A Hardly-Retired Hump Day with Kaitlyn Farrington

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Kaitlyn Mustache you a question

Olympic gold medalist, lover of powder snow and dad jokes, Kaitlyn Farrington, everybody! Photo: @aleksiafreer

The last time Kaitlyn Farrington dropped into a halfpipe and aired out she won an Olympic gold medal. After giving the US Team the middle finger, she wasn’t widely expected to make the Olympics, but this dark horse from Sun Valley, Idaho toppled all of the competition and walked away with gold from Sochi. She’d meet President Obama, appear on the David Letterman show, but sadly reality would heavily spit in her face shortly thereafter. A fall in Austria in October 2014 left her partially paralyzed on the snow for a few minutes. Diagnosed with cervical congenital stenosis, Kaitlyn walked away from professional snowboarding on January 16, 2015. So, what the hell has she been up to since then? This American badass is writing more chapters. Hitchhiking across North America to get the snow goods, pushing First Nations kids out of helicopters on Haines Pass so they can learn to ride pow, all the while becoming a sledneck who rides a shit ton of powder. You’d be tough to call what Kaitlyn is doing these days at 27 as “retired,” as she’s still hard at work bringing snowboarding to the people.

So what’s been going down?

I just moved up to Whitefish, Montana. I plan on spending the season here and have a little change of pace from Salt Lake City. I spent some time here in the summer on the lakes. You could say I came for the lakes. I think it will be a good area for touring around and I want to get into the national parks – with Glacier [National Park] being right here. Good zone for snowmobiling, too.

Whitefish official

Whitefish official. 

Are you trying to get eaten by a bear?

No, hopefully not. Bear spray the whole way! 

You’re all about big mountain these days; snowmobiles, spitting chew, guiding and coaching.

Yeah, things have changed. No more halfpipe. It took me a few years to fully phase myself out of it because I feel like I tried to hold on. Last year I got a snowmobile and got addicted to brapping up in Canada. So I pretty much spent all of last year up in British Columbia, up in the Yukon Territory, snowboarding. Kind of snowboarding… the snow conditions weren’t that good up there. I was on my splitboard a lot last year. It was the first year I didn’t have a pass anywhere since I was 3 and they started charging you for a pass. I also didn’t go to any events last year. So, that was kind of good for me to fully step away from everything in the contest scene because, like I said, it felt like I was trying to hold on. So last year I made a point to not go to any of them. It was my first time in 11 years not going to an X Games. It was a fully different change of pace for me.

X Games gold medalist, Olympic gold medalist…

…to sledneck! Pretty much. Sledneck and touring.

Life behind bars

Life behind bars isn’t always so bad. Photo via INSTA

What is the toughest part about being a sledneck?

Handling the snowmachine. I am not that big of a girl so learning to toss that thing around was pretty hard. I learned up in Pemberton [BC]. I was a place where I didn’t have the option of not figuring it out. I was working on this project last year that I ended up quitting because it didn’t really go that well. I didn’t have the option of not being able to get up to the top of passes. I kinda had to figure it out really fast in BC.

So, wait, the sledneck documentary is done already?

No. I was on this trip called Connections Movement with this kid, Rafael Pease, and he kind of just threw this trip together. I don’t want to fully talk shit on him, but midway through I realized he didn’t have a plan and he had lied about people that were supposed to be joining on. So, we had this kids camp that we were doing up on Haines Pass with the First Nation kids with this dude Pete Wright from Yukon Heli.

You were dropping kids from the reservations out of helicopters?

Yeah, pretty much. Pete Wright owns Yukon Heli and he’s a First Nations himself. He was adopted into one of the tribes when he was a kid. So, he wanted to get the kids of the First Nations on skis and snowboards. There were definitely a few kids who really like to get after it. It’s definitely his way to give back to his community. Some science teacher around Pemberton gave over $12,000, so the First Nations kids could go heli boarding. We taught them basic avalanche skills – how to use a beacon, probe and shovel. Then we kind of just went riding with them. It was a bunch of their first times in a helicopter. We also took them out on our sleds and let them rip around on them. It was a fun cultural shock in a way for a lot of us. I forget what the reservation is called off of Haines Pass, but we would go do community dinners in their community center with them and it was pretty cool experience to kind of be a part of that. After the kids camp was done I hitchhiked off the pass with my snowmobile, trailer and a bunch of gear.

 

You were literally like, “Fuck it, I’m out?”

Yeah, I think I told the kid a week before that it was my time to part ways. We had been camping out on the pass for over two weeks and I was supposed to go to Kazakhstan for five weeks. So, after the kids camp I put all my shit in my shred trailer and I made a sign and I started hiking off the pass.

You didn’t take a truck up?

I ended up making it all the way to Whitehorse and buying a truck because it was too expensive to fly down and to have to pay someone to drive my sled down. I call it my hoopty. My 1997 Ford Ranger. I bought it for $2300 bucks up there.

True story

True story. 

You were hitchhiking up there? Did you make a sign that said “former Olympian?”

I have a photo of it somewhere. I think it just said, “Need a ride. Gas money?” I tried to make it out of a piece of plywood and all the sharpies I could find. I was five clicks north of the summit of Haines Pass so it took me about two days to get a ride off.

Were your parents stoked when you told him that you had hitchhiked?

