In an ever deeper and increasingly talented field of female freeskiers, Giulia Tanno has been steadily cementing herself as a force to be reckoned with on the Dew Tour, in the XGames, and potentially, in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Giulia has been at the forefront of breaking ceilings in the women’s freeski world, including a series of 1080 variations that landed her on the podium in XGames Big Air events. The real “X” factor for Giulia is her perseverance in the face of adversity.
A new docuseries from Faction Skis titled The Journey, documents Giulia’s comeback from a severely broken arm, which she sustained during a training run in Aspen ahead of XGames 2020. The break, which required 13 screws and one metal plate, took four hours because of a pinched nerve. We caught up with Giulia ahead of the drop of The Journey’s second episode to get some insight from Giulia on how she decided to pursue the creation of this project, how she’s been working behind the scenes to prepare herself for the 2021-22 competition season and, most importantly, her plans to compete in the Freeski Big Air event in the Winter Olympics next February.
THE SUMMER SO FAR
Taking some time in the midst of training camp to hop on a video call with the Spyder team, Giulia shared that she hasn’t been able to do any park skiing since her crash at the end of January, but, fortunately, that’s about to change. In the absence of skiing so far this summer, Giulia--like many skiers--has been getting on her mountain bike to get her legs in shape as well as help to scratch the itch of cruising down a mountain with speed.
“We’re back on snow at the end of August”, said Giulia, “and next week will be my first time back on a jump doing tricks with an airbag.” “I’m a bit nervous about getting back to hitting jumps, but the airbag’s elimination of consequences is super helpful to [the progression of] getting back.”
With Giulia’s talk about taking concrete steps to returning to full form, we couldn’t help but inquire more about the creative process behind The Journey. “When I broke my arm and was in the hospital for a couple days, I thought it would be sick to get something out of it at the very least. I’ve always found documentaries super interesting… like the movie from [pro snowboarder] Mark McMorris I found super interesting and inspiring”, said Giulia. “Given that I missed the last Olympics with the exact same injury as now on the other arm, I thought maybe I could do something that’s leading up to the upcoming Olympics.”
The second installment of the docuseries, which is available to watch now on YouTube, is all about the rehab process. “It’s mainly about how I deal with injuries, what I’m doing in the gym, physical therapy, and it wraps up around my last doctor’s appointment”, says Giulia, who is no stranger to gruesome injuries like her most recent broken arm. “I’ve even been asking myself a bit how you keep going when stuff like this happens? I’ve been lucky to just have bone breaks, which heal up pretty fast and don’t have lasting effects longer-term.”
Ultimately, in talking to Tanno, it becomes clear that her mental strength is truly her greatest asset when it comes to her success in a women’s freeski field that has progressed leaps and bounds in just the last three years. “If you get into freeskiing you probably know that injuries are going to be something you have to deal with, but if you really just take it day by day and appreciate the small steps forward, then you can appreciate the progress you’re making. Then, if you look back on even just a week’s worth of work, the improvement really becomes clear and you feel like you’re really making progress. In the end, let your body heal or the chance of another injury happening prematurely will set you back even further.”
For someone who has been through the wringer with injuries, one might wonder how she keeps clicking back into her bindings, and pushing her skiing even further. Her answer? “I think you kind of have to just forget about it or else you wouldn’t be able to keep doing the things that caused it. Plus, I just love skiing too much to feel like I can just stop.”
Without giving too much away about the future of The Journey, Giulia gave us a little bit of insider information; telling us, “the sixth (and final) episode will hopefully be after the Olympics, but that’s why we are calling it ‘The Journey’, because we don’t even know exactly how the rest of the series is going to plan out and it’s going to be dependent on how the season plays out for me.”
An idea born from hospital room boredom has morphed into a creative journey which Giulia has been able to play an integral part in making come to fruition. And, as an ongoing documentation of her pursuit of a return to the Olympics, future episodes of The Journey have yet to be written. While some athletes might see the uncertainty of potentially documenting failure as daunting, Giulia remains excited about the project.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR GIULIA?
“Throughout this injury, I felt a bit distant from skiing due to how long the recovery was taking, and I started to doubt how much I was looking forward to returning to skiing. But, as the season’s gotten closer, I’ve started to get super excited again. There might be a competition literally 20 minutes from my house, so all of my friends would be there. It’ll be fun to compete again after having only competed in two events last year. I’m unsure as to whether I’ll return to XGames [in 2021] because it’s right before Olympic training and I have some difficult memories from XGames, so I’ll have to talk to my team about what makes the most sense.”
Giulia’s athleticism had already put her in the top tier of female freeskiers, but her raw excitement to progress and her unrelenting positivity in coming back from one setback after another gives her the necessary tools to become truly great. All of us at Spyder, at least, can’t wait to watch it happen as spectators and behind the scenes in the future episodes of The Journey.