The action sports world met Jamie Anderson so young—she was barely in high school when she first arrived in Aspen for her first X Games—that it’s amazing to think that despite all she’s accomplished in her career she’s only 25 years old.
Ten Slopestyle medals, four of them gold and the first women’s Slopestyle gold medal in Olympic history is a pretty full trophy cabinet for an entire career, yet Jamie is just getting started. Regaining her gold medal for the first time since 2013 tops out her short-term priorities, but Anderson spoke with SI.com about a few other aspirations, from crashing the men’s Big Air competition to a return to the X Games SuperPipe, and much more.
Ryan Wallerson: Are you feeling 100% going into this year’s X Games?
Jamie Anderson: I broke my collarbone pretty badly last month riding the mini park just before Dew Tour. I hit a jump and did a switchback 540 but over-rotated. I actually landed on my feet but caught my front toes in the snow and face planted hard enough to break the collar in five places. I had to have surgery that night—my first surgery ever. I have a plate and eight screws in it now. I've been posted up since then, for the holidays and such.
It was frustrating at first, but watching the body heal is a really cool process. I'm feeling really good now. It's about five and a half weeks since surgery. I've been mostly home resting and trying to do what I can to mentally prepare, and repair, myself without stressing because I haven't been on my board a ton and haven't had a chance to practice a lot. So I'm kind of just going with being happy to take some time off to refuel the fire. By the time I'm in Aspen, the goal is to be 110%.
RW: When will you start preparing for X Games Aspen?
JA: This week was my first week back on the slopes. I'm headed to Switzerland this weekend to get back into the grind. I’m excited though, I haven't won at X Games since 2013. I'm ready to send it.
RW: At X Games last year, despite an ankle injury, you and Silje Norendal got into a pretty good duel for the Slopestyle gold. How pumped are you to try and regain your gold medal this year?
JA: Tough one, but here's where I'm at on that. I felt like I could have done more in the rail section. I was a little cautious because I'd jammed that ankle and I knew the difference was going to play a role because I'd felt strong on the jump line but I'd wanted to do an alley-oop 270 and a wall ride but I just got too scared.
Looking back at it, I was so bummed because at big events like that it comes down to every trick you do. That little difference in the rail line was everything. I was heartbroken because I knew I could have done it, but the fear can overpower you. That’s the biggest challenge in anything you do. You have to trust yourself and your intuition. I'd spent a lot of time visualizing what I’d wanted to do. When I got on my board, having the physical injury brought that fear up and I didn't push as hard as I could have.
RW: Your duel with Norendal wasn't the only battle of champ vs. youthful contender. Chloe Kim and Kelly Clark got into a good one in the SuperPipe as well. How cool is it to see the next generation beginning to break through on podiums and get gold medals?
JA: I'm so inspired by the up-and-comers. I think Chloe Kim is one of the best shredders out. She has such style and is bringing such new energy to the halfpipe. That makes me want to go ride pipe. It’s the same with Norendal. She's this Norwegian Barbie with a dope switch front board and a rodeo 720. It’s really cool to see the evolution and progression of women's riding in general. That's what it's all about. The new kids are really refreshing.
RW: You are the "Queen of Slopestyle," but what are your feelings about halfpipe?
JA: It's been a long time, but I have been in the SuperPipe before. I've been competing in the X Games since I was 13. The first two years I did boardercross and then I did both halfpipe and Slopestyle for two years. I liked it. I still think it's pretty dope, but I just kind of decided that I wanted to focus my energy on park and really try to be the best I could be. That's more where my passion was. I didn't want to spread my energy thin.
It's pretty exhausting to do two events in a week. But now I'm interested to dabble in the halfpipe again. I think it'd be fun to compete in the Olympics in Slopestyle and half pipe. It's a little bold, but I know it's possible. I want to do slope and Big Air, but if I put the time into the pipe, it's all kind of the same, you know? Just takes time and energy.
RW: When would you go back into the pipe events?
JA: I don't know. As soon as I can. Maybe this season a little bit in preparation for next year. In 2008, I won the New Zealand open. I beat Kelly Clark, and I got super stoked and thought I wanted to go to Vancouver to the Olympics and then it ended up being not as much fun as I wanted it to be and I didn't really do very well so I was at peace with not competing in the Olympics. Just riding park, doing X Games riding pow. Then they added Slopestyle to the Olympics, which was such a blessing because I kind of found my own peace with what I chose to do regardless of the Olympics. Then to have the opportunity come up to do the things I want to do but compete on that world stage. That was so fun and such an honor.
RW: Can you see yourself trying your hand in the 2017 or 2018 pipe events at X Games?
JA: Hell yeah! I'm down. I have to talk to ESPN. I even want to do halfpipe at the Norway X Games in Oslo. I hear it's a really good pipe there and I love pipe. I want to go pull some Danny Davis-style creative runs and just send it. I went and dropped into the halfpipe in the U.S. Open pipe this winter and I felt like charging. I was having so much fun just doing straight airs and alley-oops. It inspired me to not get too stagnant with my riding. Ride pip, ride park, get in the backcountry. Keep it fresh so it doesn't get boring. It's ever-changing.
RW: What do you think about the fact that there is no Big Air event for female skiers and boarders at X Games?
JA: I think is absolute B.S.! Last year at X games I wanted to actually ride the Big Air, I was planning on just going and shredding with all the boys and just kind of poaching it to make a stand for women's shredding to say, “What the hell we can hit big air too!” I wanted to do a big back rodeo or front 720 and keep it fun and light. But I hurt my ankle in practice so I had a hard enough time just doing Slopestyle and I wasn't able to poach it. But this year, if I'm good and strong and the jump looks fun I'm going with all the boys.
RW: What's your take on style vs. spin in how riders today are judged and scored?
JA: Honestly, I think it's a little bit much myself. If you can't catch it with your own eyes while you're up there, I think it's a little bit overkill. I think it's pretty powerful what people are capable of [on skis or a snowboard] but it's not my first choice if I'm to watch. That's why I prefer Sage [Kotsenburg] or Danny [Davis]'s riding. More unique, more style, creativity versus double-triple-shabam everything.
RW: So what would you throw to try and win on the Big Air jump or the halfpipe?
JA: You’ll just have to wait and see!
All the action at X Games Aspen 2016 will begin Thursday, Jan. 28th on ESPN and ABC at 5:30 p.m. ET. Until then, you can check out features, athlete profiles, photo galleries and more at si.com/edge.