Five-Question Interview: Angeli VanLaanen

We asked freeskiing phenom (and former ballet dancer) Angeli VanLannen about Russian massages, chasing your dreams, and tips for newbie jibbers.
Angeli Van Laanen

If you haven’t heard of Angeli VanLaanen yet, you will. At 18 years old, the Mt. Baker, Washington, native moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, to pursue her dreams of becoming a pro freeskier. Now 24, her training as a ballet dancer proves valuable when throwing gracefully corked 540s, which have landed her film segments and wins at US Open and World Cup events. Sally Francklyn caught up with her about progression, Lil Wayne, and full-body massage.

The freeskiing world can be tough. What’s the toughest challenge you face?
My main challenge is staying injury free. The progression of park skiing is moving at an insane rate, which motivates me to always be out there pushing it. With progression comes high impacts and an innately high risk for injury.

What was the hardest part of leaving home to chase your dreams?
The hardest part of my decision to move away from home was leaving close friends and powder days behind. I grew up spoiled—Mt. Baker is a tight-knit community with amazing natural terrain and abundant powder. My first step was moving to Breckenridge the first winter after graduating high school. I had the best park to ski in and with encouragements from my brother and friends, I entered the US Freeskiing Open in Vail.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the freeskiing world?
My biggest piece of advice is to start small and work your way up. Baby steps build confidence and park skiing requires 100 percent commitment. For jumps I would start by popping off of rollers. Get used to being in the air and having both feet tucked up and level. For jibbing, find a wide box. Make sure to take it slow the first time though—boxes are more slippery then snow and can cause you to slide out onto your butt if not prepared. Remember to keep a wide stance: over-exaggerate getting those boots apart. This makes for stability while jibbing any feature.

Tell me about your craziest travel memory.
Traveling to Russia with the Oakley woman's team, I was stuck for two days in airports before finally arriving in Sochi for seven days of rain. We made the best of our time, jibbing chairlift huts, 20-foot tall tree stumps, old army vehicles, and spending one sunny powder day hiking lines typically accessed by helicopter. We had time to tour the area and get traditional Russian massages, which meant that we had limp bush branches lightly whipped on and around your naked body by a Tarzan-like man in a sauna. Enough said.

Do you listen to music when you ski?
I like to dance in line for chairlifts, while dropping into halfpipes, and just cruising down the mountain. Here is the music that I jam to while shredding.

Lil Wayne- 3 Peat
Bob Marley- Africa Unite
Laden- Inna Life
Jackson 5- Want You Back
Empire of the Sun- Walking on a Dream
Toto- Africa

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