An Interview with Kjersti Buaas

The List connected with Trøndelag’s Olympic World Snowboarder, Kjersti Buaas for issue #14 that came out at the start of 2017. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we thought we would give it another share!

Words by The List’s very own Jaya Thomlison.

Read the whole magazine here!

Photo: Nikol Herec

Kjersti Buaas, Body and Mind

Approximately 20 years ago in the small town of Klæbu, just outside of Trondheim, a girl raised in the outdoors tried out something new for the first time, and through love, passion and perseverance eventually became one of Trøndelag’s prized Olympic medal winners.

Kjersti Buaas is a rather known name for anyone that has followed the past four Olympic Winter Games. What you may not have known is that she is a proclaimed Trondheim ambassador. While residing in California for the time being, Kjersti makes it her mission to support others interested in outdoor sports to find a balance between their mind, body, and soul.

Kjersti, can you tell our readers about yourself?

I’m originally from Trondheim and I grew up doing a lot of different sports. I was introduced to snowboarding at the age of twelve when my older sister was trying it out and I wanted to be just like her, of course. Snowboarding was something that I fell in love with immediately. It felt creative and fun to move around and move my body in that way. I never set out with an ambition to create a career… but snowboarding has since become my job and profession. For the past eighteen years of I have been professionally competing, resulting in four Olympics, winning A bronze medal and a couple of silver medals as well. Winning golds in various X-games.

Photo: Nikol Herec

Yours is not the most common life-path, albeit incredibly inspiring. How did you initially get involved in competitive sports?

Something that Norwegians might underestimate is the benefit of being born in a place where people are encouraged to get outdoors and test their limits. Growing up in Trondheim, we had to get out of our comfort zones, whether it was the weather, or something else. I was also lucky to have role models and good people supporting me, including coaches and a national team. I have had a very nice support system from the start. That is really important when you are at the age when you are trying to find your inner strength.

It also feels kind of safe to be in Norway and to be a Norwegian as it’s a small country. I think that we can identify with one another easier because we are only 5 million or so. It has not been easy to find a clear path and everyone must experience the same. I mean, I have never really doubted that it’s what I wanted to do, though I never really decided ‘this is what I am going to do, I’m going to be a professional snowboarder and compete in the Olympics’. Luckily I had all of those people around me, without them I could not have done it.

Photo: Torleif Kvinnesland

As a female, what are were some of the mental breakthroughs you needed in order to engage in competitive sports?

I associate some of my drive to resiliency. Whether it’s just weather, cultural tradition or determination. This is all important. In the beginning, snowboarding gave me a new way to think, a new way live and to view myself. I was surrounded by female athletes, yet snowboarding has always been a very friendly sport. So even though we were competing against each other, we became really good friends. A key factor is finding your community. Being that snowboarding was a smaller community worldwide than other competitive sports, we weren’t afraid to share. We weren’t afraid to share strategies with each other were open about it. We pushed each other to watch documentaries about, let’s say food and agriculture, in order to learn what’s behind it. After seeing learning what happens in other places, such as American agriculture, I was shocked. My snowboarding community has helped me access education and knowledge so I that I could make conscious and good choices that would be good more me, and for the world.

Do you think that growing up in this region has had anything to do with your career path?

I grew up in a very active family and we always spent most of our time outdoors. That is to say, I had it in my blood and I loved it. I think that Trøndersk culture is very tough and strong. You know, it’s never really bad weather, we just go outside. In Norway, you will see people going to work on a bike in a rainstorm and it doesn’t matter. In other parts of California, they’ll say it is horrible weather when there is one cloud in the sky and wouldn’t consider riding a bike in the rain. I think that something so simple as coming from a culture where you are not afraid to face nature has helped me understand how to push my own limitations.

“There are no boundaries.”

