Mia Brookes – No Pressure

Who can forget the bruised bums, achey wrists and mental frustrations that come with learning to snowboard? For me, the pain of the button lift slamming into my leg in sub-zero temperatures in Glenshee will be forever etched on my memory. Less so for 12-year-old Mia Brookes, who mounted her first snowboard aged 18 months.

“I can’t really remember anything about my first time on a snowboard,” Mia tells me. “But from what my mum and dad have told me, I know that I first went snowboarding at Kidsgrove dry slope where my Grandad was a ski instructor and I was 18 months old”.

Many professional snowboarders and skiers have graced the pages of Morzine Source Magazine over the years, but none as young or as inspiring as Mia. If you’re expecting a tale of pushy parents, or of parents living their lives vicariously through their offspring, then you’re in for a lovely surprise. Mia Brookes is the real deal.

“The world level has jumped so quickly in the last two years, particularly in female snowboarding”

Mia is the youngest member of Team GB’s Park & Pipe (GB P&P) Snowboard Squad which, boosted by the success of our snowboarders in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeong Chang in 2018, established a pathway programme to identify and nurture new talent ahead of the Beijing 2022 Games. Mia specialises in slopestyle but also competes in halfpipe and her career highlights to date include first place at The BRITS big air comp in Laax and finishing the 2018 season at the top of the World Rookie Tour standings. Without a complete understanding of the inner workings of professional snowboarding competitions and rankings, it’s difficult to explain how indicative these results are of Mia’s potential, so we asked one of her coaches Ben Kinnear to sum things up for you. “Mia has a very fun approach to her snowboarding and her life in general. It may seem obvious to state, but that love of going out riding every day is the most important component wherever she chooses to take her snowboarding.” Ben continues, “The world level has jumped so quickly in the last two years, particularly in female snowboarding and although it’s important to stress that Mia has by no means ‘made it’, she has some brilliant ingredients right now that we recognise as being so important to help her through the challenging route that is competitive snowboarding.” But what about her age Ben? “She’s by far the youngest in the on-hill environment, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s only a little more obvious back at the team house when she gets her Lego out in the living room!”

Image Credit – Theo Acworth

Mia’s parents Vicky and Nigel are seasoned seasonaires, having done a number of winters in Chamonix, pre-Mia. “Mia was born in January, which was perfect timing as we were able to take her to the mountains with us when she was just eight weeks old,” Vicky explains. “We loaded up our motorhome with all the baby gear and just went. People back home thought we were mad!” Just before her second birthday, they took Mia to Le Grand Bornand and taught her to snowboard. “I remember my mum riding, carrying a Fireman Sam jigsaw box lid, so that the characters could watch me snowboard!” Mia tells me.

Snowboarding for Fireman Sam and Norman Price is one thing, being called ‘the next big thing’ in global snowboarding is quite another. Ski Sunday’s Ed Leigh recently told the BBC “It is difficult not to get really excited about Mia because she is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young talents, not just in the UK but in snowboarding globally.” I’m keen to know how such high expectations sit with Mia and Vicky. “I think getting caught up in other peoples hype isn’t a good thing. You’ve got to tread your own path” Vicky believes. “Hahhahahaa, OK, no pressure!” is (typically) Mia’s response.

In fact, so laid back are the Brookes’, so organic has been Mia’s progress, they can’t really remember finding out that she’d been asked to join Team GB and represent her country. “I think Ben (Kinnear) calledfrom GB P&P. Mia had been riding with the GB coaches and team for a couple of seasons out in Laxx and Livigno. They’d spotted her when she was eight and invited her along to ride with them. She really progressed, then she matured a lot since going to high school and I think this showed in herriding and understanding” Vicky explains. “This summer when the selections happened, we were made up for Mia being chosen to be on the main team with Katie (Ormerod) and Jamie (Nicholls), but she did work hard and it paid off”. I wonder at what point Mia realised that she was better at snowboarding than her mum and dad? “When I had to buy the hot chocolates at the bottom!!!”

