Curiosity Drives Snowboarder Amanda Hankinson
Snowboarding may be a winter sport, but like all professional athletes, Amanda Hankinson—a world-famous snowboarder—prepares her body year-round.
“When it’s not snowboarding season, I do a lot of trail running to build up fitness and endurance,” Amanda says of her life in Salt Lake City. “This is also a way to get used to the routes and drainages and helps me find good ways to get up different mountains. It also enables me to get an idea of where avalanches might happen.”
Winter sports have called Amanda, age 30, since she was a girl growing up in Wyoming on a 900-acre ranch. In the first grade she went skiing in Colorado with her Girl Scout troop, which was led by her mother.
“I remember feeling so adventurous on the mountain, like every run was uncharted territory meant to be explored,” she says. “I feel so lucky to have had that experience, one that set me on a course to snowboard as much as I do now.”
Later, moving to Illinois, Amanda found that her love of snowboarding grew, with her mom driving her to resorts in nearby Wisconsin on weekends so she could practice.
Then her dad died.
“My mom bought me a snowboarding setup to help take my mind off the loss,” she recalls. “Ever since then I’ve lived for snowboarding. There has been nothing else.”
After graduating from the University of Utah with a finance degree, Amanda continued snowboarding, but she also dealt with recurring injuries. Downtime from the slopes led to an allied passion: making snowboarding films, which led her to launch Jetpack, a media company.
These days Amanda feeds her creative side with photography and videography and pushes herself with athletic endeavors such as split-board mountaineering, which uses a snowboard that separates into two ski-like parts, allowing the rider to climb uphill. She also remains focused on snowboarding outside ski resorts in the backcountry—navigating challenging terrain in the wilderness.
“There’s a lot to learn to be safe when you’re riding out of bounds,” she says. “There’s no lift access you’re responsible for yourself. A lot of people use helicopters to access that kind of terrain, but since I didn’t have access to [helicopters] I made a decision to learn how to climb mountains so I could snowboard down them.”
Despite her apparent fearlessness, Amanda does get nervous.
“There are a thousand things that could go wrong,” she says. “Last December I slipped on ice in my driveway and broke my leg. Getting back to snowboarding after an injury like that, you realize you can’t control everything. You have to be smart: you have to keep up your fitness and be sure to go out with people that you trust. Control what you can and respect the things you can’t.”
And yet Amanda says these jitters are what make snowboarding so exciting. She continually challenges herself, taking courses alongside fellow snowboarders who share what they encounter on the mountains.
“We learn from each other’s experiences,” she says. “Keeping up with the most recent avalanche education and first aid care is really important. because we have to take care of each other if something goes wrong while we’re in the backcountry. By sharing our experience we turn accidents into an opportunity to learn and teach. We help each other understand risk and how to best manage it.”
Ultimately, curiosity is what keeps Amanda in love with the sport.
“That’s what fuels every one of my adventures,” she says. “I love finding out what’s over the next hill or what gale force winds will feel like. Curiosity is my ultimate inspiration and snowboarding allows me to follow it.”
Girl Scouts of the USA and The North Face have partnered to develop 12 new Outdoor High-Adventure badges to inspire the next generation of female explorers. Amanda Hankinson is featured in the Trail Adventure badge booklet for Cadettes.