Professional athletes are just like normal people, except for, you know, being faster and stronger. So, just like for everyone else, this year has been strange and challenging for those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around getting outside and getting after it. This is especially true if your work involves flying around the globe chasing winter storm cycles in search of blower pow and untracked lines, which is pretty much snowboarder Robin Van Gyn’s job description. But being flexible and having a good attitude are also part of the what it takes to perform at the highest levels, and those two attributes are at the core of how Van Gyn takes on the world. We caught up with her during some down time at home in British Columbia, as she prepares for a winter season unlike any other she’s faced.
It’s been a crazy year, but winter is almost here. What have you been doing to prepare? (Have you been treating it differently?)
Normally, I’d be in gyms, in workout classes, at the resort early. This year, I’m sort of grounded and doing my training from home. With COVID and not being able to travel the way we normally would, we have to pivot to be in our homes and learn how to do our jobs within those confines.
For me, it’s been interesting to stay home and really explore my own backyard. I fly a lot, so now I get to travel by car. In the spring, I went out into the B.C. backcountry and felt like I was seeing things I’d never seen before. I realized that when it comes to my own area, I really don’t know it all. I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg. So, I’m stoked to expand my exploration of B.C. and really get into my own backyard more. There’s so much to see—you could never see it all!
It’s a really good reminder that we don’t need as much as often think. We can live a bit more simply if we just get creative.
What are you looking forward to this season?
I’m really excited for the Natural Selection contest series. Travis Rice has been scheming up this backcountry-focused contest tour for a long time, and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition. There’s three events—B.C., Jackson Hole, and Alaska. I’m not totally sure how they are going to manage it, but I’m really stoked to see what it looks like.
Personally, I’m in the middle of shooting and producing a 5-part series about women in action sports called “Fabric.” It’s a two-year project, and I’m working hard to make it come to life. Filming, production, and post-production will all be a challenge this year, for sure. For us, it’s all about funding. There’s so much uncertainty, which makes it hard for sponsors to commit, but I’m confident and optimistic about it coming to life.
Things will look a little different on the mountain this year. What’s your approach to tailgating or overnighting in the parking lot or at the trailhead?
I’m a veteran tailgater! So, this is in my wheelhouse. I’m excited to see the larger community embrace this kind of approach and spend a little more time outside together. I’m a backcountry rider, so that’s what we always do. We end the day at the trailhead and celebrate the day and our time in the mountains. For resorts, I think it will simplify things. There’s a lot of expense involved with resort skiing, and this approach brings the mountain experience back to its roots. You come together in the lot, have some snacks, have a beer, talk about the day. I love it.
What are your must-have items for the winter tailgate?
I always have a cooler. Mine’s bear proof, so I can leave it the back of the truck. Inside: hot lunch; cold drinks; lots of snacks. It’s something I love to have—a mobile snack situation. I love having it as a way to gather people together.
Do you have any advice for people heading into this winter in particular?
Be patient. I’m pretty used to being outside, so I know how to be out and be comfortable for long periods of time. But for a lot of folks, it’s not that way. It takes a little bit of getting used to. Don’t give up! You’ll learn what you need, whether it’s better gloves or more layers or embracing the sweat of going uphill.
I truly encourage people to stick with it. Being efficient in the outdoors takes a little time, but once you start to get it, you love it and you never let it go.