For many years, Italian Freeskiër Silvia Bertagna performed at the highest level in Slopestyle and Big Air contests. The Olympic Games, World Cups, X-Games you name the contests and she was there. A well-known face in the finals, Silvia is praised for her beautiful style of riding. With her 35 years, Silvia is the grand lady of Freeskiing and is still at the top of her sport and she is not going to stop very soon.
You are a part of the Italian free ski team, participated in Olympia and the X Games, and won first place in the big air world cup 2016 in Mönchengladbach (Germany). How does this feel?
It’s been 8 years now that I'm on the Italian Freeski team. I have so many great memories of all the adventures we experienced. We have been to the Olympics, did a few podiums in the World cup, won an Overall Big Air World Cup, been to X Games and Dew Tour, all of these are such great achievements for me and the whole team.
When did you start skiing?
I always skied, I live in a tiny mountain village with the slopes just in front of my house, so I started skiing at the age of 3. So I kind of skied my whole life just never started competing in alpine, instead, I started figure skating, and did it fr a long time. At some point at age 18, or there around, all my friends started this thing called freestyle skiing, they were doing jumps and flips, and I was so fascinated that I had to try it myself. I straight away liked it and had so much fun. I later started competing in small contests around my region and Italy, until I got in the team the season 13/14 and straight into world cups and Olympics, it’s been all super fast.
Your uncle was a professional skier. Does it run in your family?
My biggest inspiration since a young age has always been my uncle, Ivo Mahlknecht, who was a professional alpine skier. He gifted me my first ski boots, I'll always remember how happy I was about that. Since then he was my biggest idol and also my biggest fan. Sadly he passed away two years ago.
Seeing you going over a kicker and flying through the air always looks so smooth. You are a real “Stylequeen”. How old were you when you started with jumps and riding through the big parks?
I started Freeskiing at the age of 18, but I think the first time I got into a real snowpark was two years later so I would say I started flying at 20 years old.
You are the only woman on the Italian free ski team, do you sometimes miss a female companion?
I have been the only one for a long time, but in the last two seasons, I got a new teammate, Elisa. So now we are two girls and two boys on the world cup team. I have to say I've always felt comfortable being with boys only, but it’s super nice to have a girl now to share this adventure with.
What do you do during the off-season and how do you prepare for the next season and do you follow a special sport diet?
There is no real off-season, we ski 10 months a year, but I love to spend time at the beach, I like surfing. And back home I live in a wonderful place for mountain biking so that's what I mostly do during summer.
Said that, I do physical training 4 times a week, in summer more than during winter, but it's a big part of my life. Nowadays with the performance level going up so quickly, you have to be fit the whole year and try to prepare your body the best way so you can keep up during the whole season.
I don’t do any special diet or stuff, I love eating, and I love sweets and chocolate, so I'm for sure not the best role model, therefore. But I try to eat a bit of everything and then let say, I live in Italy, we have the best food
What does an average day in Silvia´s life look like?
A ski day starts in the morning with a nice breakfast, mostly bread butte and jam and lots of coffee. then I head to the mountain, not too early as the best conditions in the park are mostly around noon, I ski until I'm tired or when the park closes. After skiing depends a bit where I am, but in the afternoon I go to the gym or do some physical activation outside. then a nice dinner, some chill time, and then I go to bed. So nothing really special, but we are always in nice places so I feel lucky when I'm able to visit or explore the different places.
What trick was the one you were most afraid of and took you the longest time to land it?
The double 10. It was a trick I never thought I would be able to do, it was two seasons ago when a few girls started doing doubles, and I felt so far away from even trying or only thinking about it, that it gave me a hard time and also some thoughts of quitting with skiing.
But with the help of my coach, we found a way to get closer to it, we worked a lot on the basic trick, and in the end, I was able to change my mind and give it a try. And it worked! now doing doubles is one of the best feelings I know.
What do you think is essential when it comes to freestyle skiing?
I feel like the most important thing is, skiing, being a good skier, having control and sensibility on your skis is so important and can help you so much when it comes to park-skiing. I feel nowadays a lot of kids can do nice tricks, but when they ski into the jumps you can see they are almost uncomfortable.
The last couple of years you had some major injuries, how are you know and how do you cooperate mentally with such throwbacks?
Yes, I've had big problems with my knees in the last 4 years, I had 4 surgeries on my left knee.
The first time I tore my Acl, was tough but in the end, I learned so much in the whole rehab process, about myself and my body that I was feeling super confident when I came back, I was skiing good and feeling strong, until on a stupid crash it happened again, not even a year after the first time. This one was harder, I started doubting about myself, and the whole process, I was frustrated and not sure if it would have been worth it doing it all over again… But then I overcame those feelings, I started my way back, it took me longer and it was way harder, but I made it a second time. the 3rd and 4th surgeries were more a cleaning thing, to get my knee a bit of relief, after two Acl surgeries they are not like before.
Right now I feel good, it took me a while but now I found the right balance with skiing, physio, workouts, and rest days. The hardest part of the game was accepting that I need more days off than others, that my body needs to rest, to be ready to perform when I need, that I can’t ski 2 weeks in a row like 18 year old, but also that I don’t need it. Now I know that it’s better to have 2 good days on skis, than 5 medium ones.
Looking back, what do you think was your greatest achievement in your career as a skier?
I feel like the biggest achievements are not only the results at competitions but the fact that being 35, despite all the injuries and struggles, I'm still here keeping up with the young ones.
Because of Covid, the last year has been difficult and extraordinary for all of us. Traveling and participating in competitions were under strict conditions. What affected you the most in this and did it teach you something?
it surely was a hard time for everybody, but I need to admit that the whole situation didn’t affect us too much. We were lucky, we could travel the world for competitions and training, while all of my friends and family back home were almost in lockdown. So I felt very privileged and grateful to keep doing what I love, and for sure the whole thing made me feel even luckier for the life that I'm living.
The new session has just begun. What are your hopes for this one?
Oh well, it’s gonna be a special season with the Olympics in February as the main focus. But right now I plan to ski as well as I can, compete in the qualifying events, and stay healthy and ready for the big event.
Is there any other sport you enjoy doing and what do you do in your free time?
I love mountain biking and climbing, and not often but when I have the opportunity I like to surf. I love doing puzzles as well.
After a stressful day, week, or season, what do you do to come down and relax?
the best relaxation for me is just to be at home, take time for me, see my friends, and hang out
If you had to choose one, which would it be: Slopestyle or Big Air? And why?
Big Air, it’s for sure the easier one, but I love that you have to focus on only one thing and do it the best you can.
If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
surely sometimes I dream of exotic places to live, in a warm and sunny place, but I have to admit that I love my home (Val Gardena) and every time I come back from a trip, it remembers me how beautiful my valley is and how lucky I am olive there.
What are you not good at?
I'm not good at cooking… I don’t like it.
What is your current favorite song/playlist that you could listen to over and over again?
I don’t listen to much music, sometimes when I ski I listen to random stuff, more to stay focused and concentrated than on the music itself
Are you a cat or a dog person?
Cat, I have a cat named Findus.
Champagne or Beer?
Hip Hop or Rock Music?
Books or Podcasts?
If you had the opportunity to share something with the girls and women out there in this world, what would it be?
Regarding the sports scene, I'd love to be some kind of inspiration to the younger girls, and I really would like to do something to grow a strong group of young freaks girls in Italy