For the past four seasons Mont Tremblants Jasey-Jay Anderson has won the overall World Cup title with solid results in both alpine and snowboardcross events. Although hes been a slow starter in recent years, picking up momentum as the seasons wore on, this season hes already on top of both the snowboardcross and overall World Cup rankings. He has two gold medals in snowboardcross, two bronze medals in parallel giant slalom, and, since October, has not finished outside of the top-10.
When Whistler hosts the FIS Snowboard World Championships Jan. 15-23, Jasey-Jay will be competing in both alpine events as well as the snowboardcross, and is easily one of the favourites in all three contests.
When asked why his snowboarding is so strong this season, even with the rest of the world working hard to catch up, Jasey-Jay didnt have an explanation.
"I think its maturity or maybe my experience is catching up with me. Something happened," said Anderson.
"I couldnt pinpoint whats different, Im not doing anything dramatically different. I had good training this summer, but nothing out of the ordinary. The only way I can explain it is experience."
Things are about to change dramatically for the 29 year old when he receives a new racing board this week. His board manufacturer, Toronto-based Coiler Snowboards, has had to practically reinvent the wheel to build a new type of board that the Swiss riders are already using that is similar in design to a ski. The company has been working through Christmas to get Andersons new boards ready, something Anderson appreciates.
"At Christmas, when everybody wants to be home with their families, Id guess (my board builder) spent about 50 hours in the shop working overtime to be able to get the boards to me for the world championships. Thats just unbelievable."
Anderson will only get about three days of practising on the new board before the world championships, and admits that he probably wont have mastered the new design by those events. Still, he says its the only way to be competitive with the Swiss riders in the Alpine events.
"I feel good in the alpine events, but this is going to be a huge change for me. Its a change thats probably more than overdue, but everyone is going to have to make an adjustment. Anytime youre up against a Swiss in the final (rounds) youre going to get annihilated, even if you do everything perfectly. Its that big a difference.
"Im really excited for the world championships. Ive been getting good results in every discipline, and Im hoping to be able to do the same in Whistler, provided I can get used to (the new board) in time.
"Three days on equipment this different is not enough, but Ill make do. Having experience will help."
Although the world championships only happen every two years and are one of the rare events when all of the World Cup disciplines are held together at one venue, Anderson said he doesnt feel any pressure. The only difference between a world championship and a World Cup is the way athletes are treated during the event, and the fact that theres no prize money up for grabs just serious bragging rights.
"Its a mini Olympics, the conditions are always perfect, and everyone is a little more excited, but theres no money and no points, so theres no pressure in that aspect. You want to do well for your country and your sponsors, so you go out and do the best you can, but at the end it still has to be fun for us," said Anderson.
"Every time I start putting pressure on myself, I have to remind myself to have fun. Ive had a lot of good years so far, and a good start this year, but as long as I dont totally choke in my mind I always do well. Im 29, and I won my first World Cup when I was 18, so Ive been doing this for a while.
"I still really look forward to race days, because you know someone spent a lot of time getting the course ready just for you, and the conditions are as good as they can be, and all you have to do is put your head down and race."
Anderson is well-supported at this stage in his career, with sponsorships from Nokia, Carrera, Columbia Sportswear, Mont Tremblant and Coiler Snowboards, among others. Nokia, which is also one of the main World Championship sponsors, is his headline sponsor, and even organized a contest during the World championships where the first of five finalists to find Jasey-Jay through a series of Instant Messaging clues will earn $10,000.
Hes also well-supported by the Canadian Snowboard Federation, which he says is doing the best job it can with limited funding.
"Im getting great support, although its all relative to the sport and where the sport is at. If were looking to have a budget of $2 million or $3 million a year like skiing, were dreaming," said Anderson. "(The CSF) doesnt have enough people in the office to even organize one World Cup, and theyre doing everything, running the team, the events, the sponsors. Theyre overworked, but theyre doing a good job supporting us. Weve got the quality we need in the people, now we need some quantity there.
