Lindsey Jacobellis Interview
“Many people throughout my career have assumed a path for me, so I guess the rebel inside of me likes to do what isn’t expected,” says formidable surfer, animal lover, children’s book author, and—of course—Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis. “I like the shock value of it.”
That rebellious streak has been fuel throughout her career, pushing her past obstacles to rack up win after win in competitions like the X Games, the Snowboard Cross World Championships, and a little event you may have heard of, the 2022 Winter Olympics. There, she won the United States’ first gold medal of the games in women’s snowboard cross, and then another in team snowboard cross (you know, just for good measure).
“I’ve always been competitive,” says Jacobellis. “When I was around 10 or 11, my brother started snowboarding and he picked it up right away. I wanted to do everything my brother was doing—but I actually had a harder time picking it up.”
Considering her name is all but synonymous with total domination of the slopes, the idea that she was a slow learner is hard to imagine. But once Jacobellis had gotten the hang of the sport, there was no stopping her.
“We were always going fast,” she says, painting a vivid picture of races with her brother down the slopes of Stratton Mountain in Vermont. “The thought of me moving slow was just very, very stressful.” So from age eight, she trained till she was fast.
Really, really fast.
Jacobellis was the only girl in her mountain’s recreational snowboard cross competitions, so she raced the boys. “It was never a big deal. I could never use the excuse, ‘I can’t do it, I’m too little,’ or ‘I’m a girl,’” she says—especially with her brother, Ben, urging her on with a matter-of-fact, “You can do it. Figure it out.” Figure it out she did.
Her first year going into the USASA National Championships, she didn’t qualify for boardercross, “because there weren’t really any races.” So, she competed in slalom and giant slalom instead. She immediately set herself apart with her skill and hard work, and her career quickly blossomed.
“I’ve always thought bigger is better in the boardercross world,” she says. She’s certainly gone big—few athletes have a presence as colossal in their respective sport. Jacobellis is not only one of the best snowboarders in the world, she’s among the sport’s earliest trailblazers.
Over the span of her career, she’s borne witness to a ton of change. Courses have evolved along with our understanding of how to keep people safer as they hurtle downhill at 50 mph, and even the most wild of boarders don helmets without a second thought. She’s also watched as reduced snowfall due to climate change has staggered the size of snowboard cross’s signature monster jumps. “With the changing climate, we’re facing smaller amounts of snowfall, which then makes it harder to make courses that size,” she explains. “I definitely miss the older courses.”
And, just like anyone who’s been devoted to the same thing for so long, she also knows the necessity of taking some time away. “For most people, snowboarding is something they enjoy on the weekends. But it can become a very tedious thing when you’re dragging 200 pounds of equipment from one location to the next, doing it for a job.” After enduring two knee surgeries in 2012, she took the recovery time as an opportunity to take a step back—one that allowed her to reconnect with the passion she’d felt for snowboarding as a kid, way before she was an Olympian.
“After I got back on the snow, I wasn’t rushing to get back on a course. I was just freeriding down the mountain. I found these little backwoods runs, and it reminded me of when I was super young and the experiences that helped me fall in love with the sport to begin with.”
Reconnecting with that sense of early, uncomplicated joy made it clear that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. “Yes, I’m still on the right path. I still love what I’m doing.”
Her career has taken her all over the world, where she says she’s met amazing and inspiring people from all walks of life. “It makes you feel strong, and it makes you hungry for that next chapter you could potentially be writing.”