The Rise of Rude Girls
Abby Furrer has been busy this year. It's debatable if she's had any downtime at all, but the hectic pace of her winter seems to suit her well. Abby lives in Banff, the iconic mountain town nestled amidst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies just outside of Calgary. She spends much of her time managing Rude Girls, the women's-specific snow and skate shop that is the sister store to Rude Boys--both are Banff institutions in their own right--where Abby handles all the day-to-day machinations of the store. It's a role in which she wears many hats (though most recently, a real sharp Rude Girls five-panel), spending time on the floor, selecting the merchandise offered, and managing the Rude Girls crew–always fostering the same welcoming vibe she imbues to shop visitors among her staff, team riders, and Bow Valley community. This past season, the Rude Girls Ride Days, on hill gatherings open to boarding females of all ages that Abby catalyzed, exploded in popularity, prompting monthly events, unique snowboard brand sponsors at each iteration, and wait-lists of riders stoked to shred with the RG crew. It was a full-on Rude Girls takeover of winter 2018.
After exchanging a flurry of Instagram DMs and emails, I finally got to meet Abby in late April. We met up at Sunshine Village and despite the end-of-season timing and how packed her winter has been, she did not look tired. She was smiling, riding with a squad of Rude Girls. They stopped taking park laps to meet up with our small posse of visiting Americans and quickly offered a tour of the mountain. The sky was bright blue and sunny, the air just a little crisp--a perfect spring day at Sunshine. We followed Abby and crew, zigzagging across the fall line from side hit to side hit. At the end of the day, we headed to Magpie & Stump, a Mexican spot next to the shop, for margaritas. Abby's energy was effusive as she talked about the growing sense of community in Banff and how its confidence-building comraderie has affected her riding, personally. She's dedicated to the snowboarding community as a whole, but also sees value in how many women appreciate and benefit from ladies-only experiences. This outlook, coupled with her drive and that of her fellow Rude Girls, has created a snowball effect in Banff and all the way to Calgary. All of this, and then some, is why Abby is an dynamic upstart in the alpine and we asked her to let us in on more of her story. – Mary Walsh
When did you start snowboarding? How did you get into it?
I started snowboarding back in 2011 when I first moved to Banff. Snowboarding was always something I wanted to do growing up, but just wasn’t in the cards for my family. But everything happens for a reason and I believe if I had started at a much younger age, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.
What brought you to Banff and how did you get involved with Rude Girls?
A friend that I had worked with at a surf shop convinced me to move to Banff while I was hanging out in Hawaii. He hooked it up with a place to stay, which is the hardest part when moving somewhere new. I got here July 30, 2011 at 1am, went to bed, woke up, walked outside, and literally said, 'HOLY SHIT.' Even though I grew up just outside of Vancouver, I’d never seen mountains like these guys out here. I got a job that same day and just happened to work with a girl who had just left Rude Girls. She told me they were looking, so I went in that day with my resume written on an old skate deck. I got a call an hour later and I’ve been there ever since.
What is the history behind Rude Girls Shop?
Well, Rude Boys has been around since 1988 and Rude Girls became a thing around the year 2000. We legit still have old-ass Rude Girls-branded undies that we use to sell around that time in a box out the back. Rude Girls use to have its own storefront and has moved locations a few times in the last 20 years, but is now settled in downtown Banff sharing a wall with Rude Boys. To think that Rude Girls was a store in the early 2000's when the first female-specific binding didn’t surface until 2003, is pretty rad. My first day at the shop, it was explained to me that Rude Girls likes to pride themselves on their knowledge of the product and I can confidently say that that is still the case today.
Rude Girls is unique in that it's one of the very few (possibly only one?) women's-specific shops in snowboarding and skateboarding. Why do you feel it is important to have a women's-centered shop in the Banff mountain community, specifically, and more in general, in snowboarding/skateboarding as a whole?
