Meet Allie Reynolds
When and where did your snowboard career start?
I started snowboarding right back in the early days of the sport. The first time I hired a snowboard, soft boots weren’t even available so I had to hire rigid and uncomfortable hard boots. It would have been about 1990 in France. My first full winter season was 1997-1998 in Chamonix; the year that snowboarding became an Olympic sport. I loved halfpipe but a decent halfpipe was hard to find back then.
In my second winter I was based in Risoul, a tiny resort in the French Alps normally famous for its halfpipe but a lack of snow that year meant they couldn’t build one. So I ended up driving all over the French and Swiss Alps in search of one in my ancient Fiat Uno!
The following winter I spent in Laax, which arguably had the best pipe in Europe at the time. I competed in the British Championships that year (2000), placed in the top ten and found some product sponsors. I did two more winters in Laax. I blew knee ligaments right before the British Championships the following year, so my sponsors dropped me, and in my final winter, there was again a massive shortage of snow which meant the resort couldn’t build a halfpipe.
What were your favourite resorts to train or compete at?
LAAX was my favourite resort simply because the pipe was so good. Halfpipe was all I wanted to ride! I also loved to ride at Tignes in France for a week or two in the summers – they had a train that would go under the ice and take you from the village up on the glacier in about 10 minutes, so you could be snowboarding all morning, then back for lunch and spend the afternoons walking the lush green mountainside, sunbathing by the outdoor pool or even swimming in the lake. Kaunertal in Austria was also very special to me. I spent a few weeks wild camping there one spring. I camped by a river, keeping food cold in a plastic bag tied to a root in the river, and driving up the mountain for an hour to the snow every day. It was very high and I remember getting a metre of fresh snow on my birthday in May!
Did you actually compete in Le Rocher?
Le Rocher is a fictional resort that I invented for my thriller. I needed certain features – I wanted it to be small and very high, with steep and dangerous terrain, and also have a world-class halfpipe. It’s loosely based on LAAX crossed with La Grave – a tiny French resort famous for its expert terrain.
How long did it take you to write the book?
I spent one month planning Shiver, and six months to write it. It was very fast, but before that, I’d been wrestling with a different snowy mountain-set novel on and off for 20 years, without success.
Are any of the other characters based on people you used to come across at the various competitions?
Milla Anderson, the main female character in Shiver is a lot like me in that she’s a tomboy who lives for her sport, she’s very driven and determined. But she’s far braver, more competitive, and a much better snowboarder than I ever was!
Are there many ‘Saskias” out there?
I haven’t snowboarded for over ten years now, so before writing Shiver I caught up with the sport a little by watching interviews of current top snowboarders. Some of the characters in Shiver started off based on real-life snowboarders. For example, one was Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris. But as I wrote, they transformed and took on lives of their own.
All of the characters in the book are highly competitive – particularly the female characters. I’m happy to say the snowboarders I met and trained with were nothing like as competitive. I hope there aren’t many Saskias out there – in snowboarding or any other sport! But as an ex-athlete, I’m always fascinated by top athletes in other sports, and I’ve heard so many stories about athletes playing ‘mind games’ and using intimidation strategies, to get an edge on their opponents – in sports such as basketball, boxing, tennis, golf and rugby.
If such tactics were used in an extreme sports environment, it struck me that it could turn deadly, so it offered a lot of potential for a thriller. I massively admire successful athletes, but at the same time, I know they don’t reach the top by being nice. A certain ruthlessness is required, which again is ideal for a thriller.
Have you always wanted to write books?
Yes, I’ve wanted to write books since I was a teenager. My first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, aged 14. Surrounded by books, I dreamt of one day writing one. I’ve been attempting to write novels for 20 years! I have five novels in the drawer, all unfinished and unsubmitted. I’ve also written lots of short stories for women’s magazines, which have been published in Australia, the UK, Sweden and South Africa.
Will you keep the snow focus in future books?
I hope to write another snowy-mountain set book at some point, but currently I’m working on a thriller with a very different setting: a remote Australian beach.
Do you follow the current crop of snowboarders around the world?
I haven’t much kept up with the sport of snowboarding, but every time I see it, I’m amazed by how far the sport has progressed since I was competing, and the incredible tricks the current crop of riders do.
You moved to the Gold Coast from the UK – do you go skiing in the Aussie ski resorts?
I snowboarded in New Zealand for a week many years ago before I had kids. I stayed in Wanaka and rode at Snowpark, which was tiny but brilliant and hitchhiked around. I’ve never been to the Aussie snowfields. After I quit snowboarding, I became obsessed with surfing, so every time I had time and money to travel somewhere it was for surfing.
When will you start your kids’ skiing?
My kids have never seen real snow! They are 6 and 8 now and often ask me about snowboarding. I hope very much to take them to the snow to try snowboarding once Covid allows us to travel again. I do miss snowboarding, but at the same time, I’m in my forties now, and if I went to the snow, I wouldn’t be content with just riding down the mountain – I’d want to go in the halfpipe and ride off jumps. And I’d break something for sure!
If they want to compete in halfpipe one day, will you let them?
If my kids wanted to compete at halfpipe one day, yes, I’d let them. I’d be terrified but also very proud. My eldest is very sporty and already a talented soccer player. He loves skateboarding too, and both of them love surfing.
Shiver is out now at all good book stores and online. It is published in Australia by Hachette. The book has received rave reviews including this from Kayte Nunn – “Brilliantly tense and twisty, it had me holding my breath the entire time.”