• Top snowboarder in Queenstown

The world's top-ranked women's snowboarder is in Queenstown ahead of two big snow sports events.

American Jamie Anderson, 20, arrived in the resort on Wednesday night to compete in the Billabong slopestyle (old Bro Down event) competition at Snow Park that started yesterday, before competing in the Burton NZ Open next week.

Jamie A

FEELING BLESSED: World champion snowboarder Jamie Anderson at Mt Cheeseman, near Christchurch. She is in New Zealand to compete in the Billabong slopestyle event at Snow Park on August 5 and 6 and the 2011 NZ Burton Open at Cardrona.

Anderson said her love for snowboarding was inevitable growing up with the mountain in South Lake Tahoe, California, where she was surrounded by brothers and sisters who were involved in snow sports.

At nine years old she joined a snowboarding team in Squaw Valley resort and got her first sponsor, which helped get her into events. "When I was younger I just loved snowboarding, I did everything."

Between the ages of 10 and 13 she entered amateur events, and at 13 qualified for the boardercross event at the ESPN Winter X Games, making her the youngest athlete to ever attend.

At age 14, Billabong became Anderson's first real sponsor and supported her into the bigger sporting events.

At 15, she won her first gold medal at the Winter X Games.

"I was so happy," she said.

After that she just kept going with snowboarding, moving in to slopestyle and backcountry riding, she said.

For the past three years she has been busy designing her new Jamie Anderson signature outerwear collection to be released next month, which will expand to include a streetwear collection.

At the age of 20 she felt privileged to be at this stage of her life, after a year of riding at her peak performance.

In the 2010-11 season Anderson won a gold medal at the European X Games, was nominated for the highly recognised ESPY award (presented by ESPN for excellence in sports performance), won her second TTR world title, was overall winner at the Winter Dew Tour Champion and won the Oakley Arctic Challenge.

She credited the great season to being healthy, eating natural foods and not drinking.

With an event every weekend for 12 weeks, she had to be healthy, she said.

"I feel so, so blessed. Snowboarding has always been my love ... [but] I never thought I could make money out of it."

After competing in New Zealand, Anderson will set her sights on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

She would be spending some relaxation time in New Zealand with her boyfriend.

"We're just going to explore and take it one day at a time. I love this whole country. It is absolutely beautiful. The mountains, the lakes and just how pure it is in the air."

The Billabong Slopestyle runs from August 4 to 6 at Snow Park NZ and involves top athletes from around the world competing for a piece of the US$30,000 (NZ$35,000) in prizemoney.

The 2011 Burton NZ Open runs from August 8 to 13 at Cardrona Alpine Resort.


Words courtesy of The Southland Times