Megan Oldham already had multiple X Games and World Championship medals, but she truly went stratospheric when she joined Bobby Brown and Henrik Harlaut in the ‘Triples Hall of Fame’ when she was the first woman ever to land one at X Games Aspen 2023. The ground-breaker managed to squeeze in a conversation before this Spring’s end of season events.
HOMETOWN: Parry Sound, Ontario. Canada
HOME RESORT: MOUNT ST LOUIS MOONSTONE
SPONSORS: Monster Energy, Roxy, Atomic, Giro
Hi Megan. Let’s get straight into it: you made history at X Games Aspen 2023. How did it feel when you became the first woman ever to land a triple?
For me, it was such a crazy mix of emotions. Obviously, I was so happy because it was such a big achievement for me, but one of the biggest emotions was just relief. I had put so much pressure on myself because I had been really building up to it. I spent a lot of time before X Games focusing on that trick because in my head I thought ‘I’m going there to do that thing.’ So I put a lot of pressure on myself, just to prove myself and just make sure that all the hard work paid off. Also, with sponsors, you tell them that you’re working on something and you want to follow through and prove to them. When I actually landed it, it was so much relief ‘Oh my gosh. All that hard work actually paid off!’ I was just so happy to see it come around.
You said you were working on it, so how many times had you landed a triple in training?
It’s actually kind of crazy because I had never actually done it on snow. The first one you guys saw at X Games is the first one I ever attempted on snow.
So how had you been training?
I went to Australia, right after Christmas, I spend two and a half weeks there. I just did rep after rep on an airbag. Dub 10s, some progressions and then the trip 14. Just a lot of airbag training and I had done some tramp stuff, but never on snow.
On the night, Jen Hudak, in the commentary, kept talking about you journaling as a kid and how you had wanted to push women’s freeskiing to the next level. You obviously achieved that, but can you tell us the story of that journal?
It’s actually kind of funny because I went to Momentum Camp — a snowcamp in Whistler— and that was like the first year that I really got into skiing. They do this girls’ week, based around Sarah Burke [Canadian freeski icon who passed in 2012]. They base the whole week around her and we had one workshop where we had to make a ski journal and write all of our goals, where we see ourselves in the sport. One of the things that I wrote down as my goal, was to be the first woman to do a triple on snow. Back then I think it was just a wild dream. This summer I found my journal and I saw that, I was like ‘Wow this could be a cool opportunity to make that a reality’.
I rewatched it yesterday and you made it really good for TV, getting it on your third attempt. That must have really ramped up the pressure!
It’s so funny, everybody says that, and in my head, it makes sense. When I was at the top before my third jump, I was thinking I just wish I’d already landed it. It’s such a scary thing to do and you feel the pressure building because you only have five runs, so if I don’t get it on my third, how will I get my other jump in? I’m happy I got it on my third, for sure!
The fact that your ‘safety’ trick was a double 12, just shows how crazy the progression is in women’s freeskiing right now. What was the reaction from the other riders on the night?
I think everybody was a little bit shocked. I tried to keep it kind of low-key that I was working on it. I didn’t want to feel so much external pressure at X Games, so I kept it between my coaches, my team and me. I think word kind of got out though because if you’re not at the comp people start wondering where you are. I think they all had an idea that I was working on a trick and I think that some of them knew it was a triple, but I think everybody thought I was going to do the switch triple, instead of forward. I think everybody was really shocked and obviously they were so supportive. The girls, every time somebody does something new or a personal best everybody’s behind you and cheering for you. It’s such a cool community.
So, you had the ‘relief’ of getting the triple, the perfect 50 and a gold medal in big air, but you still had slopestyle. Could you relax and really celebrate the history you made or were you focused on slope?
I was definitely focused on slopestyle, but it really helped me to have the momentum coming off big air. That was really my personal goal going into X Games, I didn’t really care if I podiumed, and I don’t really care what happened, I just wanted to be the first woman to land that trick.
To have that work out, I thought that I had a lot of support behind me, excitement and just overall joy of skiing at that moment. I was really able to relax, enjoy slopestyle and just ski without the pressure or nerves. I think that really helped.
Megan is inspiring the next generation, going back to Momentum Camp, where she first dreamt of triples.
You won that too! But you already an X Games gold from big air in Norway in 2020, when you became the first Canadian woman to take an X Games gold, that must have made you so proud. What did that one mean to you?
Winning X Games Norway meant a lot to me. It felt like one of my most rewarding podiums because it was my first X Games medal and also because I battled a lot that day to land my tricks. I remember falling almost every jump in training before the comp. I was really nervous but was so proud of myself for pushing through. Definitely one of the happiest moments of my career
After your X Games double, you went to the World Championships and won Slopestyle Silver and Big Air Bronze. Now Tignes, then Infinite Lines, is that it?
After Tignes we actually have to go to Switzerland, for the World Cup in Silvaplana and that’s the last World Cup of the year. That’s the last competition for us.
Do you think the double gold and the triple, while they may have lifted the pressure this year, will it add pressure next year? Will you think you’ve done it, or will you strive to make sure no one catches you?
