Marie-France Roy is one of the biggest names in snowboarding. She has represented some of the most recognised brands in the industry and collected numerous awards along the way, including Transworld Snowboarding Women’s Rider of the Year 2015. For 2016, Marie has switched things up and joined forces with The Arbor Collective. For Marie, who has always been passionate about the environment and sustainability, this new partnership is the perfect match.
Edd was lucky enough to catch up with Marie and find out more about her recent move to Arbor, her snowboarding career and her new house.
In Spring 2015 it was announced that you are now riding and representing Arbor Snowboards. This is clearly an exciting move from the outside looking in, but was it an easy decision to make?
“It was definitely hard to leave Rome. They have been so great to me over so many years…like 10 years….But I was at a point where my evolution seemed to go differently, and that is nothing to blame them for, it was my decision and I am excited to join the Arbor team for what they believe in and support. I love that Arbor have taken the responsible and long-term ethical route from the very start. When I first met with Bob (Carlson), the owner, he mentioned that for him it was just the right and natural thing to do…it’s a part of their values, not a marketing effort. It’s really refreshing that more and more (people) are becoming aware and that there are brands like Arbor offering more products with sustainability in mind and running programs to give back, like ‘Returning Roots’, where they replant trees with diversity and ecosystem balance in mind. I’m so stoked to be aligned with a brand that bases their work on such an evolved and responsible way of thinking.
I think there’s gonna be a bunch of great projects coming up with the team (for winter 15/16). We’re gonna have a team meeting in the fall and make plans and I’m really excited to ride with so many great riders such as Brian Iguchi, Mark Carter, Frank April, Corinne Pasela and more. It’s all very exciting.”
What is your Arbor Snowboards board of choice?
“I’m currently riding the Swoon and the Cadence. The Swoon is the prime all mountain backcountry board. It is available in a reverse camber and regular camber option. While the regular camber is best if you like a stiffer board, the reverse camber still offers so much pop and is my favourite. It is such a responsive solid board; I took it to Alaska last year and was amazed by how well it rode. For a more park oriented board or even just for all around the mountain fun, the Cadence is the winner for sure though (for me). That has to be one of the most fun boards I have ever ridden. It’s softer than the Swoon and so playful. It’s the kind of board that you get on and that you feel comfortable right away, as if you’ve been riding it your whole life.”
Earlier in your career you looked up to legendary big hitters in the world of freestyle such as Tara Dakides, Barrett Christy, Mikey LeBlanc, JP Walker and Peter Line (amongst others) with competition and freestyle snowboarding being a main focus. More recently video parts suggest that you’ve changed your direction towards backcountry riding. Is snowboarding more about the natural terrain and less about contests for you now?
“I think so, besides friendly events like the Banked Slalom or Dirksen Derby, I’m definitely not contest oriented. I enjoyed competing for a while back then; it was a great way to push myself and meet so many other riders who loved the same thing. But after a while I think I realised I wasn’t the most consistent (in competitions) and my potential to progress to the next level would be better applied whilst filming. Luckily, I had sponsors who agreed and supported my decision and I am so grateful for it. We need more brands supporting women towards the switch to the backcountry as there seems to be a lack of up and comers in that area for sure.”
Do you see it as a natural progression from the park to the backcountry?
“There is this myth that people think riding backcountry is mellower on the body and kind of easier. That is really funny to me because there are a lot big risks out there, more than people realise. How many great riders have we lost in avalanches (over the years)? The danger is real and constant and you always have to be on your toes out there as conditions are ever changing. Most of the time you are far enough (away) that it can be a challenge to get rescued in a short amount of time. It takes years to understand the snow science and even with experienced guides to lead us there are never any guarantees. I’ve had the worst injuries of my whole career in the backcountry too. I fractured my neck, broke my elbow, and had two of the worst scorpions of my life this winter that I’m still recovering from. It may look softer in powder but once you go down with that speed, the tumbles can really mess you up ha!
I do think it’s a part of the evolution as a snowboarder to experiment in the backcountry though. It’s like reaching the peak. It’s definitely harder to access, requires a lot more equipment like backcountry gear, snowmobiles, heli’s, cats or split boards, and it also requires so much more knowledge. It’s been such a rewarding experience for me to learn in the backcountry and there is so, so, so much more to learn. I’m still a beginner as far as how much there is to learn for sure.”
With that in mind has there been a stand out trip this past winter (2014/15)?
