Adventure Sports Journal | Winter 2013
Granite Peak opened on a bluebird day. A stream of powder-hungry skiers and riders hiked the boot pack to Squaw Valley’s highest point. Walking along the ridge, I passed a snowboarder who was eyeing a line that would send her off a cliff and into the apron at full speeds. I couldn’t see her face behind the goggles and gear. But then she laughed.
“Iris!” I said. I would know Iris Lazzareschi’s laugh anywhere—it starts deep and comes out like a contagious full-body giggle, lighting up her face. I caught a quick hug before she pushed off down the mountain, arcing her board confidently to the line she had mapped out. She went air born off the cliff, landed like a feather and disappeared into the trees below.
In the couple years since that powder day, Lazzareschi’s laugh and snowboarding have taken her across the globe to compete at the highest level on some of the world’s biggest mountains, from her hometown in Tahoe to Alaska and the Alps. Now, Lazzareschi is going into the Freeride World Tour, a big mountain competition reserved for only the best skiers and snowboarders, for her second year. And this time Lazzareschi has her eyes on nothing short of winning.
“My goal is really to just blow the whole competition out of the water,” Lazzareschi said, dead serious but still erupting in giggles.
Before entering the arena of steep mountains, Lazzareschi started competing in slopestyle events and rail jams when she was 16. She brings the creative elements she developed by jibbing off features and throwing 360s off park jumps to the Big Mountain comps. “Free riding is totally my creative outlet. You draw a line on the mountain,” Lazzareschi said. “It’s just like life. You’re given what you’re given. And you have to make the best out of it.”
Photo by Jason Abraham
The Freeride World Tour is different than any other competition Lazzareschi has done before, including the North Face Masters. The competition and the terrain are more serious. And she says it’s given her a different perspective on competing.
“I feel like everyone in the Freeride World Tour has that experienced edge,” she said. “It’s pretty even keeled. You have to be really creative to set youself apart.”
Last year, Lazzareschi sprained her ankle, an injury that haunted her through the entire season. But the injury motivated Lazzareschi to really take care of herself and get her joints strong over the summer.
Lazzareschi might be as passionate about her Paleo diet as she is snowboarding. She’s constantly aware of what she puts in her body and is often coming up with creative recipes like spinach pancakes.
“My diet is a huge part of preparing for the season,” she said. “I know if I take care of my body now, and find out what makes it tick, and what kind of food it likes and runs the best on, then I’ll be able to reach my best.”
Lazzareschi also credits her success to her faith and says that snowboarding comes second to her belief in God. If you run into her at a competition, it’s likely she might be saying her favorite verse (1 Timothy 1:7) out loud, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, power and self control.”
On this afternoon, I caught up with Lazzareschi between runs at Squaw Valley. Squaw is Lazzareschi’s home mountain, where she learned how to ski when she was five. She is now the sole female snowboarder on Squaw’s pro team, fulfilling a childhood dream and joining the ranks of legends Shane McConkey and Jeremy Jones. Earlier in the day, she reaped the benefits of being a professional snowboarder and was shredding fresh powder on KT-22, Squaw’s most infamous chairlift, AKA “The Mothership,” which was closed to the public.
“You could stomp anything and keep an edge. And the snow blows over your head,” Lazzareschi told me afterwards while we were riding up the Headwall chair. “It was just like a dream over there.”
She was about to say more, but her eyes focused on the distant wisps of snow blowing off the ridge. She paused and gazed at the shadows of silhouetted riders that seemed to dance in the clouds. Here in the mountains, snowboarding and in awe of the natural beauty, it was clear that Lazzareschi was in her element.