Tatum’s Time: How the Alberta native takes opportunity by the horns
Tatum Monod is your 2014 Skier of the Year — Riders’ Choice award winner
How it worked: We called upon the sport’s biggest names and asked them to rank the 10 skiers they felt had the best 2013-14 season. We left the definition of “best season” open to interpretation but asked the pros to consider all factors from film parts, to contest results, online edits and overall impact. More than 100 top-name pros cast their votes, securing this award as one of the greatest distinctions in skiing.
Announcement: The 2014 Skier of the Year winners are…
“Like a deep powder turn?” I ask.
“More like a big drop,” says Tatum Monod.
I can’t imagine the adrenaline that stems from catching a fish can match that of dropping a 30-foot cliff or stomping a lofty double backflip into deep powder—standard fare for Monod.
“It’s such a rush,” she exclaims with such gusto, I forget we’re talking fishing. “That electricity on the end of your line … that feeling of something alive. It’s just so thrilling.”
It’s not a sentiment shared by many 23-year-old females who listen to Beyoncé and study fashion design (to be fair, it’s with an emphasis on technical apparel), but Monod’s version of fly fishing is far from the sedentary hobby beloved by retirees. If she’s in a drift boat, she rarely drops anchor, and on shore, she’s covering ground. “I need to be moving,” she says. “That’s the best way to catch a fish.”
Monod would know. At 8 years old, she dropped her first line off a dock on Lake Temagami in northern Ontario, where her grandparents had a cottage. She hooked a smallmouth bass right away. These days, Monod practices the art of the cast. Whether she’s floating her home river, the Bow, with her dad or hiking seven hours to an alpine lake with her boyfriend, skier Wiley Miller, Monod fishes as much as her schedule allows.
The trout catching, double backflipping, snowmobile rallying, cliff jumping, horseback riding Tatum Monod is a product of her environment. Her last name is among the most well-known in her hometown of Banff, Alberta. It’s displayed at 129 Banff Avenue, above the iconic 65-year-old family-owned outdoor store here Monod grew up working. Her grandfather John Monod, a Swiss mountain guide, brought his specialty ski shop from Chamonix to Banff during World War II. As a ski racer, Tatum’s father, Peter, won the Canada Championships and the US Championships, and excelled at the Europa Cup and World Cup levels—all by the age of 22. Her cousin won the steer-wrestling event at last year’s Calgary Stampede. But now, as a Level 1 athlete with an award-winning segment and a brand new contract with Red Bull, it’s Tatum who’s in the spotlight.
She shocked the judges and crowd when she straight-aired a 15 footer and then, without hesitating, hit a booter and laid out a huge backflip to win qualifiers…
She skis fast and loose yet with incredible ability and control,” says Parker White, who voted for Monod for Skier of the Year. “She’s one of very few girls incorporating big tricks into her backcountry skiing. She filmed all year without a big budget or any emphasis on her sex. Raw talent, raw skiing and no bullshit—that’s why Tatum stands out.”
“Her Level 1 segment and her season edit blew my mind,” says Joss Christensen, who also voted for Monod. “She skis fast and makes it look effortless. She can keep up with the boys, but she still has this feminine style.”
Monod spent a lot of her preteen life in gymnastics and on horseback, riding through the Sound of Music-pretty Canadian Rockies. She wasn’t interested in joining her family on the ski hill until she was 10, and even then, she wanted to snowboard. Peter told her if she didn’t want the ski gear in the back of the truck, she’d have to go to the rental shop and get set up on her own.
“I assumed that would be the end of that, but an hour later we glanced over to the Poma lift and there was Tatum riding up on her own,” remembers Peter. “No need for mum or dad, no instruction, no lift ticket and god only knows how a 10-year-old convinced the rental shop to set her up with snowboard gear. We watched her get off the lift, buckle in and slide down to the bottom. If Tatum wants to do it, it will be done.”
She finally discovered ski racing—on her own, of course—at the age of 12, and by 15 she joined the prestigious Alberta Alpine Ski Team. To her family’s surprise, she just couldn’t get enough. “I’ve been around skiers and skiing all my life, and I’ve never met someone who’s so keen to ski,” says Peter.
In 2009, after a few years on the NorAm circuit, Monod was offered a ski-racing scholarship to the University of Alaska Anchorage. She packed her bags but couldn’t shake a feeling of dread. She wanted to ski powder, not train gates. She followed her heart, swapped out her skis and hopped on a westbound bus to Revelstoke, BC, without money or a plan. When the Freeskiing World Tour came to town, Monod didn’t expect to qualify for the first day of the comp. She shocked the judges and crowd when she straight-aired a 15 footer and then, without hesitating, hit a booter and laid out a huge backflip to win qualifiers (she placed second overall). Monod followed the Tour to the States, placing in the top 10 at Crested Butte and Kirkwood. “She’s more competitive than any girl I’ve met,” says Nic Monod, Tatum’s brother. “She just goes and sends it. She’s so athletic. And her personality is very determined for what she’s passionate about. Nothing gets in her way.”
Orage team manager, Mike Nick, had heard of Monod when he invited her on an Orage team trip to Retallack in the spring of 2011, but he had never met her in person.
“I could tell she was just out of the pressure cooker,” remembers Nick. “It was her first time skiing with JP Auclair, Charley Ager and Banks Gilberti, and it was kind of like a tryout. She jumped out of her truck, hopped in the cat and her first line was: ‘Banks Gilberti is the hottest girl in freeskiing.’ Everyone cracked up, and right then I knew it was going to work out. She was charging from the get-go, dropping into pillow lines and stomping everything.”
Long before Monod’s segment in less became a reality, she knew she wanted to film with Level 1. She asked director Freedle Coty what it would take. Experience and persistence, he told her.
Based in Whistler, she filmed with Orage, Sherpas Cinema and also for Lynsey Dyer’s Pretty Faces.
She asked Nick to put in the good word with Level 1 founder Josh Berman. And then she called Berman herself. The man is admittedly leery of working with new skiers—the dynamic of the crew is a delicate balance—but after hearing rave reviews from Nick, Coty and Level 1 athletes, he decided to roll the dice last season by partnering with only the third girl the production house has ever filmed.