At only 20 years old, Estelle Pensiero’s name is already synonymous with the kind of innate and effortless-looking snowboarding that we all aspire to. There’s a considered style to her riding that melds seamlessly with the terrain. Raised in Nelson, British Columbia with Baldface and Whitewater as her stomping grounds, Estelle has been honing a timeless aesthetic since she was young, riding alongside greats like Jamie Lynn and learning to navigate the backcountry from deeply talented folks like Robin Van Gyn, Pat Moore, and others that travel to the Selkirks for plentiful snow and creative terrain. While Estelle’s been a rider to watch for years, the past few seasons she’s been finding her stride, exploring far-away mountain ranges, and deepening her backcountry knowledge. Earlier this season, she became the first rider added to the Candle by Arbor roster, tapped by Pat Moore to join the crew. This spring, after hosting her first event, Low Maintenance (read on for why it was really rad), Estelle spent time on the road with Pat and crew, traveling through California and Utah before ending up at the Peace Park Championships. We caught up with her just as she headed out to Europe for a bit of summer and she filled us on how her season was. – Mary T. Walsh
First off, congratulations on joining Arbor as part of the Candle team! You were tapped by Pat Moore to join Candle, that must feel pretty rad! How did that all come about?
I’ve known Pat since I was a kid and I’m lucky to have had a lot of shred days with him at Baldface. It feels really special to be recognized by somebody who has watched me grow into a snowboarder. Pat is a rider who I’ve looked up to for a long time because of how he has paved the way for a lot of snowboarders to get out into the backcountry. (I think I’ve been to every single one of his Risk Maturity classes!) I really resonate with his vision for Candle and it’s such an honor to be part of this brand as it comes up from ground zero.
What’s your board of choice that you’re been riding this season and how has it been holding up in the BC powder?
The Candle Rain! It’s the first board from Candle that’s going to be available to buy. It was designed by Pat himself, so I’ve been hoping that riding the Rain is helping me ride more like Pat, haha. Conditions last winter were insane. I rode the Rain in a lot of deep pow since that’s my go-to for sure, but I was also working on progressing with my airs and landing more tricks—I was stoked this board never let me down any way I rode it.
You went to Tahoe in the spring with Pat and Bryan Iguchi, yes?
I was in Tahoe last month on a camping trip in the Sierra with the Volcom crew: Pat Moore, Bryan Igucci, Kevin Jones, and I. It was crazy to be with a crew of legends like this and to be able to learn from these guys that have spent so much time on backcountry trips was insane. It was my first time in the Tahoe backcountry, which is so beautiful. Our original plan was to go to Sonora Pass where the Volcom film, The Garden, was shot, but the weather didn’t permit, so we found a new zone that was kind of similar and just as sick. We did a ton of splitboarding and built a big fat cheesewedge for my first time We managed the spring conditions pretty well and ended up hitting a bunch of wind lips and slushy quarterpipes. I was pretty blown away by the whole thing! Tahoe is special to me, as well, because my parents met there at university. I’m even named after Estelle Bowl at Palisades!!
Growing up in Nelson and riding at Baldface, you have some incredible mentors that you have gotten to ride with through the winters. What is it like riding with Pat, Guch, and crew now with Arbor?
Baldface mentorship, mileage, and industry connection is my biggest asset in snowboarding. Growing up there gave me the skills, the passion, and the connections that I needed to go on trips like the Tahoe trip with this crew. I never take for granted that I had a really special upbringing shredding the mountains with some of the best. I love riding with these guys, paying attention to how they navigate the mountains and manage their careers. I am excited for the next chapters where I can take all my Baldface background and use it to become more of my own person with my own story to tell.
I’m really stoked to be able to experience the backcountry in a different way, in different places with different people and I think that being with Arbor and Candle is giving me more of these kinds of opportunities.
This winter looks like you have been scoring with snow in different, amazing places. Earlier this season, you went on a trip to Japan, right? Was that your first time there or had you been before? What were you up to there?
Japan was insane. I’ve been waiting to go there forever. I couldn’t believe it was really happening when I was on the plane. I went to Myoko, right near Hakuba Valley to celebrate JF Pelchat’s 50th Birthday. The Pelchat girls, Juliette and Billy are some of my best friends, so to be in Japan with them and their family was the best trip ever. A bunch of the OG Wildcats were there, too, for a kind of reunion, so the snowboarding crew was pretty stacked. There’s so much to do there! One day we hiked up a volcano and some hit some jumps at the top, and of course we were in the onsens every night.
What’s your favorite part about traveling to and snowboarding in Japan?