Image Credit – Theo Acworth

During Winter 20 Mia will train and compete as part of Team GB’s ‘A Squad’ alongside seasoned professionals Billy Morgan, Katie Ormerod and Jamie Nicholls, all of whom have significant experience under their belts. “When I’m riding with them they just feel like friends rather than pro snowboarders, but they are all really kind and nice and we always support each other,” Mia tells me. “And we all bake amazing cakes after we’ve come off the hill, even our coaches join in!” Of course Mia does all these things with Vicky and Nigel at her side. The family invested in a motorhome to save on hotel and travel costs as they visit resorts across Europe for training camps and competitions. As Mia grows up and a team of professionals and sponsors forms around her, I wonder whether that makes Vicky more or less protective? “It can be difficult, especially when people approach us wanting to support Mia in some way. But we always try to remind ourselves that Mia is only 12!” Vicky continues, “It would be very easy to get carried away and rush into things far too soon. We have to be sensible and think of Mia and not have any unnecessary pressures. Right now Mia has a great support network around her, they value Mia as a snowboarder but also they care that she’s still just a kid.”

“sometimes kids do crazy things, usually without undertaking a complex risk assessment first”

And sometimes kids do crazy things, usually without undertaking a complex risk assessment first. How does Vicky feel when she watches Mia attempt a new trick for the first time? “When you sit and think about it you do worry I suppose, but I know Mia will never do anything until she feels 100% ready. Her GB P&P coaches would never expect her to do something that they feel she’s not ready to do. Even on a daily basis on the hill they will pull Mia back if they feel she’s looking tired,” Vicky explains. “They also know when she looks like she’s ready for a down day too. This is very reassuring for us, they know her very well.” Mia’s so badass, I can’t imagine she’s scared of anything. “YES!!!!” I don’t believe her. “One time in Livigno I was on the air bag for a few days, trying to do a backflip. When I had got them, Hamish (McKnight, a Team GB coach) pulled me to the side and said ‘Mia, you’re ready to try a backflip on snow now.’ So I said ‘OK!’ and there was so much adrenaline rushing through me. We went to the landing of a jump where, at the bottom, was a quarter pipe hit. I sat there and I sat there and looked and looked at the jump until my eyes went funny. Then I dropped in, shaking as I went, and after two or three attempts, I got it. Everyone was so stoked and I was super happy and also excited.”

Mia’s on the brink of her teenage years but you’ll find no pouty selfies, no #hashtagforlikes on her social media channels. When she’s not snowboarding she’s doing gymnastics, skateboarding, surfing or practicing playing her guitar. I wonder whether Vicky and Nigel worry about her missing out on a ‘normal’ life? “Mia’s social media probably paints a picture that she is out in the mountains for the whole season. She’s not.” Vicky explains.

“Mia will never do anything until she feels 100% ready. Her GB P&P coaches would never expect her to do something that they feel she’s not ready to do”

“I think last season Mia had around eight weeks on snow, we normally take advantage of the school holidays and usually tag just a few weeks either side. We feel like she’s not missing out on too much essential school time.” And what about school? I’m thinking of those fines for taking children out in term time… “School are great, they monitor Mia’s progression, giving her extra input to catch up on class work if needed. We also take work away with us, which they assure us is not essential as they realise she has snowboarding commitments too. We always find time to complete the homework so she’s confident that she’s not falling behind.”

And so to the Winter 20 season. What does Mia hope to achieve this year? “I would love to finish higher at the World Rookie Tour finals and to have been street filming in Finland with John Weatherley, aka ‘the trap-lord’.” I can already guess Vicky’s answer to the same question. “We’re just happy to see Mia progress and know that she’s enjoying herself.”

Image Credit – Sam Ingles

Mia is supported by Rome snowboards, 686 outerwear, Dragon goggles, Stance socks, Soap Bar wax, Crap Sack and Sandbox helmets and is a proud member The Ellie Soutter Foundation supported athletes team.
Mia Brookes – No Pressure
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