Queenstown snowboarder Shelly Gotlieb used to survive on bananas and carrots.
In March this year, too hard-up to pay for food let alone accommodation, the gutsy 29-year-old entered the coveted United States Burton Open in Vermont – and came away with a fifth placing in slopestyle.
That result is the best performance posted by a Kiwi woman snowboarder.
Gotlieb laughs about her “ghetto” existence five months ago. “I couldn’t afford a hotel room. I slept on floors and kept everything in the rental car.
“Carrots and bananas were the only things that would keep in the car. My friend ended up giving me some meal vouchers because I couldn’t afford to eat – she took pity on me.”
The gun rider, who’s entering the Burton New Zealand Open at Cardrona starting this Wednesday, shot up the world rankings after her US results and last month was announced NZ Snowboarder of the Year.
She’s been riding 10 years but only stepped into the competitive scene three years ago.
“I started doing it as a lifestyle choice – it was kind of an easy option, not getting a proper job – then I started doing back-to-back winters, but I never imagined I was going to try to get [selected for the 2010] Winter X-Games.”
Gotlieb, originally from Ohakune, modestly credits her success to her peers: “It’s cool to have done it when I haven’t had coaches – I’ve basically learned from my friends. I’m just lucky that those friends are some of the top riders in the country.”
But it’s been a tough road for Gotlieb – slopestyle isn’t government-funded because it’s not yet an Olympic sport – so she’s had to pay her way with the help of part-sponsorship.
She works in hospitality for two months a year to help her get by, supported by coaching in the winter.
“You’re on the snow so much it’s not like you can do a 40-hour-a-week job as well, so you have to be resourceful and smart.
“Snowboarding’s hard work and it’s not all the glamour you might think. You work hard to save up to do it, so you do live pretty minimally.”
Gotlieb hopes her efforts in putting slopestyle on the world stage will pave the way for other emerging female talent.
“Hopefully the funding will come that way and it will be easier for the people who want to go down my path.”
Open season: five to follow at Cardrona
Hails from: Wanaka
Bray’s been in the snowboarding scene for a long time now but she’s still turning heads with her moves.
After having her knees “tidied up” in surgery in 2007, the former Winter Olympian returned to international competition last year – winning the NZ Burton quarterpipe. Rated NZ’s top woman snowboarder and 13th in the world, she’s a likely contender for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Bray says she’s riding “better than ever”.
Hails from: Truckee, California
Once a high-flying Hewlett Packard lawyer in California, Schulze now spends his days chasing the snow – he bases himself in Wanaka and the US each year.
Schulze got hooked on snowboarding after skiing for most of his life. He’s the only rider to enter all five Burton Opens around the world – and the oldest. He says he always wins his group in comps that have age categories.
Hails from: Laconia, New Hampshire
Entering: Slopestyle and Halfpipe
This hot US young snowboarding superstar is one to look out for during next week’s Open. Guldemond took out the top overall title of Burton Global Open Series champ last year as well as finishing second in the Swatch Ticket To Ride World Snowboard Tour.
Nicknamed the “bucking bronco”, Guldemond is a likely podium contender with all-round terrain park skills in halfpipe, slopestyle and quarterpipe.
Hails from: Auckland
A sure bet for next year’s Winter Olympics, Hamilton is killing it on the world snowboarding scene.
Last year he was the first Kiwi male rider to achieve a podium placing in a FIS World Cup event – a bronze medal in Valmalenco, Italy – in the halfpipe.
Hamilton, who admits he’s a nervous flyer, also won the NZsnowboard.com David Bowie Lookalike Contest.
Hails from: Edwards, Colorado
This four-foot-something boy wonder hasn’t even reached double digits yet but he’s already turning heads on the slopes.
He’s a multi-talented grom who’s already aced national comps in boardercross, slalom, GS, halfpipe and slopestyle.
A fan of Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cody says his “power creature” is the Phoenix. This is his first Burton NZ Open.
Burton NZ Open
Where: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Wednesday, Aug 12: Slopestyle qualifiers
Thursday: Halfpipe qualifiers
Friday: Slopestyle semis and finals
Saturday: Halfpipe semis and finals