I brought this outlook with me to into a male-dominated sport where at the time, girls were a token. When there was one spot on a snowboarding team for a girl and that spot was filled, we may have previously thought ‘it’s already taken’. I started challenging this. My upbringing encouraged me to change my way of thinking and follow my heart in order to solve the problem differently. I would try out for the team anyhow. I believed that if I followed mind, body, and soul, I could inspire other people. My perspective is, before the action, it’s just a thought. But everything changes once you start doing it. At some point, I realised my own power. Then I started realising that all anyone has to do is start thinking differently and seeing the potential for change. In that respect, being a professional athlete is simply a way to do life. The benefit is that you get to experience so many things, challenge yourself so intensively both in competition and under pressure.

Photo: Nikol Herec

Snowboarding is often considered a young person’s sport, though you grew up in Norway where you don’t have strong conforming factors related to age – people in their 60s and 70s are still climbing, skiing and are showing that body is actually a tool. What do you have to do to keep yourself healthy and competitive at over the age of thirty?

I’ve done a lot of different things within the sport and I’m still loving it. Yes, I’m still competing with all these teenagers as young as fourteen… and it is about breaking stereotypes. You might think that you need to retire from professional sports in your late 20s because that’s the norm. And then you realise that it’s just a norm and not the rule. I think that coming from a culture where you are free to keep working beyond ‘pension age’ if you choose to, affects you. People are inspired by their peers no matter the age, whether they are parents, grandparents or friends. We will always look to what is around us and draw inspiration from it. So for me, it became almost like a personal goal to see how my body will respond to competing at that level of snowboarding as I age because the sport can be pretty harsh and there can be a lot of impacts. Once I realised that I had to become more healthy in order to continue — when it comes to food, training, and everything going on in my mind — I started seeing so much potential and age didn’t matter anymore. It is a fun journey that I’m kind of creating on my own. There still aren’t that many snowboarders competing after their 20s.

How do you think your ego comes into play?

To be honest, it was probably eight or so years ago when I realised we had the term ‘ego’ and I started to contemplate it. I had certain sentiments and then thought, ‘wow, that’s my ego – that’s what it is.’ I was really lucky because my friends and I started a club and we called it ‘One Life’, which had the intention of being light-hearted in competition. A lot of people get really serious and their ego becomes very blatant and they don’t realise the impact. So ‘One Life’ tried to be aware of the ego. We intended to compete and have fun because isn’t that why we started doing this in the first place? We helped each other through this process and vowed to be a constant reminder to one another. We did silly things when we were younger like where animal hats – you know, you can’t get egotistical and be serious in an animal hat. Just try it. We had these little tools to help us to get through that phase and I think it is really important for people to reflect and look inside to remind themselves of what their ultimate motivation is. The more I learn about my ego, the more I’m able to see that I am unrestrained to be who I want to be. If at one point I did something I was not proud of, I can just shake it off and let it go.

Photo: Nikol Herec

Tips for keeping healthy and active, body and mind

We hosted a camp called ‘Presence Performance’ at Vassfjellet last January and will offer another in March. This was an all-day women’s snowboarding camp starting with yoga and meditation. The foundation of the camp is ‘face what brings yourself to its highest performance.’ If you want to be at the top of anything, the more present you are, the better you’ll be. This is something I have learned from the Olympics. Whenever I’ve done my best, it was because I was present. There are various techniques for breathing in the air, differentiating smell and sounds. We are also teaching participants what will give you the best fuel to perform the best. For me, it is very important to find a good balance between when I’m training and doing my thing, but also hosting things such as this camp. Because that is what really motivates me.

What does this region have to offer, what should they be proud about?

Be proud that you are growing up in a city that is surrounded by amazing forest and wildlife. Where else can you go less than five minutes outside of the city and go cross-country skiing and stay connected to nature? Deep down I think that this is why people in and around Trondheim have a lot of love in their hearts. I feel a lot of love. You don’t know everyone, but because of the size, you feel as if you could.

Quick Facts about Kjersti:     

  • Bronze medal at X Games Oslo 2016
  • 8th place for entire season, World Cup 2012/ 2013
  • Bronze medal at the Winter Olympics 2006
  • 4th place in half-pipe at the Winter Olympics 2002