Snowboarding trip around the USA

As part of our #adventureshare series, we were thrilled to have the chance to share Angelica Sykes’ epic adventures of snowboarding her way around the world and most recently on tour around the US. Without further ado, over to Angela…

Introducing Angelica Sykes

I am half Italian and half British. I was born in the UK but have lived all my adult life abroad, mostly in Italy, and I spent those magical years riding in the Italian mountains. As soon as school was out (I hated secondary school- I was bullied but don’t worry, it made me who I am), I went straight for the Alps and haven’t really left.

I would say I am British humour in Italian packaging! Snowboarding has been, is and continues to be my life and my main driver for everything I do. I love talking about freeriding too and how empowering it is for women to learn to freeride because of the inherent skills required.

I am currently spending my summer working like crazy in Stockholm, to earn those precious pennies for winter adventures and training. This keeps my mind and my body ready for the mountains.  It basically means a lot of throwing myself into big open faces and lovely tight forests! Winter is coming!

Snowboarding around the USA

Last Winter was a real adventure. I have been riding with a wonderful grass routes snowboard company (Gilson Snow) from the US for a few years now.  They focus on locally-sourced products, made by hand for the community by the community. Every year they organise an epic cross country snowboard tour in their cute 1970s air-streamer, where they film the truly stunning mountains of the US and hold demos for riders to simply pass by their “stall” and test equipment. After all, it’s through human connection and experience that you come to trust a new snowboard or a pair of skis.

Anyhow, they invited me along to join them, so I booked my flights to Colorado, and off I went. We planned to visit a few different resorts in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, a quick Canadian detour to British Columbia and California! A lot packed into 6 weeks, but we made it and, as you can imagine it was next level fun. We visited some of my bucket list destination like Jackson Hole, Whitefish and Squaw Valley as well as some hidden gems like Winter Park, Grand Targhee and Big Bear.

We were blessed with fantastic weather, terrible weather, lots of love, arguments, bonding, riding and learning about each other as snowboarders and as people. They had plenty to teach me as park riders, and I could impart my knowledge as a free-rider with them.

Why Whitefish was my favourite destination

Whitefish without a doubt was my favourite destination. It’s difficult to convey why, as the weather was pretty bad. It’s famous for its fog cloud, but has been at the top of my bucket list since I saw this edit from Powder Magazine. Click here to watch the video on Whitefish.

This video is inspired by so much, the snow quality, the magic of the forest and the locals. Even though the visibility was terrible, what I did have in Whitefish was an amazing crew and a chance to explore the mountain and scope out some lines for my next visit. We joined up with another local rider, and he showed us around, which gave us a unique view of the resort.

The mountain itself is beautiful, such dense, healthy trees with wide open slopes and incredibly varied terrain, allowing plenty of opportunities to explore. Plus, the nightlife in downtown is fantastic. We saw live music, had a good old sing along, played pool and drank IPA. It was a chance for me to live a little of the American mountain life, which is so similar to life in the Alps yet so different. The duality in the cultural contrast was really fun to experience.

A must visit spot in downtown for me was The Great Northern Bar & Grill.
And a secret pow line would have to be: from Chair 1, which drops skiers at the summit, head towards the breath-taking Glacier National Park panorama to access East Rim. Click here for more info.

What I loved most about this adventure

I loved the variety. I travel a lot to compete, being based in one town then travelling for competitions is great fun, but I rarely get to really see those resorts. By living out of the airstream (which is strangely liberating, living minimally and having everything you need in a few bags on the road), you get to pick up and move on as and when you please. Truly going where the wind blows you.

Spending 5 days in one town then when you hear the snow is coming, you plan with the weather and move onto the next stop. Of course we had some constraints with demo days and the like, but otherwise, if we thought good content awaited us in the next town, we’d pack up and leave. Follow that powder!

The most challenging part

This is a tough question, but I have to be honest as I don’t want to paint an overly romantic view of life on the road. Living with 3 other people I had just met in a small space was the most challenging aspect.

It made me face aspects of my personality maybe I wasn’t ready to or rather would keep buried. Realising as I get older, I am becoming a little more high maintenance, and I also like to be surrounded by people I know and who know me. I have chronic anxiety, and it’s essential to avoid situations that exacerbate my mental health.

Therefore although travel and adventure are so good for my mind, body and soul, I should be surrounded by people who I feel supported by. I like a regular shower, a fridge full of food to meal plan, and those creature comforts which I didn’t have access to in the airstream, which has no running water or sanitation! BUT it was an experience that was invaluable to me. I know now I am a bit of a princess, but that’s okay, I can still let it all go every now and again for an adventure but maybe for a week or 2 and not 6!

My best memory from this trip

The people we met along the way. The Americans and Canadians in the Midwest and British Columbia are some of the most friendly and warm people I have ever met. People welcomed us into their homes to take well deserved and much-needed showers, we ate and drank with new people and most vitally, we rode and explored gorgeous mountains with locals. Seeing hidden ridges and corners that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

It makes me feel all melancholy, warm and fuzzy when I think of the people I met.

Greatest lessons learnt

Across cultural lines, a smile and good manners are crucial. I am a warm person by nature anyway, but I realised what a great asset it is, and it enabled me to make new friends and see a new side the mountains through their eyes.

Always be prepared is another lesson. I always pack my freeride backpack with the essentials, but it’s changed the way I prep for a day on the hill, adding in extra snacks and more hydration plus reaffirming my knowledge of what makes for a good freeride day. Preparing correctly in the morning, doing my research, talking to guides and locals and getting all the information before setting out for a day in the backcountry.

Tips for other women

If you are planning an adventure, an epic adventure in an air streamer or by whatever means, I have a few tips from one female always doubting herself (as us women are taught to do from birth) to another.

1) Surround yourself with the right people. The right people will be the people you ride with. In the off-piste/backcountry, you put your life in their hands and theirs in yours. Therefore you need to have trust and open communication. You learn and grow together.

2) Always be prepared for any weather and any eventuality. Packing your bag with all the equipment, extra clothes, food and water as well as talking to the right people. Talk to ‘lifties’, talk to local riders, talk to ski instructors (How has the weather been? What’s the snowpack like? etc.). Go to the lift pass office and get a trail map, sit down the night before ad plan every detail!

3) Communicate with the people around you and with yourself. Does something not feel right? Then it’s probably not right. If a run doesn’t look good, if the vibe in the group is off, these are all freeriding alarm bells.

4) Look after yourself on and off the mountain. Off the mountain makes you a better rider and on the mountain makes you a better human. Pushing yourself is key but listen to your body, if you are tired or need to eat, give your body the tools it needs. Equally, if you love yourself, you can push to accomplish new goals. That face that seemed impossible seems all the more doable when you are at peace with your mind. You can achieve it!

5) Last but not least, no Instagrammer or snow influencer is going to tell you this but save, save them dollar bills! You need to have a little nest to be able to plan and enjoy. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. That way you can book that Transatlantic or Pan Asian flight to ride and explore lands unknown.
I have so many more tips on how to prepare your body and mind, how to save and plan an adventure all the way to what workouts are best. Follow me on @angelicasykesuk on Instagram & Twitter.

Interested in snow sport? Read our top 5 tips for beginner skiers.

All photos submitted by Angelica Sykes.

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