In a sport where big impacts and injuries are common, snowboarders have to be fit—bulletproof even. So when the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of Snowboard Slopestyle to the Winter Olympics program last year, snowboarder Kimmy Fasani began intensive training.
Her five-foot-three body felt stronger than ever before.
Fasani was the first woman to land a double backflip in the terrain park and in the backcountry, a trick that might have been worthy of Olympic gold. But when the inaugural slopestyle event took place two weeks ago at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Fasani wasn’t competing.
A serious accident at Mammoth Mountain last December chipped her pelvis and severed three ligaments in her knee, destroying her chance to compete in qualification events.
Fasani says her Olympic dream is “out the window,” but her latest objective is to come back and ride stronger—in the backcountry.
“Now it’s a matter of building back that strength, making sure that I get symmetry between my knees,” she says, “and not letting go of my passion for snowboarding and the mountains.”A year into Fasani’s recovery, the Olympic slopestyle qualification events were happening in the United States, but she says she didn’t feel like she was missing out. Fasani was just getting her powder feet back under her, storm riding in Japan—a bittersweet redemption that, she says, made her realize what is most important to her in snowboarding.
“Riding powder has been one of the best things for my head and my body,” Fasani says. “I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve been through, and I am so happy to be riding powder again.”
While the Olympic medals were being handed out, Fasani was heading north with the Nimbus Independent crew to film in the British Columbia backcountry. And in a time when many injured athletes lose sponsorships, Fasani has gained a new one; she has signed on as a fitness ambassador for Specialized Bicycles.
The company released their first women’s full-suspension 29er mountain bike this year. Rather than hire a competitive cyclist to represent the company, they chose Fasani for her dedication to a healthy and active lifestyle.
“Biking has always been an outlet for me because it’s a great way to cross-train,” she says. “I’ve used it as an exercise, but also as a way to cleanse my mind. I want to put my body to use, so when I am in the backcountry, I am in the best shape possible.”
Fasani was first a ski racer and a competitive gymnast until a broken arm took her out of the gymnasium and onto a snowboard. She began landing backflips and competing in amateur snowboard events. Eventually, she gave up skiing, which, she says, taught her about edge control and speed. That, coupled with the balance and fearlessness she learned from gymnastics, prepared her to become a professional snowboarder.
After a few years of entering slopestyle contests with a lackluster competitive drive, Fasani decided to take her skills to the big mountains. For the past three winters, she has focused on doing park tricks in natural terrain, riding bigger lines and filming. Her role in progressing women’s backcountry snowboarding landed her a spot on the Burton Global Team as the [AK] line representative last year—a sponsorship deal without the pressure to bring home medals or contest results.
“Burton hired her to be a backcountry rider,” says Fasani’s husband, pro skier Chris Benchetler. “Athletes get super, super hurt. You kind of have to have some screws loose to put yourself through that all of the time, but injuries don’t stop athletes from doing the sports they love.”
“Kimmy definitely has a relationship with snowboarding—she loves it,” he adds. “She’ll always be a snowboarder. She wants to ride powder more than anything.”
“Riding the park is really fun for me, but my true joy comes from riding in the backcountry—being in the mountains when nobody else is around, just having you and your film crew; being able to explore and seeing things that maybe not everybody gets to see, ” Fasani says. “I want to be able to ride big mountains for a long time and learn a lot more about what I can do out there.”
Fasani strongly believes that everything happens for a reason. Why she got hurt, she can’t explain, but her injury has helped her to refocus who she is as a rider. She says she’s looking forward to riding big lines in the mountains and hoping to inspire other women along the way. Maybe her Olympic dream is lost forever, but her love for backcountry snowboarding is just being rediscovered.