Mother Huckers | Shredding While Pregnant And Why We Should Write Mums Into Snowboarding

"We’re here to raise the bar, we’re not just here to raise our kids."

Illustration: Olivia Jorgensen.

When I first realised I was pregnant, amid the giddy excitement and feelings of ‘Holy Shiiiiiit’, I had some maths to do. It was early November so how pregnant would I be by the time my next snow trip came around and would I still be able to ride? Since learning a decade before I’d snowboarded at least twice a year, usually more. Buzzing as I was about this baby news, the thought of missing a season was strange and disorientating.

As it turned out, I was fine to snowboard that winter. I only rode on quiet days, I took things easy and I even enjoyed a big grin-powder morning at Brevent in Chamonix that I’m sure I’ll remember all my life. My eldest son is seven now and it’s funny to remind him he was there for the freshies that day too.

So far, so very much like my pre-pregnant life, bigger belly aside. I didn’t know then, I couldn’t of course, how having kids would completely change my experience of snowboarding. In good ways, as well as bad.

“Buzzing as I was about this baby news, the thought of missing a season was strange and disorientating”

You don’t hear much about mums who snowboard, it can often feel like we’re an invisible force, perhaps because snowboarding always feels like it’s being sold to a notional teenage boy and said teenage boy is unlikely to want his mum around. Though it’s worth noting dads often get a pass on that.

I decided to talk to some of the raddest mums in women’s snowboarding, a mix of pros, former pros and other behind the scenes luminaries and shred-lovers, to get their thoughts on being mothers and snowboarders.

Pictured: A pregnant Kimmy Fasani primed and ready to snowboard

“When I found out I was pregnant, my snowboard lifestyle came to mind right away,” says the former World Extreme Freeride Champion and snow pro Vera Janssen. “My first thought was relief that I would still get some powder days that season.” Vera, like me and many of the other mothers I spoke to, found it tricky to imagine a winter without snowboarding.

Countless studies have shown that keeping active leads to a healthier pregnancy outcome for both mothers and their babies, but the medical advice on snowboarding while pregnant can be conflicting. Carmela Fleury, now a yogi and life coach, who snowboarded at a national level in her youth, was told not to ride while pregnant. She says: “The doctor thought it wouldn’t be prudent and instead he suggested I cross country ski. I had no idea what I was doing and fell over and bruised a couple of ribs. So, let’s just say I wasn’t as ‘prudent’ for baby number two.”

“We’re here to raise the bar, we’re not just here to raise our kids”

“In my early twenties, I remember seeing a very pregnant Shannon Dunn riding and I found that very inspiring. I followed my intuition much more with baby number two regardless of the judgment of others.”

That ‘judgement’ from others came up a lot. Burton rider Kimmy Fasani posted several shots of herself riding while pregnant on Instagram. The majority of the comments were super-positive along the lines of: “Rock it awesome momma!” with the odd: “What is the model of your snowboard?” standard shopping query thrown in. But from time to time someone would ask: “What if you fall on your bump?”. And fair play to Kimmy she always replied politely explaining that snowboarding was as natural as walking to her and she didn’t plan on falling over. She told me: “People loved to make comments but the most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to your body. Since I’m very comfortable on my snowboard, I made sure to go to the mountain when it wasn’t crowded and picked easier terrain than I would normally ride.”

Pictured: Kimmy Fasani shreddin’ it up

The pioneering snowboard pro Barrett Christy, who now oversees women’s snowboard design at GNU, actually rode in an X Games while pregnant, though things didn’t quite go to plan. She says: “I found out a few weeks before the X Games in 2004. I knew I wasn’t going to throw any hammers but thought I would just compete on cruise control and have fun. I didn’t do very well; the self-preservation instinct had already kicked in and I knew it wasn’t worth the risk to send it.”

Other women felt that same anxiety around riding while pregnant. For some, including Vera Janssen the responsibility eventually took the fun away from snowboarding. “I was scared that someone might run into me,” she says.

“Riding pregnant was so freeing”

The practicalities of snowboarding with a growing bump came up a lot. Three time Olympian and GB Park and Pipe Programme Manager, Lesley McKenna, switched to skiing at eight months pregnant when she could no longer reach her snowboard bindings, while Erin Comstock, another former professional snowboarder and five time-X Games competitor, got around the binding problem by getting her fellow pro and friend Hana Beaman to strap on her bindings for her. But Erin maintains that: “Riding pregnant was so freeing. I felt the lightest on my feet, it was so fun.”

Kimmy also mentioned how happy and energised snowboarding during pregnancy had made her feel, a sentiment I would definitely concur with. Kimmy recommended Burton’s StepOn bindings as a good way to get around the reaching your bindings while heavily pregnant problem.

Pictured: Gilly Seagrave doing her thing

For me the whole ‘happy mum, happy kid’ mindset became even more important once my children were born. I did feel guilty leaving them with a random resort childminder in those early years and I did wince massively at the cost of it all but, in many ways, I’ve also needed snowboarding more than ever since becoming a parent.

