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Who Says It's a Guy's Sport? These Female Snowboarders Are Breaking Boundaries

Spencer O'Brien knows how to get serious air! (Photo courtesy of Alli Sports)

In the world of snowboarding, amazing athletes like Shaun White seem to get the majority of the spotlight (and the TV time). But there are many women who are rocking the slopes too, who can also pull off fantastic tricks and pull in Olympic gold. FITNESS caught up with two of those ladies before their next competition—the Winter Dew Tour Nike Breckenridge Open, starting today and running through Sunday. Get to know...

  • Kelly Clark, snowboard superpipe competitor, the only female to win three US Open halfpipe events, Olympic gold (Salt Lake City) and bronze (Vancouver) medal winner, founder of the Kelly Clark Foundation
  • Spencer O'Brien, snowboard slopestyle competitor, 2009 Dew Cup champion and female athlete of the year, X Games silver (2009) and bronze (2008) medalist

How did snowboarding become a passion of yours? Kelly Clark: I grew up in a small mountain town in Vermont with not much else going on! I was on skis at age 2, and began snowboarding when I was 7. I found it really fun and loved the element of creativity involved. Spencer O'Brien: My dad used to take my sisters and I skiing, then taught us all to snowboard. It was really a family activity.

What does a typical day of training look like for you? KC: I'm riding from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., grab lunch, then go to the gym for a few hours. Some days I Spin—it's good to get the lactic acid out and relieve soreness—and other days I walk or use the trampoline. SO: I'm typically on the snow two to four hours a day. I warm up and stretch, work on tricks, recover on the Spin bike and do a strength training maintenance program with my physical therapist. Read on for the workout moves that will make you a better boarder.

What strength moves really help you stay strong for a long day of riding? KC: I do a lot of body weight work, like squats with my arms straight out in front of my chest and back upright. It's great for my form. Hamstring curls on the stability ball are also a favorite. SO: Plyometrics and core exercises. I do planks—30 seconds of holding a regular one, then hold for 15 seconds on each side and repeat the whole rotation. And I also like stability ball roll-ins. With my hands on the floor and my shins or the tops of my feet on the ball, I bring my knees toward my chest.

Kelly Clark has been snowboarding for 21 years. (Photo courtesy of Alli Sports)

What has been the most exciting moment of your career to date? KC: I won the gold in Salt Lake at age 18, missed the podium in Torino and won the bronze in Vancouver in 2010. The bronze is actually more precious to me than the gold because it represents all of the hard work I put in to make it back on the podium. SO: My first professional win was at the Dew Cup in 2009, and that was a breakout year for me. The Dew Tour offers women equal prize money and a lot of TV time compared to other events. It's amazing that snowboarding offers equal money for male and female winners at most events, which is rare in pro sports, but men often get more TV time.

What gear keeps you happy all day on the mountain? KC: Even though I've been snowboarding for more than 20 years, I wear padded shorts. I still fall while practicing difficult tricks! I keep my feet warm in Burton boots wired with thermic heaters. SO: My Nike Vapen boots are so soft and comfy out of the box.

What is your top tip for boarding newbies? KC: Get a helmet! Start with lessons and think about what you can control. There's no such thing as losing focus—you can just focus on the wrong things at the wrong time. SO: Snowboarding requires different balance than you're used to, so give yourself a few days. The progression goes much faster after that first learning curve.