Olympic Silver Medal–Winning Snowboarder Julia Marino Rides With Fans At Copper Mountain’s Peace Park – Forbes

Olympic silver medal-winning snowboarder Julia Marino rides with fans at Copper Mountain’s Peace … [+] Park

Copper Mountain

To them, she wasn’t Julia Marino, two-time Olympian and Beijing 2022 silver medalist. She was Julia, their riding buddy for the day—albeit, one with a skill level unmatched by the rest of the riders on the mountain that day.

On Saturday, Marino and 40 lucky fans took some laps at Copper Mountain, beginning at Danny Davis’ Peace Park and getting some pointers from the Olympian on hitting rails and other features before cruising down the rest of the run.

Marino doesn’t hail from Colorado—she’s an East Coaster, born and raised in Westport, Connecticut. She isn’t a hometown hero at Copper Mountain the way her fellow Mountain Dew teammate and slopestyle rider Red Gerard, who grew up just down the road, is.

But when locals and weekend warriors found out Marino was going to be cruising groomers at Copper, they showed up in force to ride with her. The crowd of mostly children asked Marino for tips on riding the park and got their helmets and goggle straps autographed by the 24-year-old.

Even though she’s a two-time Olympian who turned pro as a teenager and has the distinction of being the first woman to land a double in a slopestyle competition, Marino has never had a major profile. But the Olympics are, for better or worse, a whole different stratosphere of competition. So the seven-time X Games medalist has gotten a glimpse of how an Olympic podium can change a career.

When the Beijing Games began, Marino said she got a couple thousand of new followers on Instagram. The day she took silver in the women’s slopestyle final, her follower count jumped by 20,000.

“It’s definitely cool to be recognized and acknowledged by people, to know that people are tuning in to watch and all the support that I’m getting from friends, family, and fans,” Marino told me following her media ride. We were standing inside Red’s Shred Shed at his branded hike-to terrain park at Copper Mountain, Red’s Backyard. As if on cue, two young women walking by recognized Marino.

“Hi, Julia!” they yelled. “We’re so excited you’re here!”

“Nice to meet you!” she yelled back. “Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. Have fun out there today!”

“Obviously I’ve never had that heavy of a following, so it’s just really cool to know that people are watching,” Marino told me. Her long, natural blonde hair (she’s never dyed it) flowed from her black MTN DEW–branded beanie, and she was clad in head-to-toe Prada. “I just try to remind myself that there’s people out there that look up to me and just try to be the best version of myself—for them and for myself,” she adds.

Olympic silver medalist snowboarder Julia Marino (right of center in gray and white) rides with fans … [+] at Copper Mountain and Woodward’s Peace Park.

Mountain Dew

Marino has never really thought of herself as a role model, or as someone a burgeoning snowboarder might model their career after. Not because she doesn’t think she’s worthy, but as an easygoing and down-to-earth person, it just never occurred to her that she might be one.

“I just think about myself as normal me, doing my thing, but then I see people like these little kids that rode with me today that were all asking questions and super hyped, and you realize there are people out there that are wanting to pursue the same type of passion, and to have someone they can look up to is huge for them,” Marino said. “I know when I was a kid that was huge for me as well.”

The kids had questions Marino isn’t used to getting from those of us in the media. “Do you drink Red Bull?” one asked her. “No!” Marino responded. “I drink Mountain Dew.” (I joked that he was a plant to make sure she’s honoring her sponsorship.)

Another asked her no less than 10 times to do a backflip in the terrain park. It was a snowy day with poor visibility and she “couldn’t really see anything,” but, “I was like ‘Ah, I guess I’ll throw it for them,’” Marino said with a laugh. Naturally, she landed it flawlessly.

Snowboarder and Olympic silver medalist Julia Marino prepares to ride Copper Mountain’s Peace Park … [+] with a young fan during her Ride with Julia day.

Copper Mountain

Marino was a skier until she was 13 years old, and she didn’t make the switch to snowboarding willingly. The story that’s often told is that Marino was on a family vacation in Beaver Creek, Colorado, when she snapped her ski on moguls. She asked her dad to rent her another set, but he refused, telling her to use the snowboard they had brought along.

“That was one of the factors,” Marino says. “Really, I saw snowboarding more and more and I started to admire it more and more, and then after my ski broke it kind of forced me into that switch. It really couldn’t have been better circumstances for me to snap that ski.”

