It doesn’t seem so long ago that Niseko was treated as a secret tip for snowsport lovers to experience the best powder of their lives. Today Niseko attracts guests from all over the world and proves to be a destination even professionals enjoy returning to. We had the chance to sit down with three returning professional riders; Maude Raymond, Taylor Godber and Caley Vanular.
Maude used to be a professional diver before she got into skiing. In 2013 she became the Female Skier of the Year and is currently doing freestyle skiing in Whistler. Taylor and Caley both have their snowboarding roots in British Columbia. All three not only enjoy living out of the suitcase as they are following the snow all over the world but are also filming, photographing and blogging about their adventures and experiences online.
You guys have skied/snowboarded in many different places before. What comes to your mind when you think about Niseko and Hirafu?
Maude: Hirafu as a town is very charming, I especially like the main street! Japan, in general, is a combination of many things for me: The trees in Niseko are very particular and with the dry powder that sparkles everywhere on a sunny day it’s just magical. My favourite part about Niseko is that you can go night riding, it’s a dream. However, the calm and the peacefulness is what makes me really come back to Japan. And the sound when the snow is falling – it’s the best!
Caley: Hirafu reminds me of a Japanese Whistler. It seems to be the hub, it’s an easy place to stay and there is tons of touring and mountains around here.
What is the best thing about going on a holiday trip with your friends?
Maude: Of course it’s about everybody skiing and snowboarding but I have to say that all our personalities click; it’s the mentality and the love we have for everything. It’s fun to help one another and evolve from it, ski and snowboard-wise and also life-wise. We all learned so much while we were here, about life and ourselves and sharing our thoughts and views, knowing that we are not alone. We are all multi-taskers in this group and enjoy different things, but our love for the snow ties us together.
Taylor: Everything is better when you share it! So the human connection and being in your element is really what makes this trip so amazing – there is really no room to not be yourself. Especially when you are doing high consequence things and rely on each other, then you need to be with crew that takes care of you and has your back. So it’s about community and support and no ego.
Caley: Plus you get inside jokes for days! Travelling with friends is just better, you create those memories that make it worth years of not hanging out. These trips are a compact amount of time – it’s like hanging out ten years straight in one week.
What do you think is the biggest difference about women and men in snowsports – like in the way they train or even compete?
Maude: I am blind to any difference between men and women. Of course, there is one – a huge one physically – but I don’t care about it. I generally don’t like to see gender because when you start looking for a difference that is really when you draw a line. So instead of making the difference and separating, we should talk about the good things. This is also why I created this trip: It’s about skiing together! I am a no gender person, I just want everybody to create together, join forces instead of competing and forget about what had been said.
Taylor: I think men and women are equal in the sense of ability. However, when you look at the way women are represented, especially when you look at women’s gear at the shops, it’s all about “sex sells”… it’s just fashion. It’s very different to the men’s gear because, for women they don’t use athletes, they use models. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every company, but I certainly disagree with this. However, I feel like the gap in skiing and snowboarding is closing and people treat each other with respect. This sets the standard for the rest of the world.
Caley: On the road, I realized that women eat healthier than men. Of course, that doesn’t apply to all of them but typically they put more thought into what they are eating. On all guys trips I went we were only eating out of convenient stores – it doesn’t necessarily have to do with gender, but it seems to be a trend! There are a few specifics physically that I realized about women and men, for example when women work the entire leg muscle first, it makes your entire body fit. However, in training, I think it depends on your personality really – if you are a risky person for example. But you also learn from your mistakes and accidents, especially as you get older.
the gap in skiing and snowboarding is closing and people treat each other with respect
Do you think gender-specific programs are an effective way to introduce more women to traditionally male-dominated sports?
Taylor: I do think that some women work better in a women-only environment – even though this might cause some bad separation when you want it to be all equal and there are only women around. But some women thrive around other women, that’s why in sport it’s so important to have solid role models, other than just models. In my opinion, there is definitely a market for women-only programs that can be beneficial. It really depends on the experience you want to produce. And it depends on the person and their individual learning style too – it’s about having options. When I was in Costa Rica I had the chance to experience a women-only program in surfing. So I was taught by this woman that looked totally like a mum, had three kids, but ripped it on the surfboard. The way she taught seemed to work well for women because she explained a lot before we went out, she was not just pushing us out there but teaching us how to go under water. It’s the whole process of how to do things that I believe women respond better to and will think back to when they are in those situations. So, in my opinion, there is definitely a market for that.
Are you happy with the way women are represented in professional boarding and skiing in general?
Taylor: Due to the reasons I mentioned before, globally I don’t think women are represented as good as men, as being strong and powerful people. Japan is super traditional in that way too, women have to try harder than men. However I believe the way women are represented in snowsports is changing, but people need to take action. People need to support companies that support women. Unfortunately companies often just want to sell, so they downgrade women or men to make them buy clothing that will make them feel better looking etc. Those people’s minds, who run those companies, have to be changed and it usually starts with the issue that those people don’t do sports themselves. So it comes down to the consumer who has to express what brand he or she likes, brands that support women in sports or athletes. If you keep buying from the companies that don’t represent women well then you are kind of just feeding it. Also, it is more trustworthy when athletes are testing and using the products themselves.
If you could give any piece of advice to people who want to accomplish their goals – whether in skiing/ snowboarding or other – what would that be?
Maude: Believe in yourself! If you are a driven person that has dreams, then remind yourself of them every day and work towards them. It is hard to want something and have a focus because it can take so long. Sometimes it makes you feel so powerful, but on other days it will make you feel so vulnerable. Just look at me: The last 10 years I had 18 knee surgeries, a broken back and all that stuff. But you gotta aim! Believe in yourself, perseverance, and love. Your goals have to be about love – then it will make you overcome everything.
Caley: If you want to accomplish your dreams don’t get to stressed on one plan. Be open to pick a different way and don’t follow everyone else’s footsteps, because there are so many ways you can accomplish things. If you pull yourself out of your head you can accomplish things your own way.