Chumpy Pullin has raised the bar high as dual World Champion in Boarder X, but he’s not the only Aussie charging hard in the no-holds-barred race format – Cam Bolton is back on the World Cup tour after recovering from a busted shoulder incurred in the first World Cup he did after the Olympics. SnowAction caught up with him before he heads north for the season.
You had a promising grommet start as a skier up at Buller, then after doing both for a while you switched to the dark side. What made you change?
I started going to Buller when I was 10, and by the time I was 15 both my ski and snowboard coaches thought that I should choose one or the other if I wanted to take it seriously. I was having more fun snowboarding at the time and so I changed to snowboarding. I kept competing in skiing events for the next few years but just for fun.
When did the idea of getting into Boarder-X racing take hold?
The idea of Boarder-X and the adrenaline that comes with racing with 4 or 6 people on the course always appealed to me. When I started there wasn’t too many competitions that allowed younger riders to race heats with multiple people because of insurance reasons. When I was old enough do it more regularly, it quickly became one of my favourite things in the world.
How hard has it been to get up to World Cup & Olympic level?
I put a lot of time and energy into making World Cup and the Olympics. It was hard work but because I love the sport so much, I rarely struggle for motivation. The fact that I have so much fun training and competing has made the journey easier for me. I’ve had highs and lows like everyone, but I always just focused on progressing.
You’ve had the example of Chumpy Pullin a few years older laying down the path to glory with his awesome performances, was he a big role model?
Chumpy has had a lot of success over the years and has definitely been someone for myself and the younger athletes to look up to. He’s professional both on and off the snow and is a role model for a lot of guys on World Cup. It’s been great for me to have someone to bounce ideas off and to get advice over the years, although now I usually find myself teaching him! Ha ha.
Does it help on tour to be an Aussie presence now and not just be the lone competitor?
It’s really cool to see the depth we’ve developed here in Australia. We’ve got lots of talent coming through and the years to come are going to be exciting. We’ve got quite a few athletes at World Cup, and a few more pushing to get their own starts this year. It’s good knowing that even if a couple of riders have a bad day, then it’s still likely there’ll be another Aussie with a strong result.
Buller seems to be the breeding ground for cross racers, ski or board. Do you do much training with the ski guys like Anton Grimus – persumably the strategy side of things is not that different whether you are on one plank or two?
We’ll often train with the Skier-X team when we have camps during the Southern Winter. It’s fun to train against the skiers because we’re usually quicker through the start section, but they’re quicker down lower. It’s great to practice defence and try not to let them pass us. We rarely cross paths with the skiers during the World Cup season. It’s a shame and something that I think needs to be looked at. It costs a lot of money to build a World Cup course and I think it’s a waste that we don’t race at the same venues as the skiers. They could make both of our events bigger and better if the Skiercross and Boardercross Tours combined their resources. I hope it’s something that FIS seriously considers in the coming years.
There’s a fair bit of up-close-and-personal going on when it’s close on the Boarder X course. Is it a bit like a crowded day when the surf is cranking?
Haha there are definitely some similarities. When we’re racing down the course, you constantly have to be adjusting your line depending on where other people are around you. I suppose it’s the same during a crowded surf when there are often people in your way and so you have to adjust your line and choose where to make your turns. However it does give me another excuse to consider surfing cross training!
What are the goals for this season race wise?
I’ve had a bad couple of years with injury. I’ve only competed in 1 World Cup since the last Olympics and in that race I got tangled with 3 other riders about 30 metres into the course and broke my shoulder. I’m looking forward to turning my luck around this season and finishing with some strong results. My body is healthy and I’m feeling strong, so I’d like to land on the podium at a couple of World Cups this year and finish in the top 10 overall at the end of the World Cup season.
How much time do you get to ride pow and just have fun outside of the comp schedule and traveling / training over the northern season?
That’s the beauty of Boardercross, it combines all of your snowboarding skills and so free riding is important too. If we’re at a training camp and it dumps snow, then we usually need a snowcat to clean the course out which can take a few hours. Of course while this is happening, we’re off trying to get in as many pow laps as possible!
What are your favourite spots to ride, southern and northern hemisphere?
I’ve got a few favourite spots. My favourite places in Europe is Lanersbach in Austria. When it has good snow it is absolutely amazing. It’s got everything, big open faces, tight but long chutes, and ridiculously fun tree runs. We scored it late last season and I will never forget it. My favourite place in North America is called Powder King which is in Northern BC, Canada. We stayed with a family while we were there because there is almost no accommodation. I think about 60 people live there during Winter and the closest town is 45 minutes away. It’s only open a few days a week because it is so remote, but they let us ride every day because we were there with the Canadian Team. There is only one building at the resort which acts as the day lodge, ski shop, cafeteria and the pub! We were there when all of North America had almost no snow. Powder King had just under 2 metres and it snowed a foot every night we were there. It is actually heaven. Then in Australia, you can’t go past Buller when all it’s runs are open.