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Greta Gaines is featured in "Let Her Rip!" in the Winter 1999/2000 issue of ADVENTURE.
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Greta Gaines:
Rock Star Snowboard Queen
Age "I was born in the ‘Summer of Love.'"
Home Nashville, Tennessee
Favorite Boarding Spot The Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Hero "My mom"
    "Why snowboard? Because it's better than sex."
The title on Greta Gaines's business card is nothing short of a manifesto: "Rock Star Snowboard Queen Coming to a Town Near You." And the go-getting Ms. Gaines has the goods to back it up. She won the first Women's Snowboarding World Championship in 1992 and founded Wild Women Snowboarding Camps shortly thereafter. Now retired from professional competition, the rock star Gaines is shredding her way to a stage near you.

How do you describe your particular brand of adventure?

My particular brand of adventure has to do with line: a perfectly sculpted line of poetry, a fly line delivered with fruitful accuracy, a fresh line of powder on my snowboard that nobody has thought to touch. I like to get there first and do it all. I love all things natural and exhilarating.

  Why did you retire from snowboarding?

I haven't retired, but my mission in snowboarding is not competition. It's about me and the mountain, my own spiritual relationship with Mother Nature. FYI, I rip harder now than I ever have.

  What is a wild woman?

A wild woman is anyone interested in getting back to that natural place free from the murderous censor of inhibition.

  What inspired your women-only snowboard camps?

My women-only camps were inspired by my experience competing against men in Alaska. It was lonely, and I wanted more women to ride with, so I decided to teach them how! (We let men come to the camps, by the way, if they really think they're up to it!)

  What's the first thing you tell Wild Women campers?

The first thing I tell all the campers is that this weekend is going to be fun. And it might hurt, but you have to go through a little pain sometimes, to get to the promised land. I tell them that they have earned this time to do nothing but nourish themselves and to fill up the well. Women give and give, you know.

  What does "give me some chicken" mean?

"Give me some chicken" was invented by Wild Women Snowboard Camps alum Carrie Conte. Screaming it makes it easy for us to find each other in the woods. But really, I have no idea what it means!

  How did you get started snowboarding?

In 1983 my brothers made me do it back in New Hampshire, where we lived.

  How important is gear to what you do?

Gear is very important to what we do. That's why we use the best: K2 snowboards and boots. Never let the gear come too far before the challenge, though. I think men get a little gear obsessive sometimes, and that's a bore. [K2 Snowboards is a sponsor of Wild Women Snowboard Camps.]

  What is a snowboarder doing living in Nashville?

This snowboarder lives in Nashville because she's been hard at work the last six years trying to write a great song.

  How would you describe your music?

My music …ummm, I'm a songwriter first and foremost but the music itself is pretty adventuresome, kind of southern rock with a little urban backbeat mixed with banjo and pedal steel. I'm trying to create a new sound no one's heard, which is no small task. My record is to country music what Beck's records are to folk.

  What gives you a bigger rush, snowboarding or singing?

Snowboarding and singing give me the exact same rush, but singing is scarier—to throw one's heart and soul out there is always scarier than risking life and limb, I think.

  How has snowboarding changed since you began?

Snowboarding is a whole new animal since I began. It's all Mountain Dew and fashion. Now it has become a huge part of the look of popular culture. We started as a subculture, an us-against-them type of thing.

  Where is snowboarding headed?

To theaters everywhere!

  What was your most frightening moment?

My most frightening moment was standing at the top of a 50-degree pitch in [Alaska's] Chugach mountain range, looking down at my first competition run. It looked as if I would fall off the end of the Earth. Only time in my life I've actually peed my pants. I mean, you might threaten to do that, but it really happened.

  What was your biggest thrill of the last year?

Getting to hang out and sing with Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, and Emmylou Harris. And seeing them standing in the rain to watch me sing at Lilith Fair.

  Any advice for potential wild women—or wild men?

My only advice is to love yourself enough to shred at everything in this life that turns you on.


Photograph by Dawn Kish


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