For once, Burton Team rider Kimmy Fasani was in unfamiliar territory.
She was three months pregnant, and it was time to tell her sponsors. She wondered how they would take the news, if they would be supportive, and who she could count on as her plans for next season began to change. For someone who has lived out her wildest dreams in far off places like Alaska and Japan, this was an entirely new challenge. Pro riders have been here before, of course, but many choose to retire from a career in snowboarding. Not Kimmy. Fearless as always, she's made her decision to continue snowboarding and relentlessly pursue both her passion and growing her family.
Kimmy took some time to answer our questions about her experience so far, her future aspirations, and what effect she hopes to have on others by sharing her own story.
When you were first pursuing a career in snowboarding, did you think that choice to follow your passion was going to exclude you from starting a family? Or did you always know that you’d pursue starting a family no matter what you were doing for a living, and when it came time, you’d figure it out?
When I started my career as a snowboarder, there were a few women who chose to retire and then start a family. Therefore, I thought that in order to have a family, as a professional female snowboarder, I would have to retire to do so as well. I always knew I wanted to have a child but I wasn’t sure how it would work with my career or where my mind would be when I got to that stage. I have not been in a rush to start a family because I wanted to make sure I could dedicate time to being a mom, and not feel like I was missing out on what I wanted to do, but now that I am pregnant I am so excited for the timing. Who knows where my mind will be once I have my baby, but I love being pregnant, and my body still loves to snowboard and move and I can only imagine my body will love it the same when my baby arrives. However, I’ll be able to share my love for the mountains and snowboarding with my little one, which seems pretty magical. It’s awesome to be living through this experience with the support of my sponsors.
Jake and Donna have made it a point over the last decade here at Burton to ensure our own workplace is welcoming and supportive of women and families. Were you initially afraid that that type of atmosphere wouldn’t also extend to our team riders? What was your first conversation with Donna like, and how have your conversations progressed since then? What has surprised you the most?
What Jake and Donna have done over the last 10 years to support families and women in the workplace has been incredible, and yes, because I was a team rider I was unsure how that support would cross over. My job description is way different than a woman who works in the office, and as a professional athlete my passion is to snowboard and progress my skills and the sport. Therefore, I had no idea how it was going to be logical for a brand like Burton to continue their relationship with me, but I hoped they would see the added value that this experience could bring to the brand. When I called Donna in September 2017, I was around 13 weeks pregnant, just ending my first trimester, and just starting to tell our family and friends. Initially I was really nervous but as soon as the words came out of my mouth that I was pregnant, she was so excited and happy for us! She made it clear that she would support me through my pregnancy and that she would continue to work closely with me through this.
That conversation was the biggest relief for me. Because I had already decided that just because I was pregnant I didn’t need to retire… and having Donna agree was so encouraging! I quickly realized that I was going to be able to continue being myself, sharing my journey, adventures, and lifestyle, without feeling limited. Our conversations since then have continued to be groundbreaking. I believe that this is the first time in snowboarding a brand and rider have chosen to continue the relationship as the rider transitions to a rider and mom. Honestly, what has surprised me the most is that I made up assumptions that my sponsors were not going to support me through my pregnancy, because I hadn’t seen them do it for other riders. When in reality, all of my sponsors immediately agreed to stick with me through this and that’s making such a positive impact for me and other women, who want to start families while remaining in sports.
I am also very surprised by the positive interaction I am getting from social media; other women, moms, men, families, and other brands, who are reaching out to share their stories of raising little ones in snowboarding. I think the more we share our personal and authentic stories, as athletes, the more we can tap into a more diverse audience while continuing to share how snowboarding and the mountains connects us all and our families.
What was it like watching your husband, Chris, as a professional skier, go through one side of those conversations and did you feel like you were preparing for a different conversation because you are a female?
The whole process has been such a learning curve for both of us. He was nervous to tell his sponsors because I’m due March 10th, so he can’t be too far from home this season, which limits his ability to do a normal routine for filming. However, all of his sponsors were super supportive and excited for us, and together they came up with a plan to do most of his sponsor obligations around Mammoth so he doesn’t have to travel a lot after the middle of January 2018. It’s also a lot different for guys because it’s not their bodies that are changing and will need the recovery time like I will need, even though he’ll still be exhausted while we welcome a newborn to the world, Chris can still do everything he has done each season. However, I had to prepare myself for totally different conversations with my sponsors because I am carrying a child and have limitations based on how I am feeling, how far along I am, and then after giving birth I will need time to recover and adjust before I can start traveling and snowboarding again. Therefore, I came up with other ideas that would help me and the brands I am aligned with share this experience outwardly, to show that we can still have a value as a rider even if I’m not on snow through my whole season.
How has being pregnant for the last several months impacted your lifestyle (or not?) What do you think the misconceptions are around what pregnant women can and can’t do, and what do you think the value is of showing other women (and men) how you’re staying active?