Even though Marino started skiing at three years old and wouldn’t make the switch to snowboarding for a decade, her grade-school yearbook tells a different story.

“There’s a quote from my fifth-grade yearbook—I don’t even really understand how this came to be, how I said this, but I said, ‘I want to be a professional snowboarder,’” Marino says. “I wasn’t even snowboarding at that time, I was skiing, so it’s really funny how my fifth-grade self just knew. I manifested it, I guess.”

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA – FEBRUARY 06: Silver medallist Julia Marino of Team United States celebrates … [+] during the Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final flower ceremony on Day 2 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Genting Snow Park on February 06, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Getty Images

After her silver-medal finish in Beijing, former classmates from those years were among the thousands of people who reached out to her with congratulatory messages—all of which she just finished responding to, three weeks later.

She even got a letter from her kindergarten teacher congratulating her on the win and her successful career. “To hear from her 20 years later, it was really cool to know people that I’ve met along the years of my life are watching and supporting,” Marino said.

At the Olympics, Marino put down what NBC announcer Todd Richards called the best run of her life in the women’s slopestyle final—and she agrees with that assessment. After a technical and clean rails section at the top of the course, Marino went backside 900 melon (two and a half rotations), Cab (switch frontside) double underflip 900 Weddle and frontside double 1080 Weddle on the three jumps.

“It’s a run I’ve been wanting to put down for a long time, and this season I didn’t necessarily get to put that one down. To do it here just means a whole lot more,” Marino said on the broadcast after her run. “I’m over the moon to have landed that top to bottom.”

Marino had struggled to land her runs in the competitions leading up to the Games that served as Olympic qualifiers. Even just landing that run in Beijing was all she had hoped to do—the silver medal was gravy. Hers was the United States’ first medal of any color at the 2022 Games.

At 18, in her X Games debut, Marino took gold in slopestyle after becoming the first woman to land a double in slopestyle competition—and she had two in the same run, a Cab double underflip and a double backflip. She took silver in big air, becoming the first female snowboarder in 17 years to win two medals at the same X Games.

In Beijing, six years later, she was eager to show off what she could do in the women’s big air competition…but her Prada board, which had been cleared for the slopestyle final, was flagged by International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials.

The night before the women’s big air competition, the IOC sent word that Marino would have to cover the Prada logo on the base of her board, as the company was not an official Olympic sponsor, or be disqualified.

Of course, sponsors like Burton and Roxy are not official Olympic brands, either, but riders are allowed to use those boards—and in a response to the IOC, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) argued that Marino’s Prada board should have been treated as those brands’ equipment is.

The IOC’s response was that Marino’s board had “branding of a company that doesn’t primarily have its business in sporting goods, contrary to Olympic advertising rules that protect the funding of the Olympic Movement.”

IOC’s Rule 40 governs endorsements for athletes at the Olympics and essentially prohibits them from repping their own sponsors during a blackout period just before and just following the Games. However, Shaun White competed at the Games on a snowboard produced by his own company, Whitespace, which is far from a legacy sporting goods company—it just launched this year.

The proposed solution by the IOC was to cover the Prada logo on the base of Marino’s board, which the USOPC argued was not feasible because it would alter the board’s surface area and cause drag. Marino says that the red Sharpie she used to cover the logo itself might have been fine, but since the marker kept coming off in the snow, they had to use a sealant on top of it, which hindered her speed and ability to clear the 155-foot big air jump.

The story, like a game of telephone, had become that Marino’s doctored board was what caused her to get injured on the big air jump and ultimately pull out of the competition. In reality, she had slipped out on the lip of the jump on an icy day in practice and landed on her tailbone.

Between her hurting tailbone and the frustrating, last-minute controversy with her board, Marino decided to be happy with her silver medal and pull out of the big air event altogether.

“Essentially, it was a mistake that they made—a pretty big one that I think they should be more held accountable for,” Marino said of the IOC’s decision. “It seems that they’ve done this a few times to other athletes. The Olympics is once every four years; we just want to have all of our things in order and it seemed like everything was intact for me in slopestyle. I was told that my board was okay, and ready to go, and then for big air it wasn’t.”

In spite of the IOC’s claim that Prada is not a sporting goods company, it has been making sportswear under the Prada Linea Rossa line since 1997, and Marino says the brand followed all the rules it had to for the board to be approved.

