FOW: Tori Anderson
Rocky Mountains, AB. FOW: Tori Anderson // Photo: Dan Thomson (@dannothomson)
Tori is the type of athlete to fall, get up again, and keep charging ahead. Mind over matter. Tori isn’t afraid to push harder, go bigger, or challenge the status quo. And for that, we’re honored to introduce her as a Friend of WNDR.
Why are you a skier?
Man, this one is a little complicated! I’m a skier for so many reasons but I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today without my family. I am super lucky to have been born into a family of cold-smoke chasing; après beer drinking; sufferfest-obsessed mountaineers and skiers.
My Grandpa was a die-hard mountaineer who met my Grandma while she was ski instructing at Mt. Norquay in Banff, Alberta and my Dad raced on the Alberta Downhill Team. I am pretty sure I learnt how to pizza better than I could walk by the time I was 2 years old. I followed my Dad's path and ski raced for 6 years but tapped out before I had the opportunity to compete at FIS levels. Then I got into freeride! I genuinely hated ski racing but those formative years of getting up at 5:00am every weekend to chase gates set me up with the technique to shred bigger lines as an adult.
Right now I am based in Calgary, Alberta, which is where my Grandpa and Dad both grew up. Every time I head into the Rocky Mountains, I take a second to think about how many times my Grandpa or Dad were in the same place, looking up at the mountains while feeling the same way I do. The mountains in this area demand respect—this is one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Canada because of how loud and proud they stand at the edge of the prairies. Driving through the Bow Valley geographic transition zone and seeing them on the horizon makes time move slower. You suddenly realize how small you really are and how little time you have on this earth in comparison to the millions of years they’ve spent watching us small creatures come and go. Their jagged summits, exposed faces and towering rock formations are formidable when combined with our unpredictable winter weather and heavy snowfall. These mountains make me feel humble yet powerful at the same time—it’s a privilege to be able to do what we do in such an unforgiving environment. Climbing, skiing or riding requires a certain level of presence that I haven’t found in any other sport. That “flow state” is one of the best feelings in the entire world.
I’m a skier because I am addicted to that feeling. I’ll keep dancing with Mother Nature and push myself in the mountains until my crooked little knees give out!
These jagged surroundings can be both humbling and empowering. Mt. Cook, NZ. Photo: Dom Channon (@domchannonphoto)
How did you get into backcountry skiing?
My first time seeing backcountry skiing and feeling inspired was when I started going to Warren Miller ski movie premieres with my Dad when I was about 10 years old. As the Alberta Atomic sales rep, he had a booth set up and would bring my sister and I to hand out stickers.
I remember sitting in the theater in absolute awe of what was going down on the screen but I never thought it was something I could do. I think part of that feeling came from not seeing many women on the screen. I wonder if I would have been as invested in skiing as I am now if I had seen real female representation in moments like that.
At that point, my family had stuck inbounds in the winter but did a lot of hiking, camping and climbing during the summers. I did have the chance to do my AST1 when I was 16 through the Panorama Freeride Team and gained some experience learning from guides when I worked at Mike Wiegele heli skiing for two seasons beginning when I was 18. I didn’t actually end up getting into the backcountry until I was 22 years old during my first ski season in Wanaka, New Zealand. I had just gotten my first set up and was super eager but hella nervous about being a total newb and holding everyone back.
That season I met the badass mountain babes that were missing from the Warren Miller screen when I was a kid. They sent it harder than 90% of the dudes on the hill and went on gnarly, multi-day glacial missions in some of New Zealand’s spiciest zones. They were a tight knit crew who supported each other unconditionally and were stoked on teaching someone like me. They took me into the backcountry for my first time and were so patient with my questions and 8000 failed kick turn attempts up steep, icy switch backs. That was the first time I had ever experienced the power of healthy female relationships and what it felt like to climb mountains on my skis. It totally changed my life!
Why is the backcountry special to you?
The backcountry is somewhere I feel completely at peace but also frustrated at the same time. I’m a stubborn little person who expects a lot from herself. The backcountry challenges me to push my athletic boundaries so I can go further and ski my dream objectives. It’s also taught me a lot about self-compassion. When I was younger, I would get so pissed off when my fitness didn’t match what I wanted to do. I still get that as an adult but I have learned little hacks to help me push past the frustration and charge to the top. The peace I feel at the top of an objective after fighting with myself all day long is indescribable. I love standing in those quiet alpine moments and taking in the cold air around me while I look at my surroundings and think about how surreal it is that I made it all the way up there with two feet and a heartbeat. Nothing is really like it. The backcountry has taught me a lot about patience, perseverance and what it means to show up for myself. You can learn a lot in those quiet alpine moments.
What are some of your favorite places to ski and why?
Ooooh this is a hard one! I have skied in a lot of different places and I love them all for different reasons. Sometimes it’s not always where you’re skiing, but who you’re skiing with. In Canada, I have to pay homage to my local resorts! Lake Louise is my favorite thigh-burning, shark-dodging, spicy hot lap resort. There are so many fun zones and local hits that make for a great day no matter what! I can go up to Louise by myself and am guaranteed to run into a crew of buck-wild local legends. I also love Kicking Horse in Golden, BC. That resort has some of the craziest terrain you will find in bounds! It’s an endless playground of chutes, pillows and big girl hits. A top-to-bottom run with the crew leaves your legs shaking and your glutes puckered. You’re also guaranteed all freshies if you hit it on a weekday.
