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Annie Boulanger charges gigantic mountains. Slays powder with reckless abandon. An iconic Canadian backcountry snow slayer goddess, she has the best video parts year after year and was the first female rider featured in Absinthe films. She has been there, is going back to slay it with style, is clueless what day of the week it is, or, what hump day is, but does day to day bullshit really matter when you are spreading the ever loving gospel of getting rad on your snowboard? Nope. Amen, Annie.
What was the worst part about growing up a Quebexican?
All the French people! It’s cool back there. All the mountains are flat.
It seems like Quebec is firmly planted on the snowboard map these days for urban exploration. Discuss growing up in Quebec and what kind of game it was coming up 15 years ago.
It was a lot of parks, really small mountains and not many girls around. No rails at all. It was all tabletops and really bad halfpipes. We had the 418 Crew who was ripping in the pipe in Quebec.
What town did you grow up in?
I am from Montreal. I would drive about an hour to go to Mont Saint-Saveur.
Do you remember your first time snowboarding?
Yeah, it was horrible. I was thirteen. My parents didn’t want to help me get a lesson and it was my brother’s first time, too. He was a bit better than me, so he just ditched me. I was kind of left by myself on a hard slope and I didn’t know what to do. I had really shitty ski clothes on so everything was wet. All my shirts and sweaters were wet.
Were your parents skiers?
Yeah, my parents were skiers so they never wanted me to try snowboarding. So I spent the day by myself trying to figure it out. My second and third days were way better.
Do your folks still ski?
Yeah, they still ski.
I bet they are stoked on snowboarding now.
Yeah, they are super supportive now. They for sure didn’t want to help me buy a snowboard, though. Even before I got on a board I was so captivated by it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Guys jumping off picnic tables with really baggy pants. I liked sports but I wasn’t someone who wanted to train really hard. It was my kind of sport. I like the party kind of vibe. The freedom of it. I skied before I snowboarded, but I wasn’t really good. With snowboarding it just clicked.
Being from Montreal did you speak much English growing up?
No, I spoke mostly French. I learned English in my teens, around fourteen or fifteen.
Do your parents want to separate from Canada and form their own country?
No, no, no, they aren’t that French. They speak English, love to travel and are super worldly.
Were you born with huge balls or do you get testosterone injections?
I would say a bit of both.
Does lacking balls make it easier to be a full bore sledneck?
I am not addicted to snowmobiling, it just gets me to snowboarding. But it’s one of those things you have to learn. How to keep up with all those guys.
Do you think not having balls between your legs makes it easier to get to the spots so you can go huck yourself off huge cliffs?
It makes it easier to hike up stuff. It’s way more comfortable while doing it.
Hana Beaman once told me she thought having boobs to shred with sucked, but she didn’t want balls either being slammed all over rails and whatnot.
I don’t have either. I guess I am just super comfortable, I guess.
Do you have any horrific snowmobile stories to share?
Fuck, almost every day is horrific! Back in the day used to be horrible. So bumpy, but horrific? I have sent my sled off some big cliffs and stuff. Get insurance. I just recommend getting insurance. If you get out and your sled is still running at the end of the day, then its a good day.
At home in Whistler. Photo: Oli Gagnon
What’s the single best damn thing about snowboarding?
Snowboarding! Powder? But the snowboarding part is the best.
Do you remember the first time you went to Alaska?
Yup. I can’t forget really. I went to Haines. I drove up with Oli Gagnon and Eric the Absinthe filmer. I was really scared and I was really intimidated. I was kind of just wishing I wouldn’t die. In the back of your head you are hoping you are going to kill it, but you don’t. You kind of just end up watching and tumbling around. And you pay a lot of money for it. No, it’s really amazing. But I am going to say I was really scared for sure. I think everybody who goes to Alaska is pretty scared.
Female wise, what was the toughest part about breaking into the male dominated snowboard world of the 1990s?
Just even getting into a contest. I started snowboarding in 1993. They would barely allow girls in the contests. Then all I could do was contests and not anything else. I started riding pretty much by myself because all the guys were too cool to ride with a girl. Then all my best friends were rad guys like JF Pelchat and Gaetan Chanut but I wasn’t allowed to go shoot with them, so… I still feel judged by guys all the time. Guys are stubborn.
