Why you should care
Because it all started with a broken ski.
Julia Marino, who made her mark as one of the first riders to bring the cab 900 double underflip to women’s slopestyle, traveled to Boston in February 2016 to test out the metal big air jump at the Big Air Fenway competition. Listed as an alternate, she had come to Fenway with one simple goal: to get some experience on a metal jump in northeastern weather en route to the World Cup in Quebec, where she planned to compete.
As fate would have it, fellow American snowboarder Ty Walker dropped out of the competition in Boston, the unknown alternate was called up as a last-minute entry, and Marino ended the day standing on top of the podium.
“I found out at 5 o’clock the night before, so I had 24 hours to change my mindset from trying it out to competition,” Marino tells OZY. “It was one of the scariest jumps I’ve ever hit in my life. It was night, it was cold, really windy, super-icy and steep. If it wasn’t a competition, I’d have never touched that jump, but those are the kinds of challenges that make you stronger.”
As the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off this week, Marino, who competes in both slopestyle and big air snowboarding, is becoming an odds-on favorite to make it to the podium. That would be impressive for any 20-year-old, but what makes it especially so for Marino is the fact that she didn’t start snowboarding until she was 12 years old. Born in Westport, Connecticut, she grew up skiing with her family in Vermont, a regular activity that started when she was 3.
[My father] made it clear that he wasn’t going to rent me another pair of skis, but I was going to get the snowboard, go out and we were going to have a good time.
“My father and uncles, they are excellent skiers. They’d ski double black diamonds and into the trees, and I used to be right there behind them,” says Marino, who played varsity soccer as attacking midfield in high school. “I started skiing park in the last few years, and I can’t say I wouldn’t have pursued freestyle skiing over soccer as well. I was pretty good when I switched from skiing to boarding.”
A fateful switch that happened during a family vacation in 2010, when Marino broke one of her skis during a run through the woods. Her father told her to grab her snowboard, but she wanted to call it a day. Her father wouldn’t hear of it.
“He was very adamant,” Marino recalls. “He made it clear that he wasn’t going to rent me another pair of skis, but I was going to get the snowboard, go out and we were going to have a good time.” It took Marino a few days, but she bonded with her board on that trip and, except for getting back on skis a few times since, she hasn’t looked back.
In 2012, she spent winter term of ninth grade at Stratton Mountain School, where she learned to fully control spinning and the board and landing tricks. Her skill has progressed every season since while working with the Maximise Ski & Snowboard Training Center in Sainte-Agathe, Québec, where she landed her cab 1080 double for the first time on snow in January 2016.
Big Air Fenway took place the next month, where she came out of nowhere to win the big air contest. She then podiumed at the 2016 Corona World Championships of Snowboarding in Yabuli, China, and followed that with four medal finishes in 2017 at X Games events: In slopestyle, she won gold in Aspen, Colorado, and bronze in Norway, and in big air, she took bronze in Aspen and silver in Norway.
Marino, along with her best friend and fellow slopestyle snowboarder Hailey Langland, qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team on Jan. 20 at the final Olympic slopestyle qualifier in Mammoth Mountain, California. Jamie Anderson (the 2014 Olympic slopestyle gold medalist), Marino and Langland swept the podium, in that order, and are all primed for a big showing in South Korea.
“I actually found out that I’d secured my spot in the Olympics before my last run of a U.S. Grand Prix stop in Mammoth,” says Marino. “Taking that run with that in mind was just unreal.”
On the heels of her 2016–2017 breakout season, Marino has emerged as a crowd favorite and lead contender in both slopestyle and big air thanks in part to her cab double cork 900. In the last two Winter X Games, Anderson and Marino have finished at the top of the snowboard slopestyle podium. Anderson’s win in the 2018 games snapped a streak of six straight X Games slopestyle silver medals; in 2017, Marino managed to beat the Sochi gold medalist and take home her first X Games gold medal.
Anderson, fresh off her win at the 2018 X Games, smiled when asked about her duel with Marino. “Jules Marino is a little boss. She’s progressed so much in the last two years,” Anderson tells OZY. “She sends her cab double cork 900 big and has been adding style to her runs so well of late. She’s definitely got that East Coast shredder mentality.”
Marino’s cab double 900 may be the best trick in her arsenal — and she can throw it from the front or back side — but she’s already putting in the work to bump things up a notch. In June, she began practicing the cab double cork 1080 and the frontside 1080 double, but so far she hasn’t taken the trick off of the training airbags.
“I know Julia personally. She’s the kind of rider who’s going to progress a lot in the next year like she’s done so far,” says Max Parrot, one of the world’s top slopestyle snowboarders on the men’s circuit. “Just a couple of years ago when we were doing 1620, the [women’s] maximum spin was 720, and now she’s looking to conquer the cab 1080. It’s coming, and it’s pretty crazy to see.”
By Marino’s own admission, the cab 1080 won’t be competition-ready for South Korea, but she’s going to the Winter Games with more than enough firepower to make a golden first impression.