I think at first it takes the pressure off, but going into next year, I’m still super hungry to keep that progression going. I think that’s a big part of the sport; keeping your drive and wanting to do more. That’s what really keeps the progression going. I’m definitely hungry to do better and I think next year there will be a bit of pressure, especially from the media saying, ‘Megan did this last year, so we should be expecting this or that.’
I’m just going to do my best to ski my best and see how it goes.
After a huge winter, are you going on holiday or something this summer?
That’s the crazy thing, the events just pile up and you don’t really see it coming. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got these back-to-back events. I’ve got World Cups, Red Bull Infinite Lines [Of course Megan went and won Infinite Lines.] and then I’ve got a brand shooting with one of my sponsors and I’m staying in Europe to go the Nines. After all that wraps up, I’ll definitely go home and spend some time with my friends and family. I don’t have any vacation planned, but maybe. We’ll see.
You have seven X Games medals, three World Championships medals, and world firsts. What do you still want to achieve in skiing?
Going forward, I’m just trying to keep my progression going in the same direction and pace. Learning new jump tricks every year, as you said, a dub 12 that used to win a comp is now just enough to make qualification. I’ll just keep working on new tricks, also trying to up my rail game because I feel that’s started to fall behind the last few years when I’ve been focused on learning new tricks. For me, a big one would be the next Olympics. I’m really hoping to prepare for and go to Cortina, feeling really happy with my skiing and in a good place.
The Olympics can be a bit divisive in freeskiing some (usually older) pros are maybe a bit dismissive of them and saying how the X Games will always mean more, but for you, the Olympics is a massive goal?
I still think the Olympics is a pretty massive thing, I think it’s cool because it’s such a unique event that doesn’t happen so often. I do agree that there’s more to skiing than just the Olympics. I’m excited to dive into a bunch of different areas of skiing, besides just the competitive stuff. Right now, I just want to keep competing and go to the next Olympics.
Is one of those areas filming?
I really want to; I think I’ll probably dabble into a bit of that next season. I’d love to do a bit of street stuff and backcountry stuff. It just gets to be super hard to find the time to get good at all of them when you’re always on the road, doing other stuff. I just need to set some time aside to really explore those.
I obviously don’t know first-hand, but it seems that since the Olympics, FIS, etc. the focus and maybe ‘professionalism’ has increased so much. You’re young so maybe don’t know differently, but I’d imagine it’s harder to balance the filming and competing and whatever else?
Totally. It’s almost like the sport’s at a point where, if you’re not putting in the same amount of time as everybody else then you start to fall behind. At this point, athletes are putting basically their entire seasons into competing and being at that level. It’s hard to step away and do other stuff because then you do feel like you fall behind everybody else.
Do you think with that focus, as well as that progression we talked about, it’ll be long before we see other girls landing triples?
I feel like it’s really hard to know what’s going to happen. I definitely think, now that it’s been done, it really opens the door. If one person does something, people start to think about the same trick. We saw that with Tess’s 16, when she learned that it was so crazy, then the next year Mathilde’s doing it, Kirsty’s doing it and three or four other girls are doing the same trick. I think it does open that door, but I do think the next few years might be a bit quiet in terms of that. Before the Olympics, I think it’ll ramp up and I wouldn’t be surprised if another girl tries it.
Well, you have your place in the history books! Do you ever ride with some of the guys?
Yeah, well whenever we’re travelling, we’ve got the Canadian boys that we ride with a lot, like Max [Moffatt], Evan [McEachren], Teal [Harle] all those guys, who I ride with a lot. For sure the entire community is super close, so everybody just rides together, like when we’re in Europe at different comps or just in training. We all just laugh with each other and I definitely get to know everyone on the circuit really well.
The Beijing 2022 Big Air, where Megan finished a frustrating 4th.
Does riding with the guys help? Does that push you to go harder?
100%, I think being surrounded by guys who have so much expertise in the sport, really helps to push you. I’d say that the boys on my team are almost like coaches as well. They’re like; ‘Hey Meg, I know when I did this trick this helped me’ or whatever, because they know the feeling. For me, I also grew up with an older brother and that was the same thing; ‘I did this, you should try that.’ It’s really cool to have boys to kind of push you.
Let’s just finish off with how you got started! I guess as a Canadian kid you were probably on skis pretty young?
Well, where I grew up, Ontario, is actually super flat, so we’re not really known for the mountains. We have one really small hill which is where I skied, but it’s mostly park. My mom used to live out west, in BC, so we would always go on family trips to a bunch of ski resorts. I just did a lot of all mountain skiing as a kid. I also grew up doing gymnastics and figure skating, which I think really led into me becoming a freestyle skier, because when I already had a really good air awareness form gymnastics and I knew how to rotate from figure skating and obviously balancing. As I transitioned into park, I really progressed really fast because I already had the basics. I basically started though because my brother, Bruce, had gotten into a local freestyle team and he just pestered me every single day of the year, saying ‘Megan you should try skiing, you would really like it. Come with me to the rail jam.’ At some point I just said ‘fine, I’ll try it.’ I did a test day and after that one day I said ‘ok I want to quit my other sports!’
Megan has no shortage of inspiration from the Canadian team.