No, they were not that stoked. I think Raf had asked me when I leaving, because he didn’t take me that seriously at first, and I was like, “No, this is really happening.”
He was like, “Well, what are you going to do?”
And I was like, “I have been sitting on Haines Pass for two weeks with no cell phone service, with no communication. I don’t know, but I will figure it out once I get my phone back and running.”
When I told my parents they were like, “I can’t believe you hitchhiked! I hope you were safe.” The typical parentals, you know?

Take us back to January 16, 2015. You announce your retirement from professional snowboarding at 25 years of age.

I had to retire in January 2015 due to my neck condition, cervical congenital stenosis. It kind of led me to be kind of a grounded snowboarder, so that’s why I started doing more of the adventuring and touring around. In 2016 I went on Denali and summitted that. Maria Debari and I did a volcano tour in 2015, so it kind of just lead me into a different realm of snowboarding. I have been a contest kid since I was 13 years old. It was definitely a different pace from going from being a frontside-of-the-mountain rider to fully removing myself and trying to establish myself as a snowboarder in the backcountry.

Still snowboarding, and well, at that. Photo: Tim Zimmerman/Gnu Snowboards

You were told you would never snowboard again, correct?

I found out in October 2014 that I would not be competing. I was still just trying to figure out how to deal with it so that’s why I didn’t really say anything until January 2015. And then of course, your agents want to do a total stunt pr gig. I was coming off the Olympics and all of my contracts were being renewed. I was going through this crazy life changing experience and I had to quit snowboarding. Something I had been doing since I was 14. And I look back on it like, “Damn, I wish I wouldn’t have done the whole pr thing.” It was more of the type of X Games thing, it was more of a forced thing doing the PR gig. So, I feel like I kind of lost touch with myself for a bit there. It’s been good to be fully out of Salt Lake and kind of remove myself from the contest scene of last year, but going into this year I hope to do color announcing for NBC for the Olympics. I did New Zealand World Cup and I will be doing the Dew Tour.

Does Todd Richards still do commentary?

The worst part about it is I thought it was going to be me and Todd working together and I actually think it’s me and Todd competing against each other for the job. So I am a little disappointed. I was really hoping it was going to be me and Todd talking shit up there together.

In the booth with @btoddrichards.

You got dropped by your only home town sponsor, Smith, and then you won a gold medal in the Olympics. How did that feel?

It kind of felt great. It was definitely one of those stick it to you things. When Smith was dropping me I was quitting the US team and they were like, “What is she going to do? She’s not on the US team, how is she going to compete? How was she going to do all that?” I just really made the decision myself, the US team wasn’t for me. So, Smith came to me and said, “Well, you are not on the US team what are you going to do?”
I said, “Well, I’m still gonna try and make the Olympic team,” but they didn’t quite see it that way. So, it felt good to win the medal. I was down in South America after the Olympics and saw some of the Smith dudes and they were like, “We want you back!”
So, that made me feel pretty good. It was a little ego brush, I guess.

You made the Olympic team as the dark horse.

Yeah, I’m kind of that unpredictable source.

US Team glamour shots

TBH, we’d have quit the US Team after this photo shoot, too. Sorry to bring back this memory, Kaitlyn.

Do you still carry your friends shitlocks in your pocket when you shred?

No, I do not have anymore dreads in my pockets. I don’t know what happened to any of those dreads. I probably left them all over the mountains.

You once threw up on a national morning radio program?

Yes. I went on the Opie and Jimmy radio show. Used to be Opie and Jimmy radio now I think it’s just Opie. I was on there with Paul Feig who I think is the director of Ghostbusters – the women’s one. I was so hungover. I had flown from Salt Lake, or something, and went partying in the city, of course, and then showed up there. Yeah, it was not my finest moment but it was still fun to meet Paul Feig.

Would you still consider yourself a loose cannon?

I am not that loose of a canon. But you know, I have my moments. I like to have fun.

How much money would someone have to offer you to leave Mervin?

The world. World peace and no more Trump, maybe. I think I met Barrett Christy on Mount Hood when I was 13. So, that’s been my joke forever. First and last sponsor.

boosting at snowqualmie

This magic moment at Summit at Snowqualmie brought to you by Tim Zimmerman/Gnu Snowboards.

What are your big plans for this season?

I’m going to plan on just being up here in Whitefish, do the little NBC stuff here and there, and hopefully there will be another kids camp in the Yukon, that I will go and do with the First Nations kids again. I’m just kind of playing it by ear trying to get on some film projects. I might be working on a film project with Scott Miller, he’s trying to do a 3-D movie. Something that we’re seeing if it will go through – get the financing for it. I’m kind of at a point where I’m ready to tell my full story. What I’ve been through and how my life has changed from four years ago, where I was sitting at the top of the Olympic podium to being told that I couldn’t do that, and I think I’ve been through some heavy ups and downs. So, I’ve been contemplating doing a podcast, or maybe even just a short film.

Sounds like you’re going to be going to Sundance next year.

I would like to (laughing).

So retiring was a total lie. You keep coming back. Like Tupac, basically.

Yeah I’m never going to die. It’s definitely been kind of weird, though. I have even questioned myself. Am I still a professional snowboarder? Or am I just an enthusiast that just kind of skirts on by, so it’s kind of a weird realm to be in. I don’t know. It’s just a weird transition.

Four years ago…

Well, you still get checks from snowboard companies and you cash them so you are a professional snowboarder.

Yep.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the Yobeat faithful?

Follow your dreams.

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