Interview: Going Big With Matt Annetts
By Brigid Mander | December 2nd, 2011
Gas explosions aren’t your normal impetus for jumpstarting a pro snowboard career, but the beaten path doesn’t hold much interest for pro rider Matt Annetts in general. Charging the big mountain competition scene, Annetts has become a force to be reckoned with on the elite Europe-based Freeride World Tour, repping the USA-often as the sole American snowboard invitee for the last four years.
Hanging strong in the top three in 2011, Annetts’ season was cut short last March by a broken patella on the Sochi, Russia, stop of the tour. After some bone healing and a little jaunt to Argentina to test things out, he’s gearing up for the first stop of the 2012 tour in Chamonix, filming, and another season of pushing the limits.
Tetongravity.com caught up with Annetts at his home stomping grounds in Jackson, Wyoming, where he semi-reluctantly agreed to open up — but it is clear he’d rather let his riding do the speaking.
TGR: Big mountain competition is a tough game. You have filming and travel opportunities coming up as well — what keeps you going back?
MA: I told myself I was done competing after a couple bad competitions, including losing my helmet while rag dolling down the Bec de Rosses [in Verbier, Switzerland]. It was not enjoyable pushing myself in mediocre conditions just for a little prize money.
TGR: But? …
MA: The retirement didn’t last long. The restaurant where I made my living had a gas leak, resulting in a little explosion, closing it for good. Running short on cash, I made the gamble to do The North Face Masters in Snowbird and try to win a little money. I ended up winning there, and competing has kind have been my thing since.
Now I actually enjoy the competitions. Competing on the FWT, there is a large window for the event day resulting in good snow most the time. There is no reason to stop if I am still having fun and doing well.
TGR: You’ve had some pretty impressive results besides your FWT finishes. As in, how did it feel to beat Travis Rice, Rob Kingwill and Ralph Backstrom all at once in The North Face comp two years ago?
MA: It always feels great to win a competition. It is pretty nice to say I beat Travis Rice, though. In my opinion, he is the best rider out there, but it worked out in my favor that he was having an off day.
TGR: Your chosen discipline of big mountain doesn’t have the visibility of park and pipe, especially in the US. Do you think that is changing?
MA: The comps are helping with visibility — in Europe mostly. I think that Travis Rice is helping push it here, and others. But it still seems the park is the place to be. I did that for a while but I’d much rather ride in powder. It is always more fun to be riding on a clean palette. And I am happy to film whenever the chance arises.
TGR: You’ve been filming with Nuit de la Glisse — a major European action sports production company based in France. How did that come about?
MA: It was a dream come true to meet up with NDG. I was riding the backcountry in Argentina when I met Thierry Donard, the owner. He was skinning toward the peak that I was riding. He happened to look up as I was on my way down. Through a mutual friend he found out who I was and asked me to start filming with him. That was in 2004, I think, and I have been in all their films since.
This year’s movie, I have a small part. Because of my injury last season, I missed a dream trip to Iceland. But, they were kind enough to send me to Argentina this summer to test out my knee and do some filming.
TGR: What did you take away from your injury last year?
MA: I re-learned that I love snowboarding, and it sucks to be hurt. It is my passion and I am happy to be doing what I am doing. My only goal in snowboarding is to continue having fun.
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