“(There have been) so many cool trips with the Fullmoon crew. The snow at home wasn’t the best so it forced us to travel to new places, which was really fun in the end. We had an amazing split board trip to the interior BC at a cabin off the grid called Golden Alpine Holidays, the best time ever, and I recommend it to anyone who likes touring. The terrain and set up is unreal! Then we had an insanely fun trip to Alagna in Italy. It was so cool to see their culture and everyone was so nice to us. I love those mountains. We also got really lucky and Leanne (Pelosi) and I got to visit Mica Heli Skiing, North of Revelstoke, which is pretty much as good as it gets as far as snow destinations go. It was a pillow line paradise! To finish, I went to Alaska twice, and it was my first time ever up there. I spent a few days up in the Anchorage area on a Lifeproof shoot, which was rad, and a week in Haines where I got to see all the classic terrain that is in videos every year. That is definitely a next level kind of snowboarding. I hold so much respect for all those who ride that place with so much grace and confidence”
Tell me about the Full Moon Project (to be released Fall 2015). How did that come together and what can we expect from it? With it being an all girl film did you set out to inspire other female riders, or did you look to produce something fun that will appeal to everyone?
“All of the above I think. The goal is to show how we’ve been inspired by the pioneers, ladies such as Tara Dakides, Barrett Christy, Victoria Jealous and so many others and it is such an honour for us to hold a place in snowboarding’s progression over the last few years. We hope to pave the way for the younger girls to get after it too, and show the snowboard community and industry how valuable it is to support women in general. It has been so fun, Leanne (Pelosi) came up with the idea and was like: “Do you girls want to do a project like this?” and it’s been really awesome. I think we are all at a point where we have a bit more experience now where we can make our own calls a bit easier and it’s also so nice to be riding with your friends. I was really lucky to be able to film with some legendary male crews over the years but I was always worrying about making my own calls, not wanting to take away from their time or thinking that my ideas were too lame ha! With the girls, there is no such pressure and we are now more mature and supportive of each other instead of competitive, and that is really cool.”
Is there pressure to live up to what the men have done in snowboarding before you?
“I think it’s so inspiring to watch the men’s progression and there is so much to learn from it. At the same time, there shouldn’t be expectations for us to be as good or whatnot. I think the women have progressed so much already in the last few years and it’s gonna keep going way beyond, but people have to understand that we have our own pace and to respect and admire it for what it is. I think that women get inspired more by the lifestyle, how to progress but with grace and still having fun too. I think that is what will attract more women to pick up the sport, not the highly competitive testosterone based attitude.”
You mentioned a trip this past winter to Italy. Have you done much riding in Europe and do you have a favourite spot over here?
“I have ridden there a bit over the years and I always love it. So much more to see though! I really enjoyed Italy this winter and have had a blast filming around Austria way back then. I also toured around Spain and Andorra a few years ago and that was just so fun! I hope to go more often. I was in the UK once actually, way back then when Redbull put on this Rail Jam in Trafalgar Square. I was competing with Leanne Pelosi and Laura Berry! It’s been a while and I remember taking some massive bails at that contest but it was so fun. That was back when the parties were always going off even if the events were on the next day and I remember that we had a lot of fun ha! That was so crazy! Cool crowd for sure!’
In Fall 2014 the film project ‘The Little Things’ was released and has since won awards including the ‘Best Environmental Film’ at ‘The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival’. You were heavily involved in producing the movie, which is inspiring and highlights the changes, big and small, we can all make to help preserve our natural environment. At what point did you decide to make the change in your life. What was the tipping point for you?
“I have always felt very connected to nature in my life. There wasn’t really a tipping point but a constant need to be close to it and try to live in harmony with it as much as possible. I studied Applied Ecology and thought it would be my career but then snowboarding took over and it’s been a real fun ride for sure. I still felt so torn and a bit guilty about my impact through snowboarding. I wanted to give back in the most positive, non-preachy and inspiring way possible. That’s when I decided that the film was the best way to start. I just realised that guilt leads nowhere and as much as nobody is perfect, it doesn’t mean that we can’t care and there is nothing we can do about it. It is sad that we have come to a point that you seem to need to be a full on hippie or environmentalist in order to have any credibility and I think we need to break that myth. It is only slowing down the process of finding realistic long term solutions.”
How much involvement do you have with POW (Protect Our Winters)? Do you feel organisations (like POW) can help make people aware and change behaviours?
“I think that POW does a great job at connecting people more with nature and raising awareness about climate change to all generations by using a common passion we all share (which are snow sports). We are donating all proceeds form the sales of ‘The Little Things’ to POW and The David Suzuki Foundation. It’s not much but it’s better than zero and anything helps. Just to see Jeremy’s (Jones) story in the film about how he started POW and the kind of work they are doing will hopefully inspire people to donate or at least encourage their work. They are trying to be more present in Canada too, the UK should come onboard as well!”
One of the big changes you made in your life was building your own home. Where did the idea for the Cob house come from?
