We find out if Anna is worthy of SKIER’s Honourary Canadian Ski Bum Citizenship.
Hey Anna, how’s life? What brings you to Canada?
Hi! Life is great, thanks! I’m just coming back from knee surgery, so I’m here at COP in Calgary, Alberta for the Noram slopestyle competition.
I’m so happy to be back on my skis and feeling healthy again!
I tore my ACL in the last winter in Breckenridge. Luckily I had a great surgeon and spent the rest of the year rehabbing my knee with extensive gym work and neuro-muscular work. We have a great Sports program here in New Zealand so I was lucky to have all the support I needed to get back to 100%.
Was this your first serious injury?
Yeah, it was my first serious injury so I was distraught when it happened, but such is life when you are a freeskier. I was in the same boat as so many amazing female freeskiers have been in before, and you really can’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. You get back and work hard on your rehab and focus on the goal which is skiing again.
I’m realizing now how straightforward the gym work and physio was… the past few months have been really hard on snow. Getting your old tricks back and starting to push forward has not been easy. When you fully understand the consequences of your actions, things become a fair bit harder. But overall you come back stronger physically and mentally, and you have to learn when to push and when not too. One bad landing and you could be out for a while again, so I guess you learn to be a lot smarter on your skis and make better decisions.
This isn’t your first time in Canada, is it?
I actually have so many great memories from this part of Canada!
I did my first season abroad back in 2010/11 in Banff, Alberta. I skied at Sunshine for the most part, but also spent a bunch of time at Lake Louise. It was truly amazing. It was my second ever season skiing, so I was still pretty new to it all and came here with my best friend. And guess what? We worked at the one and only… Tim Hortons! No joke. We rocked hair nets, visors and drive through headsets that whole winter. It helped pay for the season and we would work evenings and nights and skied all day!
I have also spent some time in Whistler, which is of course a blast every time! While I was there I did a stint at Camp of Champs as well, and got to see Whistler in the summer — which was pretty unbelievable! Overall I love Canada and it always a treat coming back.
Who is your favourite Canadian to ski with?
Hmmmm. I would have to say the lovely Nikki Blackhall, she’s just such a bubbly and happy person to be around that it makes skiing with her so fun!
What are the biggest similarities between Canada and New Zealand?
I would have to say the people, who are really relaxed and down to earth. I would never have survived my season here in my $500 1985 beater if it wasn’t for the help and kindness of Canadians. We were so broke for the first few weeks that we were crashing on hostel floors and sneaking in and out haha… great times for sure! But the people were definitely always amazing.
And the biggest differences?
Probably just the massive scale of everything here, we of course have beautiful mountains and lakes but everything here is just XXL compared to NZ.
Did you come here straight from Korea?
Yes I did! And the trip was awesome. The Schneestern slopestyle course was definitely intense, but it made everyone think outside the box and find creative lines. It was actually my first competition in two years and I was happy with how I handled the course and skied in training.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any runs down in the comp just making silly mistakes but I’m so happy to be healthy and moving forward! It was a great comp socially too as we had snowboarders there alongside skiers! I also had great time catching up with all my other freeski competitors.
How’d you go down?
On my first run I took too much speed into the barrel feature and had a wee bobble, which was super lame as I hadn’t crashed on that feature one single time in practice or qualifiers! In my second run, my ski came off after landing ed my 540 on the first jump so there wasn’t much I could do after that.
I was extremely upset and disappointed but as always you just have to take away the positives from an event, and make sure that that doesn’t happen in two years on that course… haha.
You recently reffed a game of SLVSH. How was that?
It was awesome and I was so happy I got to do it! I’m good friends with both Emma and Coco, so of course it was a fun experience. The girls absolutely slayed and I’m so happy they had the chance to do a SLVSH game. SLVSH is such an asset to our sport, it keeps things fresh and the edits are so easy to access. Our sport needed something like this to help keep it underground and relaxed, freeskiing is called “free” for a reason and it’s sure not because it’s cheap 😉 haha.
What’s the plan for the rest of the season?
I’m heading to the World Cup in Silvaplana, Switzerland, then off to two different Europa Cups in Slovenia, before heading to another one back in Switzerland. After all that, I plan on taking a week or so to go shredding in Sweden with Emma Dahlstrom — and visit my family, who are all living in Sweden as well.
And for the summer?
I will head back to NZ in April and spend about a month home in the city, then I will start my dry land gym training and start the NZ season! Always such a great time down in Wanaka and Cardrona.
What kind of training do you do in the off season? What do you do to stay healthy during the winter?
I usually take a month per year to go surfing and get far away from gym routines and the mountains. The past few years I have ended up in Bali, which is always a treat. Other than that I try to get about four heavy gym sessions in a week and two or three mellower ones, focusing on knee control and stability. As well as get on the trampoline as much as possible to help get me some air awareness!
How important is it for an athlete to be their own brand via social media?
Yes in this day and age most definitely, it is now part of your job and daily routine. To help get your sponsor’s name out there as well and your own name and brand. I have had success so far with my fans on Facebook and Instagram, when things started to snowball earlier last year and I racked up a good number.
You’re a beautiful young woman with a great smile. Do you think that’s helped you with sponsors and fans?
Haha, cheers… Of course it has helped, in this day and age we have gotten pretty superficial and more often than not you will gain followers over your looks rather than your actual talent. I think it’s a shame as there are some unbelievably amazing athletes out there; men and women who don’t get paid as much as someone who isn’t as talented but looks cute in a bikini or on social media photos.
Unfortunately, this is reality right now and you either make it work for you or you miss out.
If you weren’t skiing, what would you be doing?
Hmmm I wish I knew that answer! Whatever I do in life, my main goal is to help and inspire people. I feel so grateful for the life I lead, and for having the courage to take a risk and go for it — even though it was never the obvious path for me.
Not exactly sure where that will lead me, but perhaps through TV hosting? Not entirely sure. Politics have become a bit of an interest for me and would love to see governments realize that by helping the lowest income families they are lifting the whole nation. Sometimes people forget about compassion and understanding, and I hate seeing people left behind as the rich get richer and the poor stay poor… Haha bit of a rant but hey.
What gets you fired up in the morning? For me, it’s the opposite! I’m already nervous and fired up, so it’s all about chilling, staying relaxed, and not overthinking things.
Favourite meal before a day of competition? Kind of boring, but I just try to make sure I have had a good amount of veggies and chicken for energy.
Favourite snack while on the chairlift? Cliff Bars
Song that’s playing before dropping in? Never be like you – Flume, Kai
Song that you sing in the shower? Fallout boy… bit of my youth haha
What comes to mind when you think of Canada? Tim Hortons
Favourite male skier to watch ski? Sean Jordan
Favourite female skier to watch ski? Kaya Turski and Emma Dahlstrom
Most inspirational male skier? Candide Thovex
Most inspirational female skier? Emma Dahlstrom
Anna Willcox is worthy of SKIER’s Honourary Canadian Ski Bum Citizenship.
Anna has the necessary lust for life, positive attitude, time with Tim, and knee injuries to get our stamp approval.
Welcome to the club, Anna.
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