Photo: Alex Pashley
In this world dominated by male testosterone and a one-up-man-ship culture it’s easy to forget that participation rates of women in snowboarding are close to 40%. Unlike our sideways standing cousins of skateboarding or surfing women flock to snowboarding. So for these estrogenic-powered beings who can they look up to and be inspired by if they don’t want to follow guys off a 100-foot jump or step to a 20 stair double-kink rail?
Enter Leanne Pelosi, Canadian born and bred who exploded onto the international snowboard scene with an array of rail skills that leveled up there with the best pro men, winning contest after contest across Nth America. Backed with this credibility and a bag full of sponsorship funding Leanne set about continuing to push women’s snowboarding even further by starting her own filming company – Runway Films to document the progression of female shredding and stoke out the throngs of women riders.
She has been more than a blinding success and this year Leanne visited our own backyard (Australia and NZ) on the back of completing her first full year filming with the industry legend, Standard Films and riding, again, alongside the big boys of the snowboarding industry.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Home mountain: Whistler Blackcomb, Canada.
Sponsors: K2, Dragon, Monster, Bonfire, Dakine, Whistler Blackcomb, lifetime, Knight Riders sled racks.
Leanne is no longer known as the rail girl. Blasting a spin over a huge death gap that Whistler built for filming crews in the spring of 2010. Photo: Christy Chaloux
So you just spent a few weeks recently in NZ and Australia. What did you get up to and what were some highlights?
OMG – This was my first across-the-seas Dragon trip and it was amazing, lot’s of highlights. Sending it in Queenstown with Sophie, the winner of the Dragon contest, shralping laps at Cardrona, going heli’ing from Queenstown, seeing Jane (from Dragon) stage dive and eat shit (sorry Jane), going to the Sydney zoo and checking out the kangaroos, staying at Bondi Beach and checking the huge waves, hanging with Pashley, doing a Fuel TV spot and visiting retailers… oh and drinking some glorious wine and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
That sounds rad… now for some serious questions. Do you think women’s snowboarding still progressing?
Heck yeah, at even a faster rate than before. There is so much more participation these days. It used to be the same few girls killing it in the industry and now it just feels like there’s so many crews popping up doing well. I love seeing that. As far as tricks go, girls are going bigger, and getting way more technical in halfpipe, jumps, rails and backcountry.
Leanne getting down and friendly with some local furry friends at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. Photo: Alex Pashley
Does women’s snowboarding progress and evolve in different ways than men’s snowboarding?
I think progression evolves naturally, as long as there is more and more involvement. It’s the competition factor. Women’s participation numbers have been way smaller until recently, so our sport is quite young. Right now, I see women’s snowboarding exploding like it did for men in the 90’s.
You’ve spent some time working different entrepreneurial angles in snowboarding, one of which was producing a series of all women snowboard movies. Can you tell us how that came about and what your motivation to do this was?
Basically, Mischief films was done, and that was the project I worked on. I wanted to keep the ball rolling because it was such a good thing for us at the time, so I started Runway Films with Jeff Keenan. We produced two movies, La La Land and See What I See. It was a lot of work, but completely worth it. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but somehow we managed to pull it off. Thanks to everyone who made that happen.
This past winter you filmed for the long-standing and iconic snowboard film company Standard Films for their new Movie The Storming. How did you end up on the Standard Films roster and what were your focuses for your part?
Standard and Runway Films had a premiere together for See What I See. Travis (the producer for Standard) and I spoke before the season started and when I heard of the opportunity to film for them, my sponsors hopped on the wagon and supported me. I was pretty nervous going into it, because I knew it was going to be different than riding with my girls. And it was, sometimes it was like pulling teeth to try and get onto some crews. But it worked out, I had to spend a year proving myself and then this past season they hooked it up and hired our own filmer. Standard Films also added girls: Hana Beaman, Erin Comstock, Kimmy Fasani and Raewyn Reid. Awesome seeing male dominated film companies supporting the ladies!
My focus for my part this season was to get a well-rounded one. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a combo of rails, park jumps, powder and AK. Yeahoo!
Leanne is no stranger to rails, she cut her teeth in this world to get to the pro ranks and now has stepped to the backcountry. Triple Kink in Quebec, Canada. Photo: Christy Chaloux
When you’re filming with such a large budget snowboard movie with majority guys in the film does this make it more difficult than just with a crew of girls? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Sometimes it’s difficult when you have two girls and two guys. Four is almost too many for one jump, so most of the time we just split up and found our own stuff to hit. The advantages are that we get to see what the boys are hitting, and step up to it, but the disadvantages are that sometimes we are left in the dust and the focus is on just the boys, especially the sunny days. Team players are essential in any crew.
You made a name for yourself up through the pro ranks as a rail rider, is it hard to shake those tags and stereotypes as you go to move on and evolve your snowboarding to other styles? And how do you do it?
I still ride rails a bit, but I’ve worked on pow riding for the last few years. It’s a slower progression, I felt like rail tricks were so easy to learn. I have the utmost respect for amazing riders in the backcountry scene. Victoria (Jealous) is my hero. I want to evolve and just be able to ride a mountain well. It’s a huge challenge and I’m liking powder at the moment!
Southern Lakes Heli NZ, 2010. Photo: Alex Pashley
What is your ultimate vision of women’s snowboarding in 5-years time if you had the power to direct it to where you want?
Smooth, styley riding, doing tricks off natural features like Gigi or Nicolas Muller. That would be sick. And just to see some innovative stuff!
Do you think Kangaroos would survive and be accepted as an animal if we started importing them to Canada to live freely? They would mate with the deer up here and create Deerangaroos!? I would have one as a pet for sure.
Thanks for your time Leanne – have a fun winter back at home.
A reverse view of the death gap jump from the top of this interview. Leanne’s no slouch on the kickers. Photo: Christy Chaloux.
Ride with Leanne – POV Camera AK 2010.
Runway Films 2008 teaser “See What I See”.