Words :: Taylor Godber. Photos :: CK9 Studios.
Pemberton local Tatum Monod hardly needs an introduction in British Columbia’s Sea-to-Sky Corridor. She is known for prolific skiing parts that continue to contribute to the evolution of women’s freeskiing, for numerous prestigious ski industry awards, and for her signature, powerful-yet-graceful style.
When she isn’t breaking trail in the backcountry on her sled to bag new objectives, she can be found baking up a storm, fly-fishing for trout, and hanging with friends and her pup Burley.
I caught up with Tatum, and her radiant smile, between a day of sunny laps on Whistler Blackcomb (March 2021) and packing her bags to head out for a team trip to Mica Heli, to see how this winter has been playing out and to talk about her film project.
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How did the baking go yesterday for your friend’s birthday? What did you end up making?
A triple-decker, double-chocolate butter-cream frosting cake. My friend MP [Préfontaine] had randomly popped over with flowers, which was so nice, and I ended up putting a few of those on top and then some berries. Baking is therapeutic for me. Having the chance to dedicate the afternoon to it, to fully get immersed in it, is so calming and relaxing.
How was the skiing up on the mountain today?
It was really busy up there, a bit of a challenge to get into the flow, but the snow was really nice and it was sunny. All in all, it was great. My head felt pretty good too. I saw my physio after, that’s been helping a lot.
What’s going on with your head?
I’ve been healing a head injury from a good old knee-to-face about a month ago while filming up in Nelson. It’s been a slow recovery. I’ve been pretty much at home resting since it happened. It’s been tough, because all I want to be doing this time of year is getting after it. It has been a huge challenge of patience, mentally, emotionally and physically, but I’m seeing some positive gains. A big up for my psyche and I’m leaving day after tomorrow for a trip to Mica, which I’m looking forward to.
How’s it feel to be able to spend so much time at home in Pemberton this winter?
Really nice. We are so fortunate that we live where we do with a backyard that offers so much space and freedom to move around. We haven’t really had the full effects (as you know) that a lot of people have felt with COVID and a lockdown.
Any highlights from being able to roam freely on home turf this season?
Aside from crawling out of the depression that has accompanied my head injury, the highlight of the winter was summiting and shredding Sun God with you and MP. That was just such a wicked objective, a) something I have been dreaming about skiing for a while now, and b) just the fact that I got to do it with you girls.
There are so many pieces that need to come together for a big objective like that. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but the fact that we did it on our terms, got the sleds up there high, and got it in really good condition when it seemed like the rest of town had written off the snow with little precipitation a couple weeks leading up, it means a lot.
I feel like I am still glowing about that day and I think about it often. That’s just such a goal for me moving forward to be in the mountains with people I really feel connected with, I enjoy being out with, and I trust and feel safe with. It’s just so important that you are with a good crew and I really feel like I’ve found that. It’s so exciting.
It is exciting.
I mean going down the line with it. Knowing that I love Pemberton and who knows maybe I won’t live here forever, but I definitely don’t see myself anywhere else for the time being. The idea of a crew of badass women out shredding together, hopefully doing objectives like that for years to come and going home safe at the end of the day, that’s what’s special.
Watching you make the first pull up there on the sled, the technical side-hill then meandering through the pillows. I mean we had the intention of getting up there, but watching you bag it first tee was really impressive. It is personally so inspiring to spend time with other women like you in the mountains. Is it common for you to crew up with an all-woman crew?
I invited Michelle [Parker] and Elyse [Saugstad] last season to be a part of my project which was new and so fun. I just love that energy. You know what it’s like: It’s just so different. The experience was similar to our day out. Seeing other women move with confidence gives way for us to also move in that way—we feed off of each other’s success. When women actually crew up and get out together, I believe that’s where we begin to see substantial progression in the sport. It’s a positive rollerball effect of, “she can do it, I can do it. She did that, I’m gonna step it up and do that too.” It’s so fun!
How does it feel to be pouring all your energy into something?
It’s been really motivating to have this big-picture project in the works. I’m really fortunate to have sponsors backing my vision. Red Bull will be launching it on Red Bull TV this fall, while Arc’teryx, Yeti, Rossignol, Dragon, and Ski-Doo have also stepped up to support me on this. It takes a village! I am so grateful.
It’s a positive rollerball effect of, “she can do it, I can do it. She did that, I’m gonna step it up and do that too.”
The behind-the-scenes edit that just launched—the cinematography was really impressive.
I’ve been working with my dream-team, CK9 Studios—Simon Shave and Clay Mitchell. It’s been so fun to be out there capturing different sides of skiing, instead of the pressure to be constantly looking for the gnarliest stuff. Having the focus be on big-lines-only is a) not a sustainable way to film, and b) you need specific conditions for that. We have been able to go out on nice pow days and capture follow-cam frames that are super-intimate and really detailed and different—shots that I haven’t seen a lot of that really capture the feel and essence of skiing.
Tell us more about this project.
It’s a deep dive into my family’s history in the sport of skiing, starting with my grandfather who was a Swiss mountain guide in the ‘50s in Chamonix. My whole family were professional skiers, my uncles, my aunt, my dad; my mom and dad met skiing.
Skiing is in my blood and my DNA. It’s not so much a sport as it is a real lifestyle. Alongside that, [the film] incorporates friends and different chapters of my career and my life, and things I’ve had to overcome along the way.
Do you have any insightful words for younger skiers that have challenges ahead of them?
I would say, as hard as it might be to consider it in the moment: What are the good times without the bad? We need to experience one to appreciate the other. We build character from those lessons, from those difficult times where you just feel like you are never going to get outta there. It’s important to go through those lows, because without those there really are no highs.
Very insightful words, Tatum. You really are a huge inspiration and role model to so many women and men coming up in the sport. I wanna talk about the latest piece of fan mail you received—there was a line about pickles in there, I believe.
I keep this one close, because it inspires me. It is so adorable.
“I’m writing to you out of thousands of celebrities, because I think you are inspiring. Your accomplishments have inspired me that if I work hard, I can also achieve my dreams.” It is so down-to-earth. Her questions are what got me. For example: “If you weren’t a skier, what would you be?” What would I be? This 11-year-old had me deep in self-contemplation asking, Who am I? The second-to-last question was, “Do you like pickles?” I love pickles. [Laughs]. It was just so special and unexpected. It just really put things in perspective for me. Okay, this is why I do what I do.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do to inspire others. Just to hear how you are making an impact on the younger generation, male or female, is the best. It is the most rewarding thing to feel that you have encouraged someone not only to chase their dreams but to get outside.
I feel like we tend to lose that big-picture vision with what we do, because it is kind of a selfish and inward sport. You have all of the personal goals, but at the end of the day we need to remember that it is our job to inspire others. It feels good to receive a letter like that, to validate that I have had even a little bit of a positive impact.
I feel you have done much more than a ‘little bit.’ Once the winter season is all wrapped up, what are you most looking forward to?
Every spring when the season is over I go on a fishing/surfing trip. It’s a great way to celebrate the hard work I put into filming and let my body and mind take a break. I will be sticking close to home this spring and using my Sea-Doo to access a remote location where I can post up off-grid, do some surfing, fishing, and camping.
Keep your eyes open for Tatum’s film project, to be released this fall. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek.