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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 18:41 GMT
Guide to freeriding
Since being sent to Chamonix as a chalet girl in 1999, Jess Venables has taken on the snowboarding world by storm.

You won't have seen her in many competitions as that's not really her thing.

That's because she's what's called a freerider. To her snowboarding is all about big turns in the open spaces of the mountains.


Sport Academy: So why did you choose to be a freerider?

Jess: I didn't really choose to do freeriding. During my first two seasons when I started snowboarding all I wanted to do was fly like a bird and just jump around!

Then, in my third season, I got introduced to the big mountains because I got better and I was able to go off and do more technical stuff. I just fell in love with everything about it.

Jessica's fast facts
British snowboarder Jessica Venables explains what freeriding is
Born: 28 April 1978
Nationality: British
Lives: Chamonix, France
Style: Fluid

SA: So what is freeriding?

Jess: Freeriding is a more extreme form of snowboarding. A lot of it is off-piste and for me it's all about the powder when nobody's around.

Quite a lot of the time I'll go hiking in the snow with friends and then it's all about the big powder turns.

I like the big open spaces whether that's on the glacier or in a forest, in couloirs or in big bowls.

I've been in snowboard parks and in the pipe but in Chamonix it's more about freeriding. There are no parks here.

My stuff is about jumping off cliffs. Give me a cliff over a kicker any day!!

SA: How did you become successful so quickly?

Jess: I've no idea how it happened! I wasn't planning to be like this - I was just enjoying myself so much and I guess I had a talent for it.

In 2003 I was up the mountain with a friend I hadn't been riding with before. When we went down this couloir, she told me she didn't realise how good I was.

She said: "You should enter a competition because you're as good as the other girls."

So she entered me to do a competition called the Verbier Xtreme which I didn't realise was a big freerider competition - the biggest in Europe.

And that's how I picked up a sponsor.

Freeriding jargon
Freeriding: Generally off-piste snowboarding without the man-made stuff
Powder: Deep virgin snow that hasn't been touched
Couloir: The narrow chute formed by rocks at the top of the mountain
Bowl: Often what a couloir opens out into. A wide-open section at the top of the mountain
Park: A ski run with man-made jumps, ramps and other creations to do tricks on
Half pipe or pipe: A half-cut tube of snow with two walls to jump up from
Hit, kicker or tabletop: All types of jumps

SA: What's the Verbier Xtreme?

Jess: The competition involves riding down a really steep face between 55 and 45 degrees with cliff drops and couloirs and lots of rocks.

And, depending on your level, you pick your line down, whether that's a tough route or an easier one, and ride as best you can.

It's not the fastest to the bottom. They judge your fluidity and the jumps you make.

I'm not doing it this year because they've cut the (number of) girls by half and introduced skiers.

But that's fine I don't really enjoy competition so much.

This year I'm just concentrating on freeriding and doing photo shoots for my sponsors.

SA: Who are the freeriders you take inspiration from?

Jess: One of my friends Marco Siffredi but he died riding down Mount Everest a few years ago. He was someone I always looked up to. I've never seen anyone ride like him before.

He knew the mountains really well and would ride so fast. He would go anywhere. (He became the first person to ride down Everest.)

Other freeriders that you want to keep an eye out for are American Jeremy Jones who is always in snowboarding magazines in Alaska.

Also Victoria Jealouse is a really good freerider and she's in a lot of good snowboarding movies.

And freeriders from England include James Stentiford, Zoe Smalley and Johnny Barr. They all rip!




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