So what's so good about Boardercross? GB athlete Kyle Wise shares his five favourite (and not so favourite) things about his profession

I love Boardercross because it combines my love of racing and snowboarding. Despite the sport being around for a long time and being extremely popular in terms of TV viewing figures during the Winter Olympics, it’s still a relatively niche and unknown sport. In my series of blogs with Ski Club of Great Britain, I will seek to provide an insight into the life of a competitive athlete in the sport, how my experiences have been, how you can get into it and what to expect.

Having been in Boardercross almost 10 years now, after honing many of my skills on the UK’s dryslopes, I’ve learnt a lot and had many good and bad experiences. Whilst I love it, it can be tough at times being a British athlete in the sport! 

What I love

1.  The adrenaline

This is what sets it apart from other sports! Everyone who’s ever skied or snowboarded loves going fast and racing down the hill, so imagine doing this super close to others, down a crazy fun track trying to overtake each other. It’s like F1 or go-karting on snow, it’s why we all do it!

2.  Travelling

I’ve been to some amazing places thanks to Boardercross, all over Europe and North America. Whilst I sometimes go to well-known ski resorts such as Val Thorens, Les Deux Alpes, Saas Fee, Big White, and Bad Gastein, many of the resorts that host Boardercross competitions are relatively unknown, such as Lenk, Puy St Vincent, Pitztal, Acralis, Grasgehren and Palandoken (Turkey). Last winter I went to Georgia (Gudauri) and Russia (Sunny Valley) to compete for the first time, which was incredible! Particularly visiting Tblisi in Georgia and soaking up the culture!

These short stops to non-winter destinations around competitions and training are the best, and feed that travel bug inside me! I’ve been lucky enough to visit Amsterdam, Monaco, Quebec, Lucerne, Croatia, Slovenia, the Northern Italian Lakes and Seattle all thanks to Boardercross!

3.  Being in the mountains

Playing in the snow all the time is ace! Having fresh air and being in a beautiful environment doing something you love is amazing! Every time I bike to work in the city inhaling bus fumes and dodging death, I wish I was back out there. I can see why people escape to the countryside so much in the UK!

4. Progression

To be good at Boardercross you have to be a good all-round rider, and able to ride anything and everything! Boardercross progresses your snowboarding in every element; board control, carving, balance, speed and even freestyle! You will often make huge leaps and bounds in progression after starting Boardercross, but even now, 10 years in, there are still so many gains and refinements to be made. Every little improvement I find makes a big difference.

5. The People

I’ve met so many interesting people through Boardercross, which has grown even more recently with GB Snowsport combining the ski and snowboard cross teams. Many of the British and overseas people I’ve met come from different backgrounds and cultures, and have taken different routes to get where they are. There is no ‘average’ or ‘normal’ Boardercross person I feel, but we all have a love and passion for Boardercross in common, which we can share together and the challenges we come across doing it!

The challenges

1.  Costs

The costs to do Boardercross are massive. It is the norm to spend at least £15K each winter doing it full-time. The accommodation, lift passes, travel, coaching, competition entries, insurance and equipment all add up. You also need to consider on-snow training during the off-season, and that most winter resort jobs often require working weekends, when competitions are on.

It’s difficult, and I often juggle multiple jobs, and fly back and forth to the UK from competitions in Europe to manage it all. At times just getting to the track is the biggest battle! The sacrifices can be huge, financially and socially, you have to be prepared to give up a lot. So a huge thanks to all my family, friends and sponsors who’ve helped make it more manageable!

2.  Gym

You need to have a lot of explosive power to match the fast leg movement required for the Boardercross tracks. This is hard to replicate, so you need to get in the gym a lot. Being outdoorsy, the gym bores me and I’d rather go climbing, biking or play sport. However, Boardercross is dangerous and the gym and ‘pre-hab’ work helps prevent injuries, which is key, so it is a necessity. Having a gym partner or trainer makes it easier and enjoyable and will help push you, anyone fancy being mine?

3.  Waxing

The importance of waxing and your board being in tip-top shape becomes more apparent the higher the level of competition. Unfortunately, talent only takes you so far and if your equipment is running slow, you can only do so much to make up for it on the track. Maintaining your equipment takes time, expertise and hard work, it’s a thankless task, which is why most people don’t bother or get others to do it for them! But at this level it’s often those willing to spend the most time and money on waxing, that will be rewarded on the hill. So having tunes blasting and others around to chat with helps you get on with it. However some accommodations won’t have a wax room or a suitable place for waxing such as a garage, and I’ve found myself outside in car parks, using bins as benches.

4.  Hanging around

One of the biggest things I noticed when I started Boardercross was the amount of time spent waiting to get on the track. You’ll spend an entire day on the hill in blizzardy and freezing conditions waiting, and sometimes only get three or four runs with huge breaks in-between. Or even worse, when the weather is great and you could be riding powder! Whilst you could go ahead and ride anyway, you risk missing the competition and tiring yourself for the race, thus blowing all the time and money spent getting there. This changed what snowboarding is to me somewhat and I had to adapt to be OK with spending much less time riding on the hill, in order to get the rush from a run on a good track.

5.  The Mental Challenge

Boardercross can be a real love/hate thing at times. You’ll be doing great in training, riding amongst the best and then you’ll make a silly mistake and wreck your chances of getting through to heats. Every year this happens to me at some point, I beat myself up and question why I spend so much time and money on it. However this only lasts so long as I remember why I do it in the first place, it’s amazing and it takes time to get to the top!

I still get scared at times before going on track. However I’ve learnt it’s OK to be cautious at times and rely on your experience and instincts. Boardercross can be dangerous and you should push yourself over the edge when you’re ready, and your fears will quickly turn into stoke! You’ll have the time of your life and wonder you were so scared in the first place. This is what fuels many of us in bordercross, the progression and overcoming your fears and self-doubt. Myself and most athletes will always want to be the best they can be and will regularly have the feeling that they can always be better or do better. This is what makes Boardercross dangerously addictive, but I’ve found the positives far outweigh the negatives and I’ve become a much stronger person mentally, I love Boardercross and it makes me feel like I can take on the world!

Kyle’s sponsors; Snowfit, Surefoot, DataWax, White Bear Board Sock Co., University of Edinburgh Sport and PANDA Optics.

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