Betty of the Month: Jessa Gilbert
Okay, yeah, we had a little fun for April Fools Day, but the truth is that there are still so many amazing chicks out there that we don’t know if we can possibly interview them all. Up this month: East Coast park rat and artist turned powder slayer, Jessa Gilbert. Although you may not have seen her on the contest scene, her powder lines will make you drool, and her artwork will make you smile, so read up!
Name: Jessa Gilbert
Years Riding: 15
Hometown: Red Hook, NY
Home mountain: Catamount, New York, Jiminy Peak, Massachusetts, Stowe, Vermont
Sponsors: Currently Accepting
How did your love for snowboarding begin? I switched from skiing to snowboarding right after my older brother, Alex, started snowboarding. I’d never admit it, but I pretty much just wanted to be as cool as him, always. I showed up to the bunny slope with a pair of duck boots, a Nale snowboard at least 12 inches too tall, jeans, and a Starter Jacket – looking good! I was one of the only girls riding when I first started, and all the other snowboarders were guys who mostly rode park. So, I became a bit of a park rat too. I have a bit of a competitive nature, and just wanted to outride the guys at any opportunity. I loved the fear of it all, and not really knowing how it would go - if you would land square or if you end up in a pile on the landing. I don’t ride in the park as much anymore, and I look at the backcountry as my new playground instead. I love playing and exploring out there! I guess my love of snowboarding only grows bigger, though it has definitely seen different phases over the years.
Park or Powder? Powder – all day, any day, every day
How does living out West compare to your roots in the Northeast? I love it out here! I’m still in such awe at this place- how big the mountains are, how vast the landscape is, how immense the wilderness feels. There’s such clarity to being in the mountains here that I didn’t have back East. To be fair, I’m so proud of my roots and am happy to have learned how to ride back East. There’s such a variety of “snow” you have to manage there, and the trees are so tight it’s like riding through a jungle. Between that and jockeying my board around on rails and jumps for so many years before coming here really helped me to feel comfortable in the bigger terrain.
Tell us about your art. Clearly you take some inspiration from the outdoors, what else inspires you?
The art has changed so much since moving out here, both in what I create and the colors I use – it’s been such a fun process. I’ve always balanced my love of snowboarding and exploring the outdoors with my passion for artwork, but they’ve always existed separately in my life. I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider in both camps – my passion for painting felt foreign in the Outdoor industry, and my love of exploring the outdoors seemed pretty peculiar in the Fine Art world. Coming out to Vancouver I started to focus on ways of bridging this gap between these two seemingly divergent worlds, and bringing my artwork with me into the backcountry. It started as a way to really look at the new landscape and its intricacies by exploring the process of always looking outward and trying to translate the scene and how it felt. That desire to translate my experiences in those places, especially how it felt to be there, through artwork has become essential to my art practice and to the work itself. The drawings created during my explorations, #GetOutOfTownVibe, serve two functions. One is as artworks in themselves, showing how the moment was translated into a drawing/painting, while situating that drawing in the landscape through a photo – it’s combining the feelings and personal interpretations of the experience with the photographic reference of the space, bridging the two arenas – the outdoors and fine art. The second is to serve as inspiration and studies for larger paintings that are created back in the studio, where I can go deeper into playing with color and how to represent the passing of time in that space – the shifting sun, the meandering clouds, the wind in the trees, etc. There’s a human element in these paintings, as well, which may come from being so accustomed to sharing the outdoors with individuals recreating, exploring, or passing through. The Outdoor Industry Apparel lines are FULL of bright colors, and these pops of color and pattern definitely influence my color palette and how I play with color in the paintings.
More on Jessa and her art at http://www.jessagilbert.com
What would you tell a girl who is just getting into snowboarding?
Focus on having FUN! There were moments, especially when I was competing, where snowboarding wasn’t fun - I wasn’t taking rest days when my body clearly needed it, trying tricks that were dangerous given my ability at the time, or riding terrain I wasn’t comfortable with. There are a myriad reasons we get into these situations, but looking back I realize that if I had just been focusing on enjoying what I was doing above all else I would have had a better experience. That’s not to say don’t push yourself and try new things, because that is certainly part of enjoying the sport, but just make sure you’re checking in with yourself. Snowboarding is FUN, that’s what we get hooked on, so go into it with a good, light hearted attitude and you’re bound to have a great day. That and wear a helmet.
Where do you spend most of your time riding in the winter?
I’ve been spending more and more time in the backcountry out here rather than on the resort, which has been SO MUCH FUN. I’ve been Splitboarding the regions off the Duffey Lake Road a ton this Winter, along with a few trips out to the Coquihalla. If I’m not splitboarding, I’m riding Whistler/Blackcomb… mostly Blackcomb.
Favorite rider out there right now?
MFR is one of the raddest chicks in snowboarding. I looked up to her park segments when I was starting to compete, and now find myself so inspired by her approach to the backcountry and love of Winter. Jess Kimura is a total boss, and such a good personality to get girls stoked on stepping it up in the park and street riding. I’ve always had a total snowboard man-crush on Nicolas Müller – his method is one of the best in the business, and his laid out rodeo japans through powder fields make it look like he’s just having the most fun on the mountain.
3 things you need for a really great day of riding?
Good Snow, Good Friends, and Good Snacks!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully still here in BC! I just love it here, and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface as to what British Columbia has to offer. I’ve applied for my Permanent Residency and am hoping I’ll be approved and able to stay indefinitely.
What do you do when you’re not riding?
I spend a fair amount of time in the painting studio, especially in the winter when I don’t feel like I’m wasting daylight. Other than that I’m just trying to get out as much as possible – Mountain Biking, Bike Touring, Beach Volleyball, and camping/backpacking are my big Spring/Summer/Fall activities I’d say. I’m not much of a city person, so I’m really just trying to get out of town whenever and as much as possible.
Trick: If I do find myself in the park, it’d be Front Boardslides. Outside of that, I love being in the backcountry and just jumping off of things – Sorry to my Parents and knee surgeon! Haha
Imaginary Animal: The elusive ski touring Clydesdale that my friend promised me he raised to tow us up the backcountry mountains… still waiting for that horse to make an appearance.
Breakfast Cereal: I make my own granola, which is my go to morning meal. That or Grape Nuts.. ha! I love Grape Nuts, even though I think their target audience is 60+ year old retirees. I’m a bit of a grandma at heart.
Run: I don’t know if I have a favourite run out here. That being said, one of the best runs I’ve had this year was back in December, Christmas Day actually, above Hanging Lake. I was coming down an untracked creek bed that just had pillow after pillow after pillow. The temperatures were cold enough to keep the snow nice and light, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I had gone through a rough few months prior, and that run felt like such a good reset for the year ahead. I was laughing and grinning from ear to ear the whole way down to the lake. That was such a good day!
Lift Snack: I pretty much always have a pocket sandwich, which more appropriately can be described as a peanut butter jelly ball…
Feature: Pillows, Cliff Drops, and big, open, steep powder fields!
Posted by Kelly Vance on 04/01/16