“There’s a lot to be learned about how to deal with these issues in the future,” Marino said. “I felt very supported by everybody around me. Prada was really helpful in showing their support towards me, wanting to have my feedback on things, and I have a much closer personal relationship with them now that I got to go visit them in Italy so it’s been a really great relationship.”

Indeed, after the Games, Marino traded her snowboard uniform for couture, attending Prada’s fall fashion show in Milan. It was a nice way to decompress from three weeks in Beijing that were full of highs—a silver medal—and lows—the board controversy, the tailbone injury and strict Covid-19 procedures that left her feeling isolated and prevented her family from attending the Games.

MILAN, ITALY – FEBRUARY 24: Julia Marino attends Prada Fall 2022 Womenswear Fashion Show on February … [+] 24, 2022 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Prada)

Getty Images for Prada

“At the last Olympics [in Pyeongchang] we got to leave between the two competitions and go explore the city. I could just be with my friends and family, and we had a lot more freedom,” Marino said. “Whereas in Beijing it was buckled down for three straight weeks, can’t do anything, so it was just a little more solitary this year. But I got through it. I’m happy to be home.”

Marino also relied on the support of another major sponsor, Mountain Dew, as she traveled the world this year to attend Olympic qualifiers. While other nations fund their Olympic athletes at the government level, the USOPC receives no federal funding. It, and athletes, are supported entirely by private donors and sponsors.

“Mountain Dew has always been super supportive of my career, which is awesome,” Marino said. The brand also partners with Copper Mountain and hosted Marino for her Saturday ride with fans. “They’re a tighter, smaller squad which I think is better for the individual athletes. There’s more focus on everybody. We’re just taken care of a little bit more I think. They’ve been huge in my career so far; everything they’ve helped me with has been really appreciated.”

She also felt the love from her fellow Team Dew riders after her silver medal. Gerard was there in Beijing congratulating her, and she got texts from Danny Davis and the entire team as well. Gerard and Davis helped Marino learn the ropes in the backcountry when the three were filming One World, a Burton snowboarding film in partnership with MTN DEW, in 2020. Now, Marino wants to spend more time dialing in her big-mountain riding, for a change of pace from the rails and jumps of slopestyle.

The FIS slopestyle season isn’t over, but Marino is taking some time off from competitions. (When you’re an Olympic medalist, you’ve earned the right to do that.) After her ride-along at Copper Mountain, she was jetting off to Whistler to do some “soulboarding” with her friends. The competition circuit takes a lot out of riders—especially in an Olympic cycle—and after four years of planning, Marino doesn’t want to think too far ahead right now.

“A lot of freeriding with friends during the rest of the season, maybe some park riding and filming and trying to make some content,” Marino said of her plans. “Just trying to have a good time with my friends, and then for next season, I’m honestly not sure yet. Right now I’ve been thinking very in the moment about things; I’ve just been planning the next couple months. I just hope to keep going down the path of enjoying my board.”

In that same vein, Marino can’t say whether, at 28 years old, she’ll attempt to qualify for the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Games in Italy. She does know the progression in women’s snowboarding over the next four years is going to be exciting, however.

“All the girls that are up there right now, like Annika [Morgan], Zoi [Sadowski-Synnott], Tess [Coady], they all have such great style on their boards and they’re all crushing it,” Marino said. “It’s just cool to see the passion and them bringing to the table all the stuff that they’ve brought and pushing the level of women’s riding.”

At the Beijing Games, casual viewers were surprised to see the girls dogpiling on one another and hugging after the final podium was set—even though they were competitors who had just been trying to best one another during the final.

“We’re all super good friends, which is amazing. I think that’s why the sport progresses the way it does, because we all just build off one another and we have a good time together,” Marino said. “So it’s really fun to be in such a heavy final like that with your close friends.”

The next frontier in women’s slopestyle? For sure 1260s, Marino says. The trick (three and a half rotations) has claimed its place as the one to have for a chance at a medal in big air, and slopestyle will follow suit in the next couple seasons. It will be another heavy final at the 2026 Games—and if she wants to, Marino could be at the forefront of that progression.

“I try not to think about this stuff in advance,” Marino says about competing in 2026. “I like when it just kind of flows and happens. I didn’t want to think too much about [Beijing] because for Pyeongchang I did that—I thought about it too much and put too much pressure and expectations on myself.

“I just want to come into each of these events and see where it takes me, so we’ll see,” Marino said.