. It is something you can develop, but I think in general your style is something you are born with.
Style is so personal, everyone likes different things. I could 'like' a specific snowboarder's style and someone else could hate it.
For me, I like a smooth style, someone you can relax while watching. I like it when they just look natural and everything just flows, like they were born to do it. It's nice when someone adds something individual into a trick, for example, a tweak into a spin.
You said in an interview, last year, that ‘it’s more respected to go smaller but with style’. Can you elaborate on this?
I would way prefer to watch a snowboarder do something simple but with heaps of style, rather than a big tech trick that looks super sketchy. It's just easier on the eye. Snowboarding is about looking good, not about hucking yourself out of control. I don't want to be the girl (although I often am) who everyone watches and says 'oh my god I thought you were going to kill yourself doing that'.
You also said that you’re trying to get rid of your ‘girly style’. What do you mean by this?
My flappy arms and girly legs (not standing up after a trick). I can be a bit 'stiff' in my snowboarding. too, I think it's a lot to do with my gymnastics and, maybe, because I'm always nervous. So I need to relax my style a bit more. Sometimes, I watch back videos of myself and I'm so embarrassed and cringing about the way I look. Think I'm stuck with my style, unfortunately, but I can definitely try to improve certain aspects.
Slopestyle was in the Winter Olympics for the first time. What do you think this has done for the sport and how will it affect Slopestyle?
Most of my friends didn't know what Slopestyle was, so, finally ,they have seen what I have been doing all these years. It will make more people get into snowboarding and choose ski holidays over summer holidays. It should bring more money into snowboarding in general.
Unfortunately it's so hard to get to where you want to get to in the UK industry if you haven't got the money behind you. There hasn't been a lot of funding for UK snowboarding. I think this last year snowboarders have been really pushing their performances. The level is ridiculous right now.
In some ways, making it all mainstream is contradicting what snowboarding was all about in the first place - a rebellious, different, subculture. But I don't think it really matters what happens. I'm sure people will just carry on snowboarding either way because they love it. I know I will.
You have a degree in Fashion and Textiles. Do you ever think about combining your degree within the snow sports industry? Maybe designing snowboarding clothing?
I would LOVE to do that, it would be my perfect job. But, at the moment, I have been getting too swept up with snowboarding to think about it. But this is definitely something I would like to aim for in the future. When I first finished uni I had had enough of Textiles, I never wanted see a needle and thread EVER again. I just wanted to travel and snowboard.
But over the years I have been missing it more and more. I miss being creative and making things, I really want to get back into it. Obviously it's hard to do textiles while you're on the road and you never have a base.
But one day, I would love to have a little workshop full of fabric, beads, threads, bits and bobs and just make pretty things.
Some companies actually have a board of men determining what women should be wearing on the slopes. What are your thoughts on this?
I think a lot of men have a pretty good idea about fashion and I would definitely trust certain ones to pick out snowboard outfits for me. But girls designing for girls is good too. Girls know what we actually want. We are a strange breed after all and sometimes it's hard for men to understand us.
How do you feel about women on the snowboarding circuit at the moment, in particular, the girls' shred scene in the UK?
I think the standard of girls snowboarding in general is just getting better and better. Some girls are just really pushing the boundaries and it's really inspiring to see. In the UK scene, the girls seem to be getting younger and better. It makes me feel old, even though everyone knows I'm only 21. Haha.
But it's good to see so many young girls getting into the sport. I think the snowdomes in the UK really help with that as they can just go after school and they make snowboarding accessible. I wish I had lived near a dome and been able to do that.
The UK has produced some amazing talents - Jenny Jones, Aimee Fuller, Katie Ormerod and plenty more. I think these girls are really good role models for the up and coming girls. The future is looking very bright for UK girl snowboarders.
What got you into snowboarding? We hear that you started off skiing- what made you convert to snowboarding?
Haha, yes, I started skiing when I was two years old where I lived in Canada. My parents were ski instructors so they were keen to get me going young. I moved to the UK when I was six and went on a handful of ski holidays - and then did my first whole ski season in my gap year.
This was when I met Rich, a tall, dark(ish), handsome snowboarder. I just thought snowboarding looked way cooler and wanted to impress Rich. I only really got into it at the very end of the season, then didn't start doing proper snowboard seasons until after uni.
I liked the new challenge of snowboarding and the fact that it was a lot more focused around doing tricks. I haven't skied since my first season.
You’ve done seasons in Tignes – what is it that you love about the resort? How did you end up riding for Tignes Spirit?
Everyone says that their first season is their best season. My first season was in Tignes and I LOVED it. It was definitely my best season in terms of fun. I worked hard and played very hard and didn't take anything too seriously!
And since then, I have done two more seasons in Tignes and pretty much visited every season. It is like home for me as it was where it all began, it has so many good memories. Some of the same people are still there from my first season so it's always nice to go back.
I was lucky enough to come on board with Tignes Spirit just through hanging out in Tignes and being friends with Keiran (the BOSS). They have really looked after me over the years and I even worked for them a bit, last season.
How did it feel winning the Big Air and then Slopestyle at the Brits?
I managed to win the Big Air in 2010. It was my first proper contest and I didn't really know anyone, and to be honest I was just really lucky. I don't think I should have won really. But it was an amazing feeling, especially since I hadn't really done any major comps before that.
That's where it all began for me properly. Then I was lucky again in 2013 and won the Slopestyle. It was such bad weather that day and it was just a case of staying on your feet. I was so happy and relieved. Slopestyle is more my thing than Big Air and to win in Tignes especially was lovely. It was like I had come full circle from my first ever season there as a skier!
What brands do you wear/ companies who support you on the hill?
I'm really grateful to be supported by O'Neill, Ride Snowboards, Dragon, Celtek, Rocketdog, Skullcandy, Bern, Countour Cameras, Butta Wax and, of course, Tignes Spirit.
And finally, what do you like to ride in, style-wise?
I like the skinny pants, parker-style jacket look to ride in, all in subtle colours. When it's sunny, I like wearing a hoody with a checked or denim shirt over the top
This season, I'll be wearing my O'Neill Spellbound Parka Jacket, O'Neill Grey/Blue Stretch Pants, Dragon APXS Gigi No Brainer Goggles, Celtek Hello Operator Gloves, Bern Brighton Helmet, and Dalikfodda Docker Hat.