A year ago, snowboarder Jamie Anderson had a chance to join her American hopeful teammates to preview the same slopestyle course in Sochi that she'll ride in the event's Olympic premiere, but, unconventionally, chose not to make the trip.
"I was battling myself, I'm like, 'I should go because it's the Olympics next year,'" she reminisced this past October while wearing a knit farmer's hat, a frequent smile and a crystal around her neck. "It was like 25 hours of traveling, and I had no energy. I was really tired and I needed just a break for my spirit."
Instead, during the peak of the season, she took a road trip to a renowned California beach town for a mediation and yoga retreat, and to visit its natural hot springs. A day after making the tough decision, the U.S. team called to inform her that the slopestyle trials in Sochi had been canceled.
"I ended up going to Big Sur," Anderson continued on in her soothing twang, "and I met this beautiful Siberian woman who was doing these shamanic healing ceremonies. We connected on a really positive note and she kind of just assured me that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. It was almost like Russia, in a sense, came to me."
These apparent forces of nature and the manifestation of the cosmos produce the overarching principles and general outlook on life for the 23-year-old flower child with big green eyes who still calls South Lake Tahoe, Calif., home. Anderson says she learned this approach from her mother and the surroundings in which she grew up, applying it equally in her daily life as in competition, just trying to keep everything fluid.
"I really want to kind of take the path of water -- least resistance -- and just go with the flow, and the course will guide me," said the aspiring environmentalist. "I know that the result isn't going to change who I am. It would make me a bigger athlete, celebrity, but, like, I know my true self is still going to be me. And it feels better because, you know, if you started thinking, 'I need to do this,' and 'I want to do that,' it just feels so heavy on the heart."
Easy to say for the most accomplished slopestyle rider ever, including eight medals at the X Games and seven Dew Tour victories, and the odds-on favorite in Sochi. But Anderson remains remarkably humble, genuinely appearing not to have even considered her utmost objective once she arrives in Russia.
"Goal?" she repeated the question as if it were a foreign thought. "I would love to win the Olympics," she finally conceded after a moment of pause, "but I wouldn't say that that's like my highest goal. I think my goal is just to get in the best shape of my life, be as healthy and strong as I can, and to ride at my personal best level. If that's good enough to win a medal or anything, then awesome. If not, life goes on."
Now a year later, at last welcoming that slightly delayed trek to Sochi, Anderson, joined by American teammates Ty Walker, Karly Shorr and Jessika Jenson, will once again try to strike balance in her life, willingly accepting the results, whatever they may be. She acknowledges she faces heightened expectations with slopestyle's Olympic debut, but will -- as always -- put her trust in her surroundings and rely on the universe for direction.
"I do think that there's a reason I was born into the mountains and I have that connection with winter and it being like the yin," Anderson said. "There's nothing more special for me than fresh snow on the mountains, with the sun out and the sparkles. Maybe it's the water element that feels so good to connect with, but it is so special. And being able to go to different mountains, even though, yeah, I'm on chairlifts, it's still such a natural environment and so fun to explore."