The Beloved Boarder
And if she knows it, she doesn't show it. Barrett's one of those genuine people. "Beauty is watching her shred," says one fan in his website tribute. But perhaps Todd Richards put it best when he said, "Barrett's really little but she carries a big stick."
Little did we know that this person would go on to become one of the top female freestyle snowboarders in the world.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, the 28-year-old Barrett first started to garner some attention in 1994, when she won the Amateur National Halfpipe contest in Vail, Colorado. Prior to this win, she had only competed in a few qualifying events. She had been living in Crested Butte, Colorado, that season, but moved up to Vail, where she still lives, the following year.
In 1997, Barrett Christy became the first and only snowboarder to win both the halfpipe and big air events at the US Open. From there, she went on to the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, as a member of the first US Olympic Snowboard Team.
Her pre-millennial season included the usual stint of pro contests: Gravity Games, where she took 3rd in big air, the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom and the Winter X Games at Mount Snow, Vermont, where she took 2nd in the halfpipe and 3rd in slopestyle.
When not competing, Barrett is likely to be found in front of a camera. She tooled around Washington's North Cascades this February, working with a Warren Miller crew. But days set aside for filming don't always end up as productive as the cameramen would like. Filming in the Northwest during the record '98-'99 snow year was especially difficult. "There was so much snow in the Northwest that we'd all go riding and it'd be too cloudy to film," she said, laughing. (It's a hard-knock life, huh?)
Barrett was in town for an in-store Nike Town X Games promotion when we sat down to chat about the season. But she's actually in the Northwest quite often, since her board sponsor is based here, as is her boyfriend and fellow Gnu rider, Temple Cummins.
"I like riding in the Northwest snow in the early season; it's really good to build up strength in your legs," she said. "I also need to balance out riding in contests. If I don't have time to just snowboard for myself, it gets a little grueling."
Getting out of the terrain park and into the big mountains is another necessity, and she gets to go on heli-boarding trips a couple of times each season. And that's a whole different game as one wrong move on a 50-degree couloir can have tremendously different consequences than a wrong move in the pipe.
"I trust my own judgement, but I also like to have someone else around to make the 2nd and 3rd opinion. I've always got a lump in my throat; it's part of the fun. There's always that aspect of fear, but that's what makes you better."
When not on the snow, Barrett helps design her signature Gnu boards, which will feature a series of endangered species for the 2000-2001 season.
To create the series, she worked with YES, Youth for Environmental Sanity, a grassroots environmental organization which works with kids and focuses on increasing ecological awareness. The folks at YES helped Barrett pick four species that most people do not associate with endangerment: MacFarlane's four-o'clock (a flowering plant), the ocelot, the California condor and the American crocodile.
"If there's anything I can do to give back, and help, I'd like to do that at this point. I think I've been very lucky with snowboarding. I'm able to reach a lot of kids, and that's pretty cool, that amazes me all the time it amazes me how many people are into snowboarding."
But it's not that surprising, considering how much inspiration riders like Barrett Christy provide riders of all ages. She loves snowboarding and it shows. During the '99 Summer X Games, she gave us the anatomy of a switch 180 front flip; she even makes it seem like riding like a superstar is an attainable goal. Can she also tell you how to become one of the most beloved of female freestylers? There are some things that you'll have to figure out on your own.
Mary Catherine O'Connor, MountainZone.com Staff