What was the moment you felt like you had truly made it as a professional snowboarder?
Probably last year.
What can we do to encourage more girls to shred their daylights out?
I thought you meant like show their boobs?
No, shred their daylights out doesn’t mean show their boobs.
It just has to look easy and attainable and fun.
Snowboarding has had some naysayers in the press lately. How do we fight snowboard ignorance?
I think it’s because skiing has more avenues. Snowboarding is so limited because a lot of people in the industry are just people who want to see gnarly and new stuff. That’s not the main market that is snowboarding. A lot of it is big mountain, or fun powder turns. I think you are cutting out a lot of people by only showing new and gnarly stuff. I think skiing has more avenues to reach out to more people that are older. It’s an older sport and it was dying. I find that the person who grows out of the gnarly phase of snowboarding doesn’t have much to look at and keep interest in it.
We have Jeremy Jones.
Thank God we have Jeremy Jones and the Absinthe movies always have awesome powder sections. Surfing keeps legends around. Snowboarding has kind of struggled with that and it depends on the people who get hired and run the industry, right?
Showing the mountain who’s boss. photo: Oli Gagnon
How do you stay safe in the backcountry when the mountain is trying to kill you?
Oh that is tough sometimes. We read a lot of the avalanche reports and I think patience is the key.
Has the mountain tried to kill you?
A couple times. It did last year. I was so surprised, too. It’s when you are not ready.
Have you invested in an abs backpack?
Yeah, I have an abs bag. They are awesome. I haven’t had to pull it yet, though. We try to be really careful. With the weather starting to be different now I find the avy danger to be way different with the temperatures. It’s getting pretty scary. Somedays I realize it ‘s just snowboarding and I better take it down a notch instead of just going to risk my life for a shot. You can’t get carried away by what other people are doing.
Where is your perfect winter wave?
My perfect winter wave would be Whistler. Chairlifts are my friends.
Have you ever used the rescue whistle on your signature Dakine backpack?
I tried it once or twice. It works!
What does Absinthe mean to you?
It was so amazing. I am so thankful. That was one of my biggest goals that I achieved in my career, to film with Absinthe for 5 years. I met some amazing people and I definitely learned a lot about the mountains. Probably one of the best experiences of my career.
Have you had any bad experiences with Canadian Healthcare?
I havent. Have you?
I would love to have Canadian healthcare.
I ruptured my spleen and I took the ambulance with the sirens all the way to the city from Whistler. I spent a couple days in the hospital, but I never saw a bill. I swore because of the ambulance I was going to get a bill. I still haven’t seen it.
You were out in Brandywine and you ruptured your spleen?
I was on the resort. It wasn’t like some hero story, it was a really dumb move.
Etienne Gilbert, Martin Gallant and Victoria Jealouse – You have had some big mountain pioneers in your back pocket. What’s the biggest piece of advice you have learned from your predecessors?
From Jeremy Jones I learned to take some warm up runs. It’s better to take a easier line and rip down it then to pick a hard line that you struggle down. That was good advice.
What are you doing with the rest of your season?
Hopefully I am going to do some lines. The snow just got stable this week so I am looking forward to some bigger faces. The avy danger has been high so we haven’t been out on many faces. Just doing little cheese wedge stuff. I like it better when I can get on a big slope. Strap on your snowboard and do some turns. I get excited to get on bigger faces. I am hoping to not use my abs bag. April is usually the best month.
Any words of advice for the devoted Yobeat readers?
If you think you can do it, don’t give up.
What do you still hope to accomplish with your snowboard career?
I am actually hoping to get more girls into it. Inspire more people to get out there and have fun and not take it so seriously. I would like to take it less serious and have more fun. I find I was more serious with the Absinthe days and I want to take it less serious. Get more girls stoked and inspired to travel.
Describe your perfect hump day?
Hump day? I Forget my days of the week sometime – powder, no powder. The perfect hump day would be waking up to 30cms of fresh snow and going up with my friends on the mountain and riding the resort. I would take a nap after all that powder. Then I would hang out and maybe go hot tubbing. Then I will have a glass of wine. In a hot tub. Does that sound cool?
Indeed. Who are your sponsors?
Nike, Salomon, Anon, Dakine and Whistler.