Apparently there is some kind of bad karma around going into the forests in Japan. I don’t really know anything about it, but it means nobody ever rides off the runs at the resort so there’s some super good inbounds snow. The resorts we went to were so cool. They felt super old and kind of abandoned; it just always felt like an adventure, and in Myoko, we could ride through the town from the mountain to get back home. Very cool BUT of course the best part was truly the 7-11s
Go-to 7-11 snacks?
The 7-11s are out of control in Japan. I thought they were going to be overhyped—but not one bit. Always have 7-11 sushi triangles in your backpack for lunch. Otherwise, there is something about the grape and strawberry fake flavoring that’s so delicious there, and I have a massive sweet tooth, so I was munching candy the whole time.
Back at home, you split time between riding Whitewater and Baldface, yes? What’s the best part about getting to ride Whitewater (that place looks magical!)? Looks like there is lots of stuff to jump off of there, judging by your Instagram posts?
Whitewater is magical. Baldface is magical, too. BC is pretty magical. It’s nice to ride with everyone coming through to go to Baldface at whitewater. I have a season pass there, so I ride as much as I can. It’s so much fun. There’s so much terrain and if you hike a bit, you can get to some endless minigolf zones full of features that are super close to the resort.
In April, you held an event at Baldface called Low Maintenance. Can you explain a little about the event concept and how that came about? (We heard it was really awesome!)
My dad wanted to host an event to close out our season at Baldface and he gave me some space to have a bit of creative input. I used the opportunity to help move toward the goal of making the backcountry less privileged and more accessible. I have so much privilege and opportunity and I’ve always been super thankful, but have also felt sort of guilty because I was born with such an easy in to the snowboarding world when other people have to work so much harder for what I have. With this event, my goal was to facilitate the kind of mentorship and connections that I grew up with for some people that might otherwise not have the same opportunities. I think snowboarding can sometimes feel pretty closed off and exclusive to outsiders, so another goal was to make it as accessible as possible. My plan was to invite twelve pros and have each of them bring somebody with them to take under their wing for the week.
The invite list for Low Maintenance looked like a ton of epic boarders. Who all was there?
The riders list was so great! Everybody meshed together so well and since the lodge was at half capacity, everybody really got to know each other. Most of the pros that I invited were people that I knew already, and they all brought such cool people with them. It was a super cool way to bring in people that were outside of my circle and maybe outside of each other’s circles as well.
How did the event go? You all looked like you scored with snow?
Yes! The snow was insane. We built a few flowy features in front of the lodge because April weather can be pretty unpredictable, but the conditions stayed really good. The snow was so fun that we couldn’t resist the cats and we mostly rode backcountry every day. One day we basically just lapped the Natural Selection course on scary cherry! And on the first night we had a quarterpipe session lit up by the cats. It was amazing. And everybody showed up to ride, too. I think that the concept of mentorship was even more enforced by all the time we spent in the backcountry, because backcountry riding is something that you can barely get into without the right mentorship and guidance, ESPECIALLY professionally. Things like how to hit a backcountry jump and not getting infinite landings, how to work with media to get the shot you want, communication with your crew etc.—it’s all super important and it’s super hard to figure out on your own unless somebody kind and helpful is there to show you the way!
Can you tell us more about the spring road trip you took from Tahoe to SoCal to Utah? What have been the highlights?
Yes! I met with Pat in Tahoe then I went to SoCal to surf and skate and visit a bit before going to Utah with the Volcom crew. We stayed in Salt Lake City and we rode for two weeks. It was insane. The weather was so good and we had an awesome airbnb with everyone. We did a bunch of art and skateboarding, and we rode almost every day. It also felt like every snowboarder was riding around Salt Lake, especially around the time of Peace Park.
How was Peace Park? Had you ripped around Snowbird before?
Peace Park was so fun. Danny put on such a sick event, even though there were some sketchy circumstances—the access road was closing really randomly and nobody had info about it. One day a mudslide covered the road and we all got stuck there for a night, but it wasn’t such a bad place to be stuck! With a bunch of friends at a sick resort. It was very cool to have the chance to ride a big park and see how everybody hit it. I was super inspired by how everyone else was riding to try to progress a bit in the park, even though I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I think it’s a bit whack to say you’re a backcountry rider just because you don’t know how to hit a rail, so it was a good chance for me to try to change that. And no, I’ve never ridden at Snowbird before! It’s so fun.
It’s usually the end of the season by now, but there’s still snow! What’s your plan for the rest of May into summer?
I just arrived in Europe a few days ago! I am going to be here until July-ish and then I’m going to go to Mt. Hood for an Arbor session at High Cascade before going home! A long journey!