This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Transworld SNOWboarding and has been updated with photos and text. Subscribe here.
From Olympic gymnast to Olympic snowboarding judge, and now Director of Operations at Woodward Tahoe, Phoebe Mills has led a diverse life that molded her passion for shredding into an enduring profession.
Mills' path has been filled with many twists and turns. Her first taste of Olympic glory was in 1988 during the Seoul Games where, at 15-years-old, she earned bronze for her balance beam performance.
Seven years later, she went on her first snowboard trip to Vail, Colorado. Instantly hooked, she returned home and started a coaching job at the Okemo Mountain School in Ludlow, Vermont. From there, she began working with the USASA Junior National Team, coaching and guiding notable riders including Danny Kass and Hannah Teter.
Fast-forward to 2015, and Mills found herself again on the world's largest stage, but this time as the only American snowboard judge at the Sochi Olympics.
"Being a judge was a completely different experience than being a competitor at the Olympics," says Mills. "As a competitor you're focused on your own performance, so not a lot else matters. As a judge, you're keeping an overview of the whole field of riders and ranking round after round of competitions. As an athlete, I learned to ignore the judging completely and just worry about what I had control over, which was my performance. As a judge, the rankings and scores are just about the only things that matter. In the end, I guess both require mental endurance and toughness."
Though the mainstream media sensationalized many of the #SochiProblems, Mills offers her own perspective on the Games. "It was a rollercoaster with super long days of judging, but we saw firsthand all the amazing slopestyle riding and the crappy pipe conditions," she says. "I was definitely jealous of those with access to the rest of the mountain for shredding. We got one day to ride, and it was great."
Post-Olympic mayhem, Mills is in Tahoe where she's working towards improvements to Woodward. "We managed to keep snow on the ground for five weeks of summer camp after one of the worst winters on record," she says. "We made a lot of improvements to our skate parks and BMX dirt trails this spring, and we are planning some major renovations to the indoor facility as well."
The next time you find yourself at Woodward stomping a new trick, give thanks to Mills and her passion for making snowboarding that much more accessible.