Grilled: Slope Style— Norwegian powerhouse Ståle Sandbech
Over the past few seasons, slopestyle powerhouse Ståle Sandbech has risen through the ranks of snowboarding, his flawless style and extensive bag of tricks quickly establishing him as a staple on the slope podium.
This year alone, Sandbech racked up a slew of impressive results, taking first at the Burton High Fives contest in NZ; first at the Copper Grand Prix; 3rd at X Games; the Olympic silver medal in Sochi; 2nd at the Burton US Open; and snagging the title of TTR World Snowboard Tour champ, both for slopestyle and overall.
A talent born and bred on the hills of Norway, it’s clear that Sandbech’s already prolific career is just getting started.
This is the last contest for you, right?
Yeah, I’m doing a couple in Norway— Norwegian Champs and this other Burton event— but this is the last big contest of my year.
As far as you growing up with Frode as your brother, how have you guys pushed each other? Because you’re both just at the top of your careers…
I don’t know if I pushed him until the last couple years, because he’s so much older than me, but for sure him giving me my first snowboard, and taking me out that first day, and then just like— he was always my big brother. I never had arguments with him because he was so much older than me. And I looked up to him and listened to what he was saying. My mom told me I had to do homework and I was like, “nope,” but if he came home and said, “you have to do homework,” I was like “yes!” Yeah, he’s just been around all the time and helped me, taking photos, getting me in contact with people. He’s just in the industry. And traveling with me when I was a little kid, because I couldn’t take a plane by myself…
Do you think the level of his photography actually pushed your snowboarding? Going out and shooting with him?
Yeah for sure, because every time I go take photos with him he’s like, “yeah go bigger, go one meter bigger!” And then I go one meter bigger and he’s like, “yeah one more! It’s gonna be sick!” And it just keeps on going, you know? Every time we’ve been taking photos it just takes — we get the shot but we have to do like ten times more just to get it. But for sure that helps… I guess just how I don’t give up, you know?
You have amazing style. How have you cultivated it?
I don’t know [laughs], I have no idea… I guess it’s natural. It’s how I move; it’s how my body is shaped.
You’re just built to be stylish…
I guess! It’s just how I move. For sure trying to tweak your grabs and all that… I mean, in snowboarding we ride and one guy does a new trick and we follow, but just trying to do the tricks in a different way, you know, changing up the grabs. That kind of defines my snowboarding.
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Why are there so many good snowboarders coming out of Norway? Starting with Terje… what’s in the water?
Viking blood. That’s the only thing I can say. I mean we have lots of small hills, and we like night riding. It’s not good conditions but we ride every day after school and where I grew up there were a bunch of kids riding. Alek [Oestreng] grew up there; Len [Jørgensen], Simon— I saw Mikkel Bang there one time back in the day. Andreas Wiig… we had those local heroes, and we also had a good amount of kids just having fun. We didn’t care about being the best in the world, it just came naturally because we were just riding and joking around. Joking with alpine skiers, getting poked in the face with poles… we had a lot of bets, like chocolate, or Coca-Cola or whatever did the trick. So maybe that helped.
Will we see you one day at Ultra Natural, or a contest like that?
I mean if it comes back, hopefully! I’m going to Japan on Sunday to ride pow, so I’m going to get my pow skills going, because I never ride powder. I never have time for that.
Have you been to Japan before?
I actually just came from Japan. I had one day of powder riding and the rest was inside. It was sick, I love Japan.
Are you going to the North Island?
Sapporo Island. That’s what my flight ticket says at least. That’s where I’m getting dropped off… [laughs].
Congrats on the silver medal in Sochi- was your Mohawk an ode to Heikki [Sorsa]?
Yeah. That’s my strongest memory from the Olympics when I was a kid watching. It kind of had an effect on how I – what I thought about snowboarding back then. I quit cross-country skiing, I was like, “fuck yeah, snowboarding is the shit.” I was planning on doing it at the Opening Ceremony at first, but we didn’t go because we had finals the day after, so I was like, “now I have to podium so I can do it, I’ve been saving my hair for like a year.” I couldn’t get it as big as I wanted to, because I didn’t have time and I didn’t quite know how to do it, but I made my statement.
[Stale learns he also took the overall TTR WST title for halfpipe]
Is it a bit ironic for you, knowing that you won the overall TTR title even as Mark [McMorris] took the US Open win?
No, I mean, I was thinking in the qualifier— because Max didn’t land his first run, and I was like, if Max doesn’t make it to finals then I’ll already have it. But with him getting into finals…for sure I was riding to win the US Open, not to win the overall title, but kind of both, you know? It would be kind of a relief, but he [Parrot] was in the final, and he was riding really good in practice. But I put down a run that was a little bit better, and I took that title before the contest got done. I changed up my rail run on that last run but I couldn’t land it. I just messed up on the first rail and I couldn’t keep on going… but I mean second place here as well is amazing. Just getting on the podium is so much better than not getting on the podium. For sure that top spot is amazing, but…
Alright, congrats! World champion…
I wasn’t quite sure about that one, at this point. It was close, yeah. It’s really hard for me these days, because like for me yesterday having to ride pipe… I was tired, my legs this morning. And I couldn’t ride in slope practice yesterday, and step up my run before I got there this morning. You know these guys were like chucking it on the rails and I was standing at the top of the pipe like, “oh, no!”
So why did you do both?
Just to make sure I got that overall.
So one last question, then; was the pressure off coming into this competition, with the Olympics over and everything?
No! I mean, now I’m riding for myself again, and my sponsors. I’m not riding for Norway— I’m riding for Norway, but it’s different — it’s not like I have a bunch of random people telling me what to do, you know? That’s a big change. But I came in here with the opportunity to win halfpipe overall and slopestyle overall, so I wanted to get a podium or win here because I was feeling good. There were so many things to keep in mind… that was a lot. Just doing the same; trying to do my best.
Killer, thanks Stale. Enjoy the powder in Japan!