"We havent gotten to the level yet of other sports where athletes can ignore all the little extra exterior pressures of money that affect their performances, but getting to that level will be nice. It probably wont happen in my career, but it will be a good thing when it does.
"Its still a new sport, there have only been World Cup events for 10 years, and there are a lot of sports to compete with.
"Right now the industry is more focused on style than performance, although thats changing with the Olympics."
Anderson hasnt put too much thought into when hed like to retire, and likely wont even consider it until after the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
"Also 2010 is a huge carrot for me. Id love to compete in the Olympics in my own country," he said. "There are other things to consider. I have another child coming in May, and Id like to spend some time at home. Travelling is really what kills me one day Ill step off a plane and say thats it, thats why Ill stop. I love being in Europe but I hate travelling there.
"One day Id also like to just get a good day of freeriding at Whistler, instead of showing up there to race and getting back on the road. Or go to Europe, because youre never in one place long enough to appreciate it. Id like to get more freeriding in if you dont mix it up, do different sports, I think thats when you get burned out. You need to step away from what you do sometimes, get in a good day of freeriding or a good day of mountain biking, because you appreciate it when you get back to it.
"Ive been doing this for long enough that I dont need as much on-snow training, I spend my summers riding my mountain bike and in the gym working on my fitness. You cant go riding 365 days of the year."
When Anderson retires, he says he will probably take a few years off, but knows he wont be able to stay away for long. One day he can see himself coaching at the grassroots level, passing his experience along to the next generation of snowboarders. One day he could even see himself coaching the national team, although it will probably mean a lot more travelling and more time away from home.
Retiring wont be easy, he says.
"Snowboarding will always be fun for me. Ive been doing it long enough, and thats plenty of time where the fun could have been taken out of it me. In a few of my tough years I had to find ways to make it fun, but right now Im enjoying it as much as I ever have.
"Im also getting great support from my family and friends and sponsors. When youre out there busting your ass and nobody is supporting, its going to be uphill all the way."
This season Anderson says he doesnt have any goals, but with the overall World Cup and snowboardcross leads this early in the season he says he will probably go for his fifth overall title and possibly his third career snowboardcross title.
"I always start the season saying Im going to go out and have an easy season because Im tired from last year, but then I end up ahead in the points, so I decided Ill go for it. Right now Ill just focus on the World championships and staying on track for the Olympics next year. And keeping my sponsors happy. Thats it."
SIDEBAR: Five things you didnt know Jasey-Jay Anderson
1. Jasey-Jay was named after a character in one of Louis LAmours wild west novels. His father, a log cabin home builder, was a fan of the genre. His older brother is Jayme-Jay, his father is Jay, and his uncles are Jeb, Jeff and Joel. He also has cousins named Jason, Jana, Justice and Jesse James.
2. During his summers, Jasey-Jay Anderson tends a blueberry farm he started two years ago, something he hopes to spend more time on when he retires. When he retires from snowboarding, his goal is to spend his winters coaching and his summers farming.
3. Although hes best known as a racer and snowboardcross athlete, Anderson has competed in World Cup halfpipe and big air events in the past if there was an open quota spot for a Canadian. He hasnt entered a freestyle event in three years, but admits that he still rides the park from time to time.
4. When he isnt snowboarding, Anderson sometimes breaks out the skis. Hes not competing on planks just yet but does have a sponsorship from Fischer Skis. He also has a mountain bike sponsor, which is one of his favourite hobbies. "I have a trail right outside my house," he says. His other winter sports include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while his other favourite summer sports include running and kayaking. He also likes to paint and has a degree in fine arts.
5. Jasey-Jay is not into the party lifestyle of the snowboarding industry. He doesnt drink much or party, preferring to spend his spare time at home or working on projects. "I was in bed on New Years at 12:01 that was the first time I was even up for it in the last four years," he said. "You have to pace yourself in this sport, thats whats going to keep me going for 2010."