The next time I hear some salty, old dog complain about Millennials and how self-centred, lazy and uninterested they are in working hard, I’ll tell them about Andrea Byrne. The 20-year-old, who calls Fernie home, first hit the freeskiing scene at the age of 16, when she won the IFSA’s Junior Big Mountain competition at Castle Mountain, and placed second at the North American Championships at Snowbird, Utah, the following year. And last season, when she froze her foot so badly that all her toes were black while shooting for Salomon TV, it wasn’t the frostbite that stopped her, it was the snapped-in-two boot—because the plastic got so cold.
Byrne comes by her work ethic and love for the mountains honestly. Born to a mother from the Bavarian German Alps and a father from Newfoundland, she grew up at the base of Fernie Alpine Resort, literally. Her parents bought property on the mountain from Heiko Socher—the visionary German logger who transformed Fernie into a world-renowned ski resort. She began skiing at the age of two, with twin brothers four years her senior. So from early on, she knew she would need to push hard every day if she wanted to keep up.
Bavaria + Newfoundland = Byrne. Photo by Kyle Hamilton
Byrne trained hard enough to end up competing at events across North America and in Europe, including the World Junior Championships in Andorra. Her results, along with her strong, smooth style, have helped earn her accolades from sponsors and mentors alike.
"It’s been amazing watching Andrea come up through Girls Do Ski," says Leah Evans, a Salomon teammate who founded the Girls Do Ski coaching program. "She is totally on the right path to a long and successful career."
Byrne is currently studying geography at Camosun College in Victoria, to "learn how the natural world works," and open up even more career paths in the outdoor industry. She also took last winter off from traveling on the international competition circuit to stay closer to home.
Flourishing amonst the flora in Fernie, B.C. Photo by Kyle Hamilton
"My main goal last season wasn’t to make the Freeride World Tour," she says, signalling a shift in priorities. "It was to ski for me, and spend more time exploring the mountains around where I grew up."
The decision proved prescient, as B.C. had one of the best seasons in recent memory, and she scored an invitation from Switchback Entertainment’s Mike Douglas to film with Salomon TV at Mica Heli Skiing just outside Revelstoke.
"Andrea had been on our radar for a while, so we thought it would be cool to bring her on board with a veteran crew," says Douglas. "She’s a total trooper, and right off the bat, she impressed me with her go-for-it attitude. I think she learned a lot and got a lot out of the experience, and I feel confident that she’ll continue to charge."
The opportunity opened her eyes to all the possibilities before her in skiing.
"My time at Mica with the Salomon team showed me a different side to the ski biz. I wasn’t trying to perform for a judge. I fell in love with performing for something real, something being captured."