001: Ed Leigh/How To Live Your Life Through Snowboarding

Photo: Ed

“Snowboarding’s given me everything and it keeps on giving”

For the first episode of the Looking Sideways podcast I welcomed Ski Sunday presenter Ed Leigh to the show. Over the past twenty years Ed has lived one of the most extraordinary and enviable lives snowboarding imaginable. Today he presents flagship winter sports show Ski Sunday and commentates on the Olympics for the BBC, but his road to the top has been a long one, even if his passion for snowboarding has always been the driving force.

Over the years he’s been a dirtbag seasonaire, a pro snowboarder, editor of Whitelines snowboarding magazine, a commentator, announcer, MC, pundit, and now a TV presenter, journalist and broadcaster. He’s spent twenty years working in the snowboarding industry in various guises and has the scars and endless bag of stories to prove it.

Photo: Ed

In this in-depth chat, recorded in February 2017, Ed dug deep into his bag of anecdotes as we explored his life and career.

Highlights include:

  • How he ended up presenting Ski Sunday
  • What it’s like for an ordinary snowboarder to ride Alaska
  • His best ever day snowboarding
  • The health regime that he hopes will keep his going well into his 50s and 60s
  • What he really thought about the controversy surrounding his commentary on Jenny Jones’ historic bronze medal.

It’s an inspiring listen about making your passion your career, so sit back and enjoy.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Ed on the controversy surrounding his commentary on Jenny Jones' Olympic bronze medal performance.

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Show Notes

  • His recent trip to the Air and Style.
  • What the competition standard says about the current state of creativity of Big Air in snowboarding.
  • Filming Ski Sunday at the Air & Style
  • His role at Ski Sunday
  • The difference between skiing and snowboard as professional sports
  • The difficulties inherent in the way professional snowboarding is organised
  • The BBC’s wariness to feature snowboarding because of these perceived difficulties
  • The new wave of UK snowboarding talent
  • How they performed at the Air & Style
  • The importance of experience and trick selection at high level snowboarding events
  • How British riders can take it to the next level, and the camaraderie between them
  • Ed’s background on Ski Sunday
  • Getting clotheslined by a member of the Alpine ski community
  • How a drunken mishap at the 1995 Brits inadvertently kickstarted his broadcasting career.
  • Gumby’s legendary Big Air slam, and it being the first of Ed’s trademark broadcasting ‘moments’.
  • ‘The kind of snowboarding I’m best at, nobody ever sees’.
  • The change from snowboarding to journalism and broadcasting.
  • Ed’s media apprenticeship – Whitelines, MCing, TV, journalism.
  • Learning to say no, and concentrating on journalism and broadcasting
  • Missing out on commentating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics
  • Getting the call for the 2006 Olympics – and focussing hard to do the best job.
  • ‘Jacobellis! Drama!’
  • Commentary as a mood, rather than being scripted.
  • ‘I’m not arrogant, but I back myself’
  • Getting Ski Sunday full time
  • ‘Welcome to the biggest waste of license fee payers money since Eldorado
  • Using creativity and budget juggling to shape Ski Sunday editorial today
  • How mainstream sporting acceptance has grown as our riders have got better
  • How surfing, skating and climbing will fare in future Olympics
  • The changing media landscape
  • The criticism that comes from being in the public eye, and how Ed deals with it.
  • That infamous Sochi Jenny Jones commentary.
  • ‘Dignity and TV presenting don’t go hand in hand’.
  • How Ed originally got into snowboarding
  • The single minded pursuit of skateboarding and snowboarding
  • ‘Intellectually, physically and socially, it was everything I wanted’.
  • Early season life in Val d’Isere
  • Introduction to the British snowboarding scene
  • What snowboarding means to him now.
  • His favourite ever day snowboarding – and how some sensations live with you.
  • Where he gets those sensations from today.
  • If spirituality exists in snowboarding
  • The egoism of freestyle against the humbleness of freeriding.
  • Balancing his lifestyle with family life.
  • How the passion for travel diminishes as he gets older
  • Ed’s health regime, and the importance of eating good food, so you carry on as long as possible.
  • Why Ed and his wife Sian moved from New Zealand to Verbier
  • ‘Verbier is the world’s most expensive theme park’
  • On 40 still being young – and New Zealand’s many attractions.
  • Surfing, skateboarding or snowboarding?
  • Ed’s choice for final session – Alaska
  • The game of riding Alaska
  • The most memorable line of his life
  • Being born without an embarrassment gene.
  • Squandering his potential through partying.
  • Choosing lifestyle over career.

Places/events/programmes/media mentioned

People mentioned

  • Max Perrot
  • Markus Kleveland
  • Mikey Ciccarelli
  • Sven Thorgren
  • Jamie Anderson
  • Hailey Langland
  • Klaudia Medlova
  • Spencer O’Brien
  • Anna Gasser
  • Stefan Gimpl
  • Enni Rukajärvi
  • Katie Ormerod
  • Sina Candrian
  • Cheryl Mass
  • Kjersti Buaas
  • Rowan Coultas
  • Billy Morgan
  • Katie Ormerod
  • Seb Toots
  • Seppe Smits
  • Gumby
  • Russ Ward
  • Danny Wheeler
  • Stu Brass
  • Chris Moran
  • Ste Bailey
  • Justin Allison
  • Neil McNab
  • John Motson
  • Johno Verity
  • James Stentiford
  • Phil Young
  • Spencer Claridge
  • John Bateson
  • Ian Felton
  • Graham Bell
  • Lindsay Jacobellis
  • Kelly Clark
  • Hannah Teter
  • Torah Bright
  • Shaun White
  • Todd Richards
  • Pat Bridges
  • Henry Jackson
  • Chris Kirkham
  • Tim Warwood
  • Jenny Jones
  • Xavier de la Rue
  • Sam Anthamatten
  • Clare Balding
  • Ron Burgundy
  • Eddie the Eagle
  • Jeremy Sladen
  • Marc Chester
  • Jamie Baker
  • Ian Bridges
  • Si Brass
  • Adam Gendle
  • Sian Leigh