In New Zealand, my favorite commercial ski field has to be Treble Cone in Wanaka. New Zealand isn’t known for its unreal snow conditions but that’s never stopped the Kiwis from getting buck wild! This is definitely a place where the people make the experience. NZ snow really challenged me as a technical skier but also made me so much stronger in variable conditions. When the conditions are on though, they are ON. New Zealand doesn’t have any trees in the alpine and Treble Cone is blessed with heaps of natural gullys/half pipes and creative hits. A blue-bird pow day gifts you with endless vis to ski these features full throttle. That combined with the Kiwis’ send-heavy attitude makes Treble Cone one of my all-time favorite places. There is also a lot of rad backcountry skiing that you can access off the resort. Getting up to the snow is half the battle when it comes to backcountry missions in NZ! It doesn’t snow below 1200m so you either have to commit to a day of bushwhacking, get a heli bump, or plan a mission off one of the resorts.
Do you have any particular habits or routines that guarantee a good backcountry outing?
Yes definitely! I have learnt over the years that I am a certified nightmare doing anything physically demanding if I am tired or hungry. I get into a sour mood and have a hard time fighting the negative voice inside my head telling me I suck and that I should be able to push myself harder. I am pretty good at hiding that hangry monster from new touring partners but my best friends have seen her come out a couple times. Ask Renee... she saw “Tornado” a few times on our 6 day backcountry hiking/climbing trip this summer in Squamish, BC.
I have learned that the best way for me to avoid “Tornado” is to make sure I drink a ton of water and eat way more food than normal the day before I go on a mission! I also have to get a good night's sleep. I tend to not eat a lot on big missions but this routine helps my body go into the day at its best. I also make sure that I ask to stop and have a snack when I need it—it’s for everyone’s benefit!
I get into the same mood when I lose control of my breath and start to hyperventilate. I have to consciously time my breathing with each step, then I get into a meditative flow and can keep pushing. I find that this also helps if any part of my body starts to be fatigued. I visualize sending my breath to that body part and find it helps me elevate to a state of mind-over-matter. That’s a tool that I took from some breathwork classes and is super handy.
Off season fun in Squamish, BC. FOW: Tori Anderson // Photo: Aga Iwanicka (@agaiwanicka)
What do you hope to accomplish as a Friend of WNDR?
My goals of becoming a self-sufficient mountain babe were curbed in 2018 by a traumatic brain injury that severely damaged my occipital lobe. I double ejected to my face skiing around 70km/h on piste (whoops). I had double vision in my right eye; eye tracking and focusing problems; severe vertigo and light/sound sensitivity for about a year and half. I wasn’t allowed to venture deep into the backcountry or exert myself beyond a certain point because I would get symptoms anytime my heart rate peaked. I was a danger to myself and my partners. I was cleared this year in February to start getting out there again but COVID cancelled all my spring plans!
So this year, I am dedicated to learning, practicing and getting after it with my buddy and fellow FOW Brandon Gulstene while doing my best to inspire/help other women to do the same! I am so stoked for this season and to have WNDR with me for the journey. Having skis under my feet that are manufactured for performance with our environment in mind is huge! I would also love to come down to the USA for the WNDR Women Roost, COVID permitting. Fingers crossed!!! That’s my dream event!
Female mentorship is clearly a big part of your approach to the ski scene. Are there any particular women that deserve a shoutout for bringing you into the fold?
Oh (wo)man!!! So many!! I definitely need to give a big shout out to the O.G. mountain babes that got me into the backcountry for the first time. Anna Smoothy and Tori Beattie—Thank you! I don’t think they know how much they actually inspired me. Both of them are accomplished athletes in the NZ ski scene and some of the kindest, most patient people I have ever met. I am so grateful they took the time to help a kook like me! That season with those girls—and others—set off a chain of events that have gotten me to where I am today. It’s crazy how things work out!
I also need to give a shout out to my best gal pals! These are the girls I would call if I killed someone (Grey’s Anatomy reference, they’ll get it ;) ). Jess Hotter, Renee McCurdy, Sissy Herant and Megan Gunning! Each of these girls are accomplished athletes, smart AF and driven beyond words. Each of them has taken the time to teach me different things that have helped me become the athlete I am today—I would not be here without them. I also wouldn’t be the person I am today without these chicks. Their support and love means everything to me. This is the first time in my life I have ever had strong female relationships! Hot dang it’s a force to be reckoned with! I love these girls to the moon and back. They are my ride-or-dies, on and off the hill!
From your vantagepoint, what do women most need to be successful in backcountry skiing?
They need the same thing as everyone else! A supportive and patient community to learn and grow their skills. That’s it!
Mt. Cook, NZ. FOW: Tori Anderson // Photo: Dom Channon (@domchannonphoto)
Pitch us on Womb Tang Clan. What’s it all about?