I think girls are more easily intimidated than guys and can be quietly competitive with each other to the point where it holds them back from trying new things in front of other people for fear of failing. I remember exactly how I felt when I first moved to town, I was intimidated by all the chicks that could shred because I couldn’t. I was nervous to walk into a snowboard shop because I didn’t know if I was going to be fed some BS about shit I didn’t know. I think it’s important because as soon as you take away that intimidation and competitiveness, you get a community of girls that just wants to shred and learn. Also, girls DO snowboard and DO skate, so why not supply to our needs? We too have needs, we know what we want in a snowboard/skateboard--and if someone doesn’t know, that’s when Rude Girls comes into play, to give you all the information you need to make your own decision based on your own style.
You guys have fostered a really epic crew of female rippers in Banff. Did this community already exist when you arrived in Banff or is it something that has grown over the past years?
I don’t remember there being much of a community my first season in town, rather it felt more cliquey. There were definitely people who were too cool to talk to others and those who took snowboarding too seriously. And even when I first started working at the shop, there weren’t many girls who rode for Rude Girls, and if they did, they didn’t live in town because they were out competing. So, we had no presence at our local hill. I remember the exact year that Rude Girls started to become a thing, it was 2013/2014 and it was just a group of six of us that would ride together--there were no other groups at the hill that were all female, so people took notice. That sounds so archaic to say now because chicks are dominating the board sport scene and there are so many all-girls crews around the world. I put a few of those girls on the team because they shred, but also because they are approachable and so much fun to ride with. I kind of made that a standard for shop riders: you have to get along with everyone else and be someone that other people actually want to ride with–because if no one wants to ride with you, what does that say about you as a person… you suck.
What makes the community of ladies in Banff unique?
It’s unique because it’s a supportive community of like-minded ladies who are all here for the same reason. No one is too cool for anyone, everyone just wants to shred.
What's a typical day in the life living in Banff during the winter?
Get up around 9, check the snow report for each hill, eat a bagel, drink your coffee, message fight club (our RG messenger group) to see who’s going where (we usually end up at Sunshine Village) and who’s driving. Meet your friends and the bottom of the gondola, probably get another coffee. Four-five laps on Standish and then Angel chair (park chair) for the rest of the day, leave around 3:30 and go to work for five hours.
A couple of seasons ago, you catalyzed a Rude Girls Ride Day and this past winter, the Ride Days multiplied and blew up! How did the Ride Days initially start and what happened this past year that the scene exploded?
Our first ride day took place in April 2015 at Sunshine Village; only 25 girls attended that first one. The following year we doubled in numbers. The third year, we tripled. At every event, we would have at least four-five girls ask if this could be a monthly thing for the following season. The thought of the work alone exhausted me. But with the support of the reps and everyone wanting to get more and more involved, we decided we had to give it a shot. I sat down with the events coordinator at Sunshine and explained to him what I was hoping to do with a list of dates and he pretty much said, 'do whatever you want.' The way we organized it was that each ride day would be sponsored by a different brand. This way we could showcase that brand for the day, the girls could demo their product and we could talk about how each brand has impacted women’s snowboarding. When I put this idea out there to all of our local reps, I was not expecting everyone to jump on board, only because I felt like I was asking for a lot. But the response from all of the reps was unreal and I’m still at lost for words about how supportive everyone has been. Having the ladies from Beyond the Boundaries was huge for Banff and Rude Girls, and really was the cherry on top.
What was your favorite Rude Girls Ride Day of the season, if possible to pick?
Crap…I can’t. They were all insane. But I can give the reasons why;
1) Nikita Girls Who Ride Series: The first event of the season and the best way to get the season started. So rad having Taylor Elliott, Summer Fenton and Ari Morrone come out to shred with all the girls. The party afterwards was pretty fun, too.
2) DC: This event (as most of them are) was held on a Tuesday at Sunshine Village, so it brought out a lot of local girls. We had our own private little park and girls were just jamming hard all day. The prizing was insane!!! Every girl walked away with something big. I remember one girl who attended, it was her first day in the park ever and by the end of the day, she was hitting the double barrel rail like it was nothing.
3) Ride Snowboard x K2: We had 75 girls sign up for this one. Our biggest event yet.
