Leading Ladies, part 1: Anna Segal

In 2009, a rodeo 3 on the final jump sealed Anna Segal's victory at the inaugural Winter X women's ski slopestyle. Nearly two years later, she's still one of only a few female competitors with inverted aerials in her repertoire. Erik Seo

Anna Segal is one of a growing number of Australian and Kiwi skiers who are players in the major contest season of the northern hemisphere. With a win at the inaugural Winter X women's slopestyle in 2009, and a rash of major podium finishes before and since, she's a major player at that. After following the northern winter through its course, this 24-year-old Melbourne native jets home to take university courses and keep on skiing. Currently on crutches after a broken ankle, Segal has finally slowed down enough to catch her for a quick interview.

ESPN: You're stuck on the couch with a broken ankle. Bummer. What happened?
I was doing a fun event in Australia called the Ripcurl Freeride Pro. It's a mini big-mountain comp with some manmade features in the course. As an additional event they had a rail jam the following night. There was a big gap to down box and I was pushing myself a little to do a trick that I wasn't totally comfortable with. I came off of the rail early and my ski got stuck in the slush. It didn't release — twist, crack, snap and there we go. Torn ligament and a spiral fracture in my fibula.

What does this injury mean for the upcoming competition season in the northern hemisphere? Do you have enough recovery time?
It actually came at the best time possible. I had a bunch of uni work piling up and my body was pretty worn out from skiing for the last seven months. So I had decided [before the injury] that it was going to be my last day skiing before the northern season. It should be good for the start of December. The hardest thing will be getting my muscle mass back — right now it looks like I have a chicken leg.

What rehab regimen do you have ahead of you?
The first few weeks are going to be slow and steady — leg raises, bike and pool. Then I'll have a solid two months in the gym pumping iron. Woohoo! My favorite pastime.

If this keeps you out of Winter X slope, it would be the second year in a row that injury has sidelined you at that contest since you won it in 2009. What happened in 2010?

Last year it was really hard to watch everyone else competing while I sat on the sidelines. I tore my MCL two weeks before Winter X on a bag jump. But there's no way that my ankle will keep me out of Winter X again. I'll make sure of that.

I've been reading your blog, and it looks like your broken ankle was not your only negative experience at RipCurl's event this August. Care to comment on the other?
Oh, you want to open that can of worms [laughs]? Okay. As in many freeski competitions, there was an obvious inequality in prize money, exposure and acclaim at the Ripcurl event. The event was massively publicized in Australia, but there was almost zero content concerning the female competitors. The female consumer holds as much, if not more buying power than their male counterparts. Why is it then that the snowsports industry refuses to market female athletes to female buyers? Each season I learn more and more about the ski industry but this is one issue that continues to baffle me. Action sports such as freeskiing do tend to attract more males than females. However girls love to spend money! I feel that there is a huge, untapped market in the younger generation of female skiers. The best way to reach them is to create idols out of star female athletes, just as has happened with male skiers. Professional female skiers are sponsored to sell product to other females and I think this is something that men in our industry forget.

There's a huge, untapped market in the younger generation of female skiers. The best way to reach them is to create idols out of star female athletes, just as has happened with male skiers.

--Anna Segal

Despite the fact that women lag behind men in prize money and recognition (except for at Winter X, thank you very much), the women's slopestyle field has taken some big strides in the last few years. What, and who, have you seen that has most impressed you most since you started?
The girls I ski with impress me every day. Everyone has their own strengths. Kim Lamarre, Kaya Turski and Ash Battersby slaying rails. Keri Herman's stylie grabs. Megan Gunning's off axis spins, Jen Hudak's huge amplitude in the pipe and Dania Assaly's ability to kill it in both slope and pipe events. I was also really impressed with Jessica Warll stomping a solid double flat three in Whistler this year. That was ridiculous and a first for women's freeskiing.

Where do you see the level of women's slopestyle skiing rising to this winter? In, say, five winters?
I feel that this past season women's slope skiing really took off. Both in and out of competition I saw unknown girls spinning onto downbars, throwing corked sevens, switch sevens, switch backflips and of course Jessica Warll's double. The level of competition is definitely getting fierce and scoring a podium won't be easy. I really hope that the field size in competition increases. But for this to happen, there needs to be the opportunity for us to compete. Winter X women's ski slopestyle only takes 10 girls, and last season the event wasn't even included in the Winter Dew Tour. There are plenty of girls ready to throw down in competition, but they need opportunity to do this.

If you had the opportunity to say something nice at the end of an interview, what would you say?
I never get tired of thanking the people who support me. Thanks to my sponsors Sweet Protection, K2, Bolle, Tecnica, Breckenridge and Pow Gloves. Plus Elana Chase, my family and all the girls and guys who I ski with.