Womb Tang Clan is a women's ski group creating an inclusive space for girls of all ability levels to network, push themselves, and no longer have to ski with the “all boys club.” We want to change the historical “token chick” approach to female skiers and create a badass crew that any gender would want to be a part of.
The ski industry has always been a male dominated space that lacks the dynamic to consider things through the female gaze. Performing like a dude, learning like a dude, and progressing like a dude is the current standard. We want to change that! Womb Tang is all about creating a space for chicks that gives them the freedom to express themselves however they please. We are all so different and should have a community that supports that! On and off the hill.
We are using our platform to help educate our followers and local communities about inequality issues in the ski industry though humor. The purposeful satire combines heavily feminine language; music and other cultural norms with modern day ski culture. We want to show the world that femininity is still powerful and strong but there are so many different ways to express it and not a single one detracts from our value as skiers/snowboarders. We want to help women get the representation, funding, gear, opportunities and community that they need to thrive in their own lane and push women’s skiing to a whole other level. If you are a chick reading this, are in the Bow Valley/Rocky Mountains and are looking for more chicks to shred with this winter, please hit us up! Our Instagram is @womb.tang. Ride or die, baby! But do it for the girls!!!
What motivates you outside of skiing?
I love what I am currently studying in University. I was the Hollywood portrait of an edgy teenager that hated school, authority and just wanted to do “potentially” illegal things with their friends. I was lost... so when I graduated I left my hometown and never looked back! I spent 7 years traveling around British Columbia, New Zealand and Japan where I met people that wanted more than the typical broke ski-bum lifestyle. They were a bit older than me but I really admired their drive to “adult” and live the dream at the same time. They embodied the phrase “work hard, play hard” to the tee! I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset—I used to own a jewelry business where I would sell my art at craft fairs and have worked as a professional musician for 6 years now. When I became more involved with the ski industry, I realized that I really liked marketing! So I decided to enroll in University at the ripe age of 23 to get a BBA with a marketing major and entrepreneurship and innovation minor. I had spent the previous 7 years of my life running away from commitment so this change was really hard at first. I had to move back into my parents’ home in a big city where I didn’t have many friends, but dang am I happy I sold my soul to the man! I love that marketing gives me an outlet to express my creativity while using data-driven strategy. I love what I do and I am so excited to graduate next year and move into the professional field!
Shout out to all the multitasking student-shredders out there. Lake Louise, AB. FOW: Tori Anderson // Photo: Philip Forsey (@philipforsey)
Learning new sports and skills also motivates me. This summer I learnt how to lead climb, do multi pitch climbs, skateboard and do backflips off bigger features into lakes! I also started getting into leather work more and teaching myself how to make different things. I have been skiing for 25 years so it’s something that I do without thinking! I really value getting into the beginners mindset while learning something new because I have the opportunity to revisit the basics and challenge myself mentally and physically. The connection that results between my mind and body when I do this helps me excel in so many different things. I think its important to stay dynamic and try new things, especially as I get older.
Honestly, my biggest goal in every area of my life is to be better than I was yesterday. Megan Thee Stallion—MY FAVE—has a line in her song Big Booty that says “I ain’t never met a ho I felt like I had to compete with” and that’s the dang truth! It’s never about being better than anyone else. That attitude is problematic. Showing up for and working on myself means I am able to love and support the people who are important to me. My close circle is a group of people that match my drive, determination and passion to keep on growing! They motivate me big time and I love how much we hype each other up. That’s the only vibe that matters in 2020!
Why WNDR Alpine?
What originally drew me to WNDR was the biotechnology platform. Sustainability is extremely important to me—I have tried really hard in the last couple years to find ways I can change my consumption habits to be more eco-conscious. I find the ski industry infuriatingly ironic because the toys that we use to do what we love in our natural playground come with a depreciating environmental cost. Gore-Tex jackets, goggles, skis, boards, boots—they are all made from fossil fuel derivatives. WNDR is tackling this problem by introducing an innovative, and sustainable solution that the industry desperately needs.
What made me fall in love with WNDR was their investment in helping support and elevate the female ski community. They were so supportive of Womb Tang Clan that Pep even blurted out “Womb Tang Clan ain’t nothing to f*ck with” when we got onto the topic!
WNDR is a new player in an archaic industry that has yet to totally shift away from business practices that are inherently sexist into a more equitable model that doesn’t focus on gender but rather someone’s ability. My first meeting with Pep and Xan consisted of them looking for ways that they can genuinely connect with and support the female community. They were eager to learn and listen to my experiences and knowledge on the topic. In order to make this shift, companies have to centralize marginalized groups' experiences and weave that knowledge into their product design, marketing, social responsibility practices and share-of-voice. Many of the big players in the ski industry have been operating the same way since their founding and it’s proven very difficult to make them change. WNDR has an opportunity—as a new brand—to hit the ground running and make a statement in an industry that desperately needs a makeover. People and communities are so much stronger when they work together with compassion and empathy! THAT is why I love WNDR. Their progressive attitudes and motivation to be a leader in solving some of our industries biggest problems is inspiring. I am super proud to be skiing for WNDR and cannot wait to see how they change the game!