4) Kingpin Agency (Capita, Union, Airblaster, Coal, and Vans): We held this ride day at Norquay rather than Sunshine. We had waffles in the morning at the shop, all caught the bus together to the hill and had après food and drinks. It was something a little different and was epic.
5) Nitro: My favorite part of the day was the conversation we had after the event in the conference room. The reps sat us down and really made us realize that what we have as a team and a group of friends is infectious and rare. I am insanely grateful for the support of the Rude Girls team this season and every season; it’s because of them volunteering their time and because of who they are that our Ride Days have been so successful. Also, Nitro flew out Laurie Blouin for the day and because of that, we filled up for this event before we even posted the poster.
6) Salomon/Niche’s Queen of the Hill: This was something a little different. Ana Van Pelt came out from Utah to be there for the weekend, which was too much fun. The prizes were awesome for first, second and third. Our turn out was so much better than I was expecting because this wasn’t a typical ride day.
7) Beyond the Boundaries: Christine Savage, Faye Gulini, and Ashley Giangregorio…. enough said.
8) Burton: This was our very last event. This was special because girls were throwing down. To have seen the progression from the first event with Nikita to the last event with Burton was mind-blowing. Made me feel like I should be attending one of these ride days for my own personal gain, haha.
The Queen of the Hill event sounds really rad--what was that all about?
Definitely took the idea from Thrasher’s King of the Road. The day was sponsored by Niche and Salomon and we were fortunate to have Ana Van Pelt from Niche fly out for this one-day event!! We had a sheet of challenges (i.e.: convince a skier their shoes were untied or swap gear with a stranger) and each challenge was worth a certain amount of points. The girls with the most amount of points would place. In order to prove the challenges were completed, they had to video each one on their Instagram story. First place was next year’s Salomon Gypsy Classicks board and next year’s Salomon Mirages, second was the Niche Sonnet, and third was the Salomon Lotus. We went over all of the stories the next day, which took a good four hours but was very entertaining. It was just something a little different as we had already done so many Ride Days and this event took place pretty soon after our Nitro ride day. It was very well received and we are definitely doing it again next year. Thank you to Jordan and Ana for the unreal prizes.
What are some of the things/movements/movies/products/ideas/etc in snowboarding right now that are make you stoked?
Super stoked on The Uninvited crew and the release of their movie next fall. We’ve been following Leanne [Pelosi], Mary [Rand], and Hana [Beaman] pretty heavily this year with their filming for the next Vans movie. Stoked to see Leanne’s impact on the K2 line since the release of Full Moon a few years ago. Pretty pumped that Nitro picked up Christy [Prior]--we have now ordered the Nitro Fate because she is on it. Always excited to see what Ana Van Pelt does for Niche Snowboards year-after-year and how she is really focusing on decreasing snowboarding’s carbon footprint.
There is currently a lot happening in women's snowboarding, specifically, from movies, to high level competitions and events, to inclusive events like your Ride Days. What is your take on women's snowboarding right now? What are some of the things that are making you stoked?
What comes to mind when being asked this question is, women’s snowboarding is where it’s at. It’s where we are seeing an increase in attention in all aspects of snowboarding: competitions, movies, crews, edits, product, interviews, articles, brands and events. It’s so rad to see the women who were pushing the progression of snowboarding years ago are the women to be pushing the progression of the industry today, i.e. Leanne Pelosi and the whole Full Moon Crew; Barrett Christy and Jess Kimura organizing IT’S TIT’S! with Snowboy Productions; Jess with what she is doing with for The Uninvited Crew; Desiree Melancon and United Slopes of America; Hana Beaman and Robyn Van Gyn with the Layback weekend; Marie France Roy with the Triple Plank; and Mary Walsh and Christine Savage for committing their seasons to bettering everyone else’s with Beyond the Boundaries. These are the are movements and people that inspire us to do what we do.
What types of things/people/ideas influence the selection of products, events, and overall vibe of Rude Girls?
