Brita Sigourney is a warrior. The freestyle skier is a five-time X Games medalist and three-time Olympian who has battled injuries and overcome the odds to compete at the highest level of her sport for more than a decade.
Growing up in Monterey, California, she started skiing at an early age on family trips to Alpine Meadows near the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe. When she was two years old, her dad would help her down the hill until she learned to balance on her own. A few years later, when her older brothers joined a freestyle team, Sigourney quickly followed suit. Even though she was technically too young to sign up, her coach was impressed enough with her abilities that he decided to make an exception. From that day on, Sigourney became completely dedicated to skiing, competing almost every weekend through the end of high school.
Through conversations with her coach and parents, Sigourney decided to attend the University of California, Davis — giving her a chance to attend college while staying just a few short hours from the mountains where she could continue her training. Splitting her time between studying and competing, Sigourney won 1st place at the 2010 Junior World Championships in New Zealand and secured her first invitation to the X Games.
In 2011, Sigourney decided to fully commit to professional skiing, taking the winter off of school to live full-time in Lake Tahoe and be able to travel the competition circuit more freely. That very same year, she took home silver in SuperPipe at the Aspen X Games, bronze in 2012 and 2015, and silver again in 2018. From there, she won Bronze in Halfpipe at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, and the 2019 Utah World Championships.
Sigourney cites the advice and training of both of her coaches, legendary Alpine Meadows instructor Clayton Beck and US Olympic Halfpipe coach Ben Verge, as two of her biggest influences.
“They had this very well-rounded approach to skiing where we would see the whole mountain. On a pow day we would jump cliffs and hike peaks, and on groomer days we would do drills and ski moguls. I think that really instilled a love for the mountains and a love for the sport.”
Sigourney’s ski career hasn’t been easy. Her list of injuries reads like an anatomy textbook. She shattered both collarbones, broke her pelvis, her thumbs, her kneecap, both ankles, her left fibula, her right fibula and her right fibula, and blew out her ACL for good measure.
But no amount of surgeries or setbacks could keep Sigourney off the mountain. If you ask her, it all comes with the territory.
“All those injuries were one learning experience after another. I think I had four or five years of season-ending injuries in a row. I definitely grew over my career to know the right time to try something new or when to call it quits. I probably could have avoided some of those early injuries if I hadn’t pushed myself so hard. But that’s part of being young and growing up I think.
Sometimes those broken bones and torn ligaments actually helped push her to new heights. “The long periods of rehab the injuries forced me to take only made me more excited to get back on snow. Not skiing for six to nine months really fueled my desire to ski again, and the excitement to be back out there really showed. I always poured all of that into the competitions.”
Sigourney is a big believer in the importance of self-confidence when skiing. “Overcoming the fear of doing new tricks really comes down to believing in yourself. Committing to something that scares you is really hard. But you need to visualize it and believe that you can do it. ”
“During competition I let adrenaline take over. You definitely have to be in the right mindset. When you’re skiing well and your confidence is high, things just start lining up more easily. But when they’re not, you have to find some way to still give it everything you’ve got.”
Today, Sigourney lives with her dog Sadie in Salt Lake City, Utah where she’s able to ski in the winter and stay active in the warmer months. “In the summertime we do a lot of camping and fishing and river trips and hiking. I just love being outside. I do a lot of swimming and I’ve found it’s a really great way to stay in shape in the summer and rehab my muscles.”
This year will be Sigourney’s last on the competition circuit, and she decided to choose a select few events to finish out her career. “I don’t feel that desire to push myself in the halfpipe anymore, so even though X Games wasn’t as rewarding for me this year as it was in the past, I wanted it to be one of my last events because of how much it means to me.”
Although her competition days might be coming to an end, Sigourney has no intention of leaving skiing behind. As we finished up our conversation, she was busy packing a bag for a group ski trip to Japan where they plan to, “eat a lot of ramen and ski a lot of powder.”
With a storied freestyle career in the books, she’s excited to get back to the core of what made her fall in love with skiing in the first place – the feeling of finding good snow with your friends.