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Madison Blackley Jan 25, 2024 12:01:16 PM 5 min read

Competing in My First X Games at 34 Years Old

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Source: Madison Blackley

I’m Madison Blackley and for 26 years I have been strapping into a snowboard, and for 13 of those I have been competing at a professional level. Those numbers might sound like a long career for most women athletes but I feel like I am currently in my prime. These days most of the women I compete against are anywhere from 10-20 years younger than me — I could be the same age as their parents. But when we are all on the hill together, nobody knows and there is this assumption between riders that, in our minds, we’re all kids on boards, so who cares [what] your age [is]?

 

 

There are not a ton of women in their mid 30s still doing the high level rail jams, or slopestyle events such as X Games or the Dew Tour, but we are out there and many times we are the top hitters.

 

There used to be a stigma around women's snowboarding that once you hit 30, you either get dropped by your sponsors or you strictly ride powder because you're too old for those kinds of things, and you should make sure you don’t get hurt in case you want children. Those times are changing and the industry has recognized that snowboarding really can be a lifelong career.

 

I currently compete in the Dew Tour and this past week accepted my first X Games Street Style Competition. I competed in the Dew Tour Slopestyle events from age 21 to 23, which was invite only, and did not compete again in that specific event until I was 33, and again this year at 34. With the huge population of incredibly talented riders I am very fortunate to get one of only 12 spots. That is a 10 year gap where there were many other women who earned those spots over me, and I filled my seasons doing some other events, but mostly filming street video parts and mastering my skills.

 

Now after all those years of losing sponsors, injuries, just growing and changing as a person, I am still competing, still riding, still as passionate and motivated as ever.

 

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Source: Madison Blackley

I'm not scared of competition — in fact I thrive off it — and after 13 years of hundreds of contests, that makes me that much better of a competitor, even if only from experience itself, and that is being recognized throughout the sport. If you are good enough, no matter where you come from or your age, there can be a spot for you. It is a known fact that women peak physically later than men, typically in their 30s, so it is very exciting that snowboarding is actively supporting the longevity women can have.

One of my favorite things about X Games is their athlete selection. There is no qualifying event — there really is no sponsor to get you in specifically because you ride for them. They choose a small field of people strictly based on the show that they want to put on.

 

I believe I am the oldest and I am very proud of it.

 

Every single one of us could win the gold. I am a believer in the law of 10,000 hours, where they say that it takes that many hours of doing a skill to really master it, be an expert at it and to be able to do it for the rest of your life. With that many hours under my belt and the years that some of these “older” women have put in on their snowboards, the consistency and confidence really shows.

 

I can safely say that I can do a switchboard slide 270 on any feature with my eyes closed because that is ingrained in my blood from doing 10,000 of them.

 

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Source: Madison Blackley

Growing up snowboarding there really wasn’t much support for women, it is getting better, but it is [still] far from equal if you look outside of the top contests. There were many girls I knew who quit after not riding well for a season on the contest circuit or getting a major injury, because 15 years ago, if you were out for one or two seasons, you were forgotten and would have to start over. That isn't true anymore. I've had great seasons, I've had horrible seasons, but the important thing is that I just keep going forward, not looking back. And the more I keep pushing, the more opportunities keep coming to me.

 

It is still pretty taboo to talk about age in women's snowboarding. A few women I know who are my age or older constantly tell me to not mention it and they have been telling people they’re 27 for years. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of, if anything it is inspiring to show that it's not just a phase or a seasonal job but a well-respected career that can last for many decades.

 

I have been snowboarding for 26 years and I plan on snowboarding for 50 more years. I can’t wait to be that grandma doing switchboard slides until I need a walker to get me to my chair!

 

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Source: Madison Blackley

 


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Madison Blackley

Madison Blackley, hailing from the United States, is a seasoned professional snowboarder and coach with over a decade of experience. Renowned for her expertise in both urban and backcountry snowboarding, Madison has been nominated for Rookie of the Year and Video Part of the Year, accolades that have significantly fueled her passion for documenting her seasonal adventures. Beyond her athletic prowess, Madison is a staunch advocate for sustainability. She actively seeks to reduce the environmental impact of her outdoor activities and is committed to raising awareness about ecological issues.