All of the ladies mentioned above truly have an impact on the product we sell. Two years later we are still referencing the Full Moon movie when selling Helen Schettini’s Hel Yes or Leanne’s K2 Wild Heart. Even if the customer does not know the rider we are talking about, I think they can see our passion and how stoked we are on the product because of that rider. For us personally, I think girls like Jill Perkins, Nora Beck, Jess and the uninvited crew, Christy Prior and of course the Full Moon ladies.
Related--how do you select the products in your shop for your customers, both hardgoods and softgoods?
I like to observe what people are riding/wearing on the hill a lot. You can call it stalking I guess. Also, being on the sales floor when it’s busy is important so I can listen to what products people are asking for. I like to think that myself and the girls that work and ride for Rude Girls have a strong understanding of our demographics, so everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration during the buying process.
What brands are making really cool things for women right now?
Oh man, I’m so pumped on so many things for next season. L1 women’s softgoods look killer, along with the Nitro line of boards. So stoked that K2 made the Limelight camber next year--their whole women’s line looks awesome. Burton changed the fiberglass layup of their women’s boards and you can definitely notice the difference and I think it is for the better. Desiree’s Gypsy Classicks board for next year is probably my favorite-looking board. ThirtyTwo, of course, is constantly pushing the boot game for women, we carry over eight brands of boots for women (which doesn’t sound like a lot but when you bring in around three-five styles from each brand...it is a lot) and ThirtyTwo is the only brand that does laces throughout their whole women’s boot line…. Also stoked that they have a small women’s technical apparel line for next season.
As the role of the core shop continues to evolve to meet the needs of customers as well as contend with large, online retailers like Amazon and all of that, what types of things are important to the foundation of continuing to have Rude Girls be an integral part of your customers and community's snowboarding (and skating) experience?
By actually making it an experience for any customer that walks into the shop, either by the conversations we have with the customers or the way we are able to help. We always tell people that the Shop is there to Keep them snowboarding..Amazon is there to take your money. We hold Info nights at the beginning of each season for those who are new to town and want to learn or further their knowledge on hardgoods and offer really good warranty service. We have personal touches in the shop like a photo wall of the girls that work at the shop, team riders, and locals as well as framed photos from past Ride Days. In our opinion these small things can leave large impressions on customers.
What snowboarders and edits/movies are influential to you?
Christy Prior has always been someone I have looked up to. She has the most gangster style. It used to be a morning ritual of mine to watch one of her season edits before going snowboarding. I really got into Desiree’s United Slopes of America this season and binged watched it, then watched all of the episodes over and over--stuff like that is attainable for the average boarder and gets you so pumped on riding. Of course the whole Uninvited crew--Maria Thomsen...are you even real?! Her style is insaneee. Of course, Darrah Reid is someone I look up to and I’m waiting for her pro model or her own graphic ;). We’re pretty fortunate to have Kennedi Deck holding it down for Rude Girls with The Uninvited crew. She’s so proper with her tricks. I’ve seen a few shots she got from this season that left my jaw hanging, so needless to say I can’t wait for her part. Jill Perkins is a boss. Melissa Riitano’s bag of blunted tricks is a very large bag. Nirvana Ortiz just seems like the kind of person everyone wishes they were friends with and she can shred.
Banff has a really unique topography in that you have really sick parks and amazing backcountry accessible fairly easily. How does this affect the kind of terrain that you like to ride?
It definitely prepares you to ride all types of terrain at different resorts. We are super fortunate to get to choose from three different mountains each day and each mountain has vastly different terrain. I’ve been told that we are lucky to get to ride the parks we have as they range in difficulty from very beginner to definite expert. I personally enjoy riding our parks because there are so many lines you get to choose from and it never gets boring.
Do you see more women heading out into the backcountry in the area, also?
We have noticed an increase in demand for split set ups more and more each season, so girls are definitely getting at it! We have a few shop riders that have transitioned from park shredders to backcountry rippers, too.
Heading into next winter, what are your goals for the Rude Girls Ride Days?
Bigger and better. We are talking about not doing as many (seven was a lot), but making the quality of each ride day bigger, hopefully with more guest appearances ;). We have also been in contact with Brittney Dickson from Stay Wild Backcountry and are in the process of organizing AST 1 and 2 courses for any girls that want to join!