I have been very lucky to have a relatively easy pregnancy so far. I never had morning sickness, and I’ve been able to remain fairly active up until now at 7.5 months. My husband and I spent this summer rock climbing, and I still feel comfortable climbing easier grades in a full body harness. I also ran until about 4.5 months, and have been able to snowboard, hike, and do yoga currently. I think the biggest misconception about being pregnant is that you have to give up your lifestyle and activities. But in my opinion, it all depends on your individual body, and each body and pregnancy is so different you can’t judge one person against another. Each woman and couple can evaluate what’s right for them and can discuss what’s best with their doctor. I believe showing other women and men what I am doing just helps people think outside of the box. Pregnancy should be celebrated and our bodies should be able to move and stay active as long as the woman feels comfortable doing so. The movement gives me energy and keeps me happy. Being happy is so important in order to have a healthy pregnancy.
People can be quick to judge that I am doing things that are risky or dangerous for me and the baby, however, these people are simply uncomfortable or afraid of the activities themselves, and I don’t carry those same fears. So it’s really not fair for people to pour their judgment out on me, because of course I am not going to do anything to jeopardize or endanger my baby. I’m adjusting my activity level based off how I am feeling, and now that I am in my third trimester, I am slowing down and making more time to rest between activities because that’s what my body is asking me to do. Listening to my body is how I know what I am capable of and having this relationship with my intuition is what’s made me the snowboarder that I am as well.
What message do you have for brands who are supporting female athletes? Do you believe seeing brands supporting their athletes through pregnancy can reach a growing base of conscious consumers?
For me as a consumer and an athlete, I really connect to brands more when they have and promote female athletes. I love seeing all the tough and determined women athletes out there pushing themselves and I enjoy reading their stories of what has made them who they are, or how they have pushed themselves to their highest limit. I believe that the more we see brands supporting their athletes through pregnancy the wider that audience will become. For example, as a pregnant athlete, I am becoming more aware and connecting to other like minded moms and athletes. It’s nice to see women out there, staying active, and passionate about what they are doing, throughout pregnancy and into motherhood. I can only imagine that if I find comfort and support in seeing this, there must be so many women and families out there hoping to get back into snowboarding and into the mountains. The more we show moms and families that we are thinking of them, and want them to participate with us, the more our conscious consumer will grow.
How do you see content you’ve created as an athlete influencing the next generation? Do you see both “action” and “attainability” working together, and if so, how? If not, why?
I hope the next generation can look at my riding as a stepping stone for them. Maybe it will help upcoming riders push themselves by seeing me push myself in more aggressive terrain, like Alaska. I also hope that some of the more playful content helps inspire consumers to get those feel good moments on the hill. Personally, I am most passionate about riding big mountain lines in Alaska or hitting back country jumps because that’s where I am the most progressive and where I learn and grow the most as a snowboarder. However, I also love deep powder days at Mammoth Mountain, or riding the terrain park on a sunny day. I think there can be a great balance of action and attainability; showing the big mountain lines and big back country jumps can be aspirational and inspiring, where showing the deep pow turns and playful terrain around resorts is easy for people to relate to, which makes it attainable. And as a woman, I think it’s important to showcase that balance in a way that still makes women aspirational as well as attainable.
"I believe that the more we see brands supporting their athletes through pregnancy the wider that audience will become."
You’ve shared in a few recent interviews the passing of your mother earlier this year and how it’s affected you. You’ve said that she was one of your biggest supporters, and raising you as a single mom has helped shape you into the person you were today. How do you think you’ll ensure her legacy will live on in your growing family?
My mom was superwoman! She made my life and passions possible because of her selfless dedication to being a present and supportive mom who loved me unconditionally. My mom taught me so many valuable lessons and I will most certainly pass those on to my child. But the thing that I will really try to remember is that this child has a purpose and passions that will most likely be different than my own. I want to give my child the opportunity to be whoever it wants to be. I want to show my child all that the world has to offer so and hopefully that will lead the little one towards a passion-filled life where they are happy and doing what they love.
What changes to the industry are you hoping you’ll be able to make, and how are you hoping to make them?
I am just hoping to shine a light on female athletes and our collective ability to remain “athletes” while we transition into moms (if we want to). My hope is that by sharing my experiences publicly it will help other women and brands understand that this can be an option and we shouldn’t have to feel like we need to walk away from our careers to do so.
What are you most excited about when you think about the future? What fears you do have?
I am really excited for this new chapter to unfold. I know Chris and I will learn so much through the process of raising a little one and I am looking forward to finding out if our baby is a girl or boy (we are waiting until birth to find out). I am also looking forward to how this child will reshape our lives. However, I try to live a pretty present life, so I try not to get anxious or look too far ahead. Life happens fast, so if we spend time thinking too much about the future or fears, we are cluttering our current present moment. And currently, I am happy and fearless!
And finally – skier or snowboarder?
The baby will have the opportunity to do both, so we will have to wait and see which one it likes better. I’ll be pushing it around on a snowboard as soon as possible though.