Spencer O'Brien

Sport

Snowboard

Hometown

Whistler BC/Alert Bay BC

Hometown

Whistler BC/Alert Bay BC

Sport

Snowboard

For most of her life, from the time she first began to snowboard at 11, Spencer O’Brien wanted her riding to speak for itself. It was too hard to put words to other things. Like, what it’s like to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the lead-up to the 2014 Olympics and not know if your athletic career is over. Or what it’s like to blow your ACL 10 days before you’re going to the 2018 Olympics, after you’ve been competing and training and building up to that moment for 10 years. Or what it’s like to be an Indigenous woman, disconnected from your ancestral culture, language and territory, because a 150-year strategy of colonisation and genocide had been designed to achieve that end. Snowboarding, on the other hand, was a welcome refuge, an activity where she could feel fully expressed, in a community in which she was a two-time Olympian, five-times X Game medallist, and a two-time world champion slopestyle athlete. Hanging up the bib and stepping before a camera, for the feature film Precious Leader Woman, as she shifted from competing to backcountry riding and filming in 2020, catalysed a level of reflection she hadn’t anticipated – one which wove all the threads of her story together, and anointed her not just as a valued member of the snowboard community, but as beloved of her ancestors and lifted up by her culture, and as inspired to ride as ever.

Achievements

  • 2022 ‘Ma̱lx̱tłu’g̱a – Mountain Goat
  • 2021 Precious Leader Woman, Audience Choice Award at Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, Honorable Mention for Best Mountain Culture Film and the Best Directors Award Whistler Film Festival
  • 2018 Olympian – Slopestyle and Big Air 
  • 2016 X Games Aspen Gold Medalist – Slopestyle
  • 2015 first woman to land a Backside 900 in an X Games competition
  • 2014 X Games Aspen Bronze Medalist – Slopestyle
  • 2014 Olympian – Slopestyle 
  • 2013 US Open Champion – Slopestyle
  • 2013 FIS World Championship Gold Medalist – Slopestyle
  • 2012 TTR World Championships Gold Medalist – Slopestyle
  • 2008 Transworld’s Rookie of the Year