TEAM FBC ATHLETE INTERVIEWS.
EPISODE 1, ANDREA BYRNE
Hey folks and welcome to the very first of our athlete interviews, with this first one featuring Fernie born and raised athlete Andrea ‘Dre’ Byrne!
Dre joined Team FBC in April of this year when we launched our first ever athlete team to coincide with the launch of our first low ABV beer Finish Line Hazy Pale with Lime.
Dre and I managed to catch up last week, finding some time in between her hectic sewing schedule for her side hustle All and Extra. As a young athlete in the skiing industry, Dre was great to talk to about how skiing has influenced her since she was young, her role models and what expectations she has for the upcoming winter, that for a lot of us, is going to look far from normal.
This was a wonderful conversation with a very inspiring young woman and I hope you enjoy it! – Niamh
FBC: Hey Dre, thanks for taking the time to chat to us today, I know your schedule for your business is super busy! As you’re one of two people that are Fernie born and raised on our team, I wondered what it was like having skiing a part of your life since day one and basically living at the ski hill?
Dre: So I was in the same house my whole life which my parents built on the ski hill, which is actually where they met, so skiing has definitely been in my life since day one and as a kid growing up in Fernie, skiing was definitely my outlet.
It was that one thing I could do as an independent. I could walk to the hill. My parents didn’t have to pick me up. I could ski home. So it just became that one thing that I could do on my own and I really fell in love with it from a young age.
Then growing up on the ski hill I had a lot of time to go skiing. My parents were huge advocates of the 30cm rule. If it snowed more than 30cms then the school bus couldn’t make it up the hill, so that meant we had the day off.
Probably the best part of growing up in Fernie was having the mountains on my back door, and now living on the Island I realize just how special that was. It was a really awesome place to grow up, and I definitely would consider raising a family there if that was something I did in my future. Probably the best views you could ask for!
FBC: It’s definitely something you notice living here. The young kids are just rippers, and seem to have this real zest for life, and a respect for the mountains and an interest in so many things; that’s what I’ve seen.
Dre: Definitely. It’s pretty special to come back now and see all that local talent, all these up-and-comers, and how many kids are involved in winter sports because it’s really awesome!
FBC: You’re a sponsored athlete, Salomon are one of your major sponsors and last year you were in France with them. What’s that journey been like and was it an active decision to follow that path? Did you know that you were talented enough to pursue skiing as a career or was it that you were always in this environment so it was always a possibility.
Dre: For me, from a really young age, my parents really wanted to emphasize the whole “work hard, play hard” attitude, so I did a lot for myself, and I still do. I’m spread thin a lot trying to make ends meet, trying to make everything happen.
From a young age I was on old gear that I’d bought with money that I made working at the local Save On Foods.
When I got on Fernie Freestyle – which actually came about from a grant that I was given to be on the team – I ended up being recognized as someone who had talent and one of my coaches, who was also a rep for Salomon, said “you know I could probably get you a deal on some new skis” and I was stoked. I’d been on my skis forever and they were the cheapest skis I could buy. So that’s kind of where it all began for me.
I started competing and doing really well in the Freeride World Tour qualifier events and the junior events. Then eventually Salomon offered me more, and now I’m here and I’m still growing on this path.
These days it’s a lot about creating a brand for yourself and self promotion is something that I’m still learning. As far as being a sponsored athlete, I have a lot of sponsors to thank and I’m really grateful, but it’s a lot about what you do for yourself too.
FBC: Yes for sure, you’ve got to be reaching out and looking for those opportunities. Not that I’m a sponsored athlete, but my opinion on it is that the worst someone can say is no, so you might as well shoot your shot right?
FBC: You’ve touched on this on your social media in the last few months – how do you find being a female professional athlete, specific to or regardless of the skiing industry?
Dre: As a female, for me it’s never been about being the best girl or being a good female skier, I just want to be a good skier, so the constant comparison between what men do and what women do is something that really frustrates me. For me, I really want more women to find their place in sport.