When my eldest son was two and a half and the youngest six months old the hard work to fun ratio was weighted heavily towards the thankless graft end of the spectrum. I was struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so we booked a snowboard trip to Morzine with friends, took an expensive hit on the childcare and rode powder all week. I came back a different person, spirits high, ability to cope with everything restored, and I don’t doubt I was better a parent that year as a result.

“I felt as if I’d lost a limb”

A lot of the women I spoke to felt similar things after they became mothers. Yogi and health coach Sian Leigh told me she persuaded her parents to fly over from NZ to look after her daughter as she was “dying to snowboard, I felt as if I’d lost a limb”. While Helen Lavender, who does the PR for Jenny Jones’s workshops, says: “It was super important to get out riding after I had my first baby. It felt really good to be doing something for myself and something which I did in my life before being a mum. Especially as it felt like such a huge life change.”

But there’s no doubt snowboarding, travel and just generally life is more expensive once you’ve had kids. All the women I spoke to mentioned cost and how it’s affected their ability to go snowboarding to varying degrees. Everyone goes less frequently, some go on trips without their kids, while some no longer go at all. Former pro Gilly Seagrave questioned whether it’s worth the money taking them when they’re young. She says: “I don’t want to take her out there until she can make the most of being on the hill, I don’t want to spend loads of money to sit in a cafe on the nursery slope with her making snowmen…” A completely fair point.

Since having kids I’ve definitely had fewer trips to the mountains and less time up the hill when I’m there but as was the case with that powder week in Morzine, those snowboard trips have become even more special. Dutch snowboard legend Cheryl Maas, who has two girls, told me she felt the same. She says: “Now I’ve been a parent for a while snowboarding has become more important. You realise how much time kids actually take when you can do something by yourself on your own for a bit, and you realise how much you love it.”

I sometimes feel that the world is less comfortable with mums doing action sports such as snowboarding, than they are with dads, who often still get applauded just for doing a school run. I ask Cheryl if she feels the same? “I sometimes feel like society looks at me with a crooked eye. ‘Why are you taking the risks you do or why are you away from your kids so much?’ but we all live a different life and I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And I like to show them what in my eyes living is about.”

“Do what you love, end of story. Be happy. Life is too short to live on other people’s terms”

Yet Cheryl wasn’t the only mum to tell me she takes less risks now she’s a parent. She wants to be an active hands-on mother and doesn’t want to risk that by damaging her body and jeopardising that. Sian Leigh has also reassessed the risks she’s willing to take. She says: “Sadly I am a great big fanny now. When there’s heaps of snow I am terrified of avalanches. I just don’t want the kids to lose their mum in a preventable accident.”

I’m completely the same when there is lots of snow about. I’ve never been much of a park hound, but Erin Comstock did make me laugh saying that her riding hasn’t changed much since having kids. She told me about a time when she took her neighbour and son out to give them a snowboard lesson but told them she just needed a couple of laps in the park first “as I was trying to get my front 7 back…”.

Pictured: Erin Comstock and her squad

The snowboarders I spoke to all gave massive shout outs to their supportive partners, without whom they acknowledge they wouldn’t be able to shred at all. But those partners also seemed to appreciate how vital the mothers fulfilling their mountain passion was for the family unit. And how important it was for them to ride with their kids as they got older, where possible, to show them these alternative versions of motherhood can actually be the norm.

As Sian Leigh says: “They have no pre-conceived ideas about how a mum should behave, they just know that anything is possible because that’s how we are. No gender restrictions at all.”

Rian Rhoe, who does the PR for Airblaster, believes mothers who snowboard sit well with the sport’s original rebel ethos. She says: “Growing up snowboarding it was never about pleasing others and being a female snowboarder certainly didn’t fit rigid societal expectations for women. I think that it’s important for there to be rad moms just like there are rad dads. It’s inspiring. Not in an overly “trying to be cool” kind of way, but in a way that’s just real. Do what you love, end of story. Be happy. Life is too short to live on other people’s terms.”

Pictured: Sian Leigh going full tilt up in the mountains

Being a mum can be so all-consuming, especially in those early years, where it’s hard to remember where your kids end and you begin. Society projects that absolute and total maternal devotion on a loop, but for me that’s when the passions you have outside of that bubble become even more important for your head and sense of self.

That’s why it’s great to share these stories and get them out there, as Kimmy Fasani says: “I believe the more women who share their stories of being active, the more we can shift society’s view of what moms are “expected” to do, versus what we are capable of doing.”

For me, this is where social media wins over all that came before, because mums can now write themselves into snowboarding’s story and remind the world and ourselves that we’re here to raise the bar, we’re not just here to raise our kids.

You May Also Like

Radical Gains | How GB Park and Pipe Charted the Course to Olympic Glory

Making The Most Of The ‘Beast From The East’ | We Went Snowboarding In Northern Ireland

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.