The first time Jamie Anderson performed a "cab 7," it was not in the script. The trick involves a snowboarder launching off a jump and spinning two full rotations. Anderson had tried it in practice but had never fully executed it.
"I didn't have to do that trick, but I really wanted to and knew I could do it," Anderson says. "For me it was more about the principle of knowing that I can do something even that was really challenging and difficult."
That was the 2007 X Games. Now she calls the cab 7 one of her favorite moves and does it often, along with other high-flying stunts, like she did in last year's X Games, broadcast on ESPN.
Snowboard slopestyle is making its debut at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. It's a flashy event: Riders twirl through the air performing flips and slide across railings, much like you'd see at a skate park. The sport has grown up alongside athletes like Anderson, who at 23 is considered one of the top female snowboarders in the world — and possibly America's best shot at winning gold in this growing sport.
A Risk Taker
On the dock outside her home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Anderson catches the end of a pink sunset.
"Often, I'll come out on my little medicine walks in the morning and see the bald eagle, which is always just amazing," she says.
Anderson has stayed close to the Sierra, where she got her start at age 9 after receiving a hand-me-down snowboard; her family couldn't afford to buy her a new one. She and her seven siblings were home-schooled, "so I had a lot of time on the mountain — it was like my day care," she says, laughing.
Off the slopes, Anderson has a Zen-like calm. It's surprising given the intensity she brings to her sport. At age 13, she qualified for the Winter X Games. Two years later she won a bronze and became the youngest female medalist there. Now she has taken gold in the X Games four times.
"Ultimately, it kind of reminds me of, like, a playground on the mountain," she says of slopestyle. "There's different features, like rails, and boxes and jumps, sometimes hips and quarter pipes — all kinds of random features."
But Anderson is not just a risk taker. She likes to crochet, and one of her trademarks is hugging a tree before a big run — or that's how it looks on camera. The first time she did it, she was actually meditating to clear her mind while wrapping her arms around a tree. She tries to bring that sensibility to her sport.
"I get to a competition and feel out the slopestyle course, and kind of see which directions the jumps are flowing, and which way I feel like I can do my tricks," says Anderson. It's like "having an idea in my head but being open to changes, and kind of seeing what flows most effortlessly."
Jamie's older sister Joanie is also a professional snowboarder. She says Jamie's style is authoritative.
"She goes a lot bigger than a lot of the girls out there," says Joanie. "And she's supersmooth. She has a way of always landing on her feet. ... She's kind of like a cat."
The point was driven home in a recent episode of the National Geographic show Mountain Movers, when Jamie propelled herself off a jump and traveled 65 feet over a roadway. Now she has hopes of executing a new trick, one that involves spinning 900 degrees.
"Sometimes I'll even have a dream of the trick I want to do, and I'll land it perfectly," she says. "And then I know, I'm like, 'OK, I'm ready. I want to do this trick.' But it takes so much courage."
Whatever trick she pulls off, Anderson will continue pushing this growing sport to the limit, including, for the first time, all the way to the Olympics.