Especially in 2020 when gender equality and gender identification is such a topic, I think it’s something that is under a microscope right now. It’s been a moment where a lot of people in the skiing industry have started to put the industry under the same microscope, and acknowledge that there are problems here. It’s not exempt.
FBC: Yeah absolutely, exactly, known as an athlete regardless of your gender.
FBC: And for you, who do you look up to? Who do you think is really pushing the sport or pushing the industry forward?
Dre: One of my biggest mentors and go to people when I have any questions is Leah Evans. She’s a Kootenay kid as well, she grew up in Rossland, and she started Girls Do Ski which was a big instigator into my path of growth with Salmon because she’s also a Salmon athlete. She’s been a huge inspiration to me and also someone who has been trying to push for more equality in terms of gender in our sport, for providing women with greater opportunities. Leah is for sure someone I look up to and have always looked up to.
Emily Brydon was a Fernie ski racer and she has always been really supportive as well, through her foundation, the Emily Brydon Youth Foundation, in Fernie. She’s always been a pay-it-forward kind of person, so I’m really inspired by her as well.
FBC: Yeah for sure, representation is everything. It’s not that men aren’t inspiring, but if you see women doing it and you identify as a female that it’s just a big thing.
Dre: It becomes a relatable and tangible thing for sure.
FBC: What’s next for you? Obviously we’re coming into a likely challenging winter. What’s coming up for you as an athlete?
Dre: So this winter like you said it’s looking like it will be a challenging one with a lot of uncertainty around what it’s going to look like and what will happen. Obviously I know the Fernie mountain like the back of my hand, and my parents still live there, so it seems like the most responsible and safest option for me to be there, because otherwise I would be living on Vancouver Island and traveling to Whistler and sleeping in my van.
Number one for me is to be responsible and keep it local. I don’t want to be traveling back and forth from the Mainland to the Island. I will be working with Salomon on some projects, hopefully in Whistler, but we are all unsure about what that will look like.
Right now I’m really just focused on coming home and staying there for a couple of months, then when the weather is a bit nicer I’ll maybe do some van living in Whistler and try and be independent in terms of where I’m staying and who I’m working with.
Another big thing for me is just trying not to get ahead of myself as I’m finding there’s a lot of anxiety around this winter and trying to meet all the expectations of all the sponsors and all the brands. We all have a job to do and we all love skiing, but at the end of the day if our healthcare system gets too full, it’s not exactly responsible to be participating in an extreme sport and we all have to kind of take a step back and appreciate that this winter is going to be a different one. I’m just going to try and have fun! Ski as much as I can and live with mom and dad.
FBC: Having fun sounds like a great plan. I think if people remove some of their expectation, that might be the better way to have some fun this winter.
So we’ll just wrap it up with a few less serious questions. Firstly, new side or old side?
Dre: New side!
FBC: Favourite spot at Fernie?
Dre: Probably the Glades, so Cougar Glades, anything over there in the Fingers as well. Those are kind of my go-to’s.
FBC: Favourite FBC beer?
FBC: Favourite new skiing or snowboard movie or favourite part?
Dre: MSP’s Huck Yeah!
It features a lot of my friends that I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve competed alongside all those guys growing up so I was really stoked to see that MSP included them. The Blondes especially – those girls rip! They’re the most wild crew out there. I’ve worked with them in the past and it has been such a riot, so I’m stoked to see their progression and what they’re up to. Again, their part in that movie was so relatable for me so I loved it. It got me really fired up!
FBC: Lastly, if you’re not skiing Fernie where’s your favourite spot?
Dre: I love the coast – Sea-to-Sky is awesome. But I’ve got a big soft spot for the Kootenay’s. I really love Whitewater, Ymir, Kootenay Pass, all of those areas in there are really great, and it’s mostly just the people that make it so fun too. Having competed for so long, I feel like I have such a big network in the ski community, and a lot of those people are from Nelson, so I just love that area. It’s such a little honeypot.
FBC: Well thanks for sitting down with us, I really appreciate it and thanks again for taking on the mask order for our Tasting Room team.
Dre: Thank you, I was going to say you’re lucky you didn’t hear the sputtering of my sewing machine in the background as I took a little break here.