“I had some free time during my neck fracture recovery and decided to take a sustainable building course on Salt Spring Island with this group called The Mudgirls. It was such a cool experience and on the very first day of the course I had already decided to build my own. It’s been a long process as I am not home that often to work on it but it has been so rewarding and I learned so much. I have power in it right now but I hope to explore the off grid options once it is (more) finished. I’m excited about the new Tesla system; maybe this is something that could work there for me. I definitely love to come here in the summer and recharge. I really need that balance in snowboarding or else I get burnt out. I love to surf and to do totally different things like building my home, gardening, hiking, camping missions and hanging out with my friends here, then when winter time comes around, I get really excited to get back on snow. That’s very important to me.”
Speaking of time off the snow and re-charging over the summer, we have seen shots of you cruising around on your skateboard recently. Are you involved with the ‘Arbor Girls’ community?
“Yeah, I love what Arbor is doing with creating a platform for girls and hopefully inspiring them to get out there and enjoy something they love, which keeps them active and outside. That is extremely valuable in someone’s life and I firmly believe that it makes a better society in general for everyone. I have been skateboarding ever since I started snowboarding but just not as religiously – ha! I feel like it is so hard but I just enjoy it, whether I’m good at it or not, which should be the case for everything. I love skating on the Island where I live in the summer; they have 2 really fun flowy skate parks. I’m definitely not street style oriented, I just like rolling around bowls and transitions or mini ramps where it feels more like surfing or snowboarding and I barely know any tricks but Skateboarding is soooo fun!”
Are there more opportunities for women to skate on an equal footing with men these days?
“Yeah. I think there are less women skateboarders than snowboarders but that can change. Girls have to realise that you don’t have to get all gnarly to have fun and enjoy it. So many girls are killing it at skateboarding now, it is soooo cool to watch, I admire them so much. I hope more girls pick it up because it really is so hand in hand with surfing and skateboarding, especially when there’s no waves or snow.”
Which Arbor skateboard are you riding right now?
“So far I have tried the Shakedown GT 34 – it’s so fun and fast in the bowl. I love the Whiskey Hunters deck as well”
Now that the winter season in the northern hemisphere is over, how will you be spending your summer?
“I am presently at home on Vancouver Island, working on my property and hoping to finish the Cob house ASAP and move in. I’m about to go on a trip to The Mentawais (Indonesia) with Annie (Boulanger) and I’m beyond excited to surf there and hang with her. I may do a Southern Hemisphere trip after that or hit up the summer camps but I am not sure yet what the plans are.”
Quick questions with MFR:
Favourite trick? “Method, because it represents so well what snowboarding is all about at the source; style, simple, fun, and it’s like an art to master a good one.”
Favourite spot? “Whistler”
Perfect day on the mountain? “A foot and a half of fresh, a few good friends and just fun laps in pillows!”
Favourite people to ride with?
“Hmmm too many! Annie (Boulanger) has taught me so much and we ride together lots. I love filming with Leanne (Pelosi) as we love the same kind of features and she always cracks me up. I have so many friends too that I like to ride with, it’s really not about how good they are, it’s about the stoke potential ha!”
“I don’t mind the top 40 sometimes to get hyped up and I love mellower bands like The Shins, Patsy Cline, Coconut Records, so many more…”
Do you get to pick the music for your video sections?
“Sometimes I do! Sometimes not. I get to give suggestions though. In ‘The Little Things’ it was my friend and Director Darcy that suggested that song to me (Fineshrine by Purity Ring) and I loved it.”
What is the most random piece of junk on the wall of the Cob house?
“Ha! Good questions! I think there’s an old toothbrush in one of the bottles in the wall somewhere, ha! But you can’t see it. I did put a crystal in one of the bottle windows which you can see and I also created a few secret nooks where I can hide stuff in there.”
Best thing you have ever grown in your garden?
“Well I must say that growing stuff here on the island can get quite challenging as I’m not always there to take care of it and there are so many slugs here! But Kale seems to be the best growing item and snap peas!”
“I would have to go with my roots and local Quebec pride and say Le Migneron de Charlevoix. Or any fresh cheese curds of course!!”
One piece of advice you have been given that has stuck with you and inspired you?
What’s your favourite joke?
“I can’t remember any now but the best is to tell a French Canadian joke to a Euro French person, they never get it and it’s always so funny…I love the QC humour. And the Euro’s too, just different :)”
Thanks Marie for your time, it has been a pleasure! “Thanks so much, have a great day!”
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Marie and Arbor Snowboards coming in winter 15/16.
Interview by Edd Duerden
* All images are courtesy of The Arbor Collective and Marie- France Roy’s Instagram Account.