Sicker Than Your Average: Mia Brookes

Interview by David Blackwell

First appeared in the Whitelines Annual 2022/23

Words: David Blackwell

Mia Brookes is a preternaturally gifted frothmonster. A snowboarder’s snowboarder who oozes style and accumulates oversized cheques for fun – but who still gets told to go to bed early by her mum. Whether it’s chasing Yung Doli down Laax’s infamous P60, launching immaculate Cab 12s off shit-your-pants booters, winning world junior titles or crushing Olympic gold medallists at rail comps, Mia Brookes brings the steeze like almost no one else in women’s snowboarding.

“Wherever I am, snowboarding is my home”

Hailing from the not-remotely mountainous or snowy English town of Sandbach, this 15-year-old schoolkid now stands at the gates of snowboarding greatness with her homework assignments under one arm and a sackful of the heaviest tricks under the other. But the journey here has not been easy. From the outside – through the curated lens of instagram and glossy sponsors’ edits – it may look like Mia has been living a carefree existence. In reality, hers is a tale of a god-given talent, injected with military-grade determination, swaddled in bitumen-soaked layers of adversity, and nurtured in the great traditions of British snowboarding’s dirtbag culture.

I can say this with absolute certainty, having known Mia and her folks for several years now: it really isn’t easy being this steezy.

Photo: Will Radula Scott

Mia’s story starts when parents Nigel and Vicky (long time Chamonix seasonaires and lovers of all things snowboarding, motorbikes and hip-hop) had to look after one of those all-too-cute little French ski-school kids on a chairlift and realised it would be quite nice to have one of their own.

I don’t need to go into what happened next in exact detail, but suffice to say that Mia was born in 2007 and just two years later she was knocking about on a snowboard on the slopes of Grand Bornand.

“I only rode in the mountains when I was really young,” she says. “I couldn’t ride the snowdomes until I was 5 or 6, because I was too light for the drag lift. It was still pretty unusual for a 4-year-old to be snowboarding back then.”

Photo: Theo Acworth

Fast forward through several years spent shredding the indoor slopes at Tamworth and Manchester, and Mia was starting to demonstrate not just great board skills, but also a subtle awareness of snowboarding’s unique style cues.

“Dad thinks he started my baggy style,” she laughs, “but it was actually John Weatherley [UK snowboard scene stalwart and brains behind Boobytrap coaching]. I was following John around Les Deux Alpes and he was wearing massive baggy adidas pants. I remember pulling my trousers down so they were around my knees, just to look like John.”

Still, Mia’s dad Nigel definitely set the bar high when it came to riding. “Dad has always given me style tips, which I do listen to… well, most of the time! He never forced me to do anything [at this point Nigel slips Mia a fiver], but he would always tell me how I could make a trick look better, or tell me it looked shit! He was particularly upset when I stopped doing methods like Jamie Lynn and started doing Euro methods. I can remember the first time I did a Nico Müller style method and Dad looked me in the eye and said, ‘Never, ever do that again.’”

Now, before you start having visions of a rabid middle-aged style nazi giving himself an aneurism by shouting at his daughter at the bottom of the park, I should point out that Mia and Nigel have the kind of piss-taking relationship that only comes from years of doting support and affection. There has been occasional tough love, sure, but above all else, love.

“Dad was upset when I stopped doing methods like Jamie Lynn and started doing Euro methods. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Never, ever do that again’”

It is actually amazing that Mia built any understanding of snowboarding ‘cool’, because for a long time she wasn’t really into snowboarding at all.

“Weirdly, I’ve always been uninterested in watching snowboard videos,” she admits. “The first time I watched snowboarding for any length of time was the 2014 Olympics when Jenny Jones was in the slopestyle final. But even then I sat there for about 10 minutes and got so bored I just went to watch cartoons instead. And whenever we were in Laax on a powder day, Dad would always say, ‘Let’s watch Renaissance and get hyped,’ and I’d say, ‘No, I don’t want to watch snowboarding – I want to do it!’”

Now she’s old enough to own a phone, does she still swerve all the latest edits?
“I’ve spent some long car journeys scrolling through YungDoli’s insta feed, and I watched all of the Yawgoons videos in a single trip to Laax… but even now, when I’m not snowboarding, I don’t really think about it.”

Despite this indifference, between the age of 7 and 13, Mia collected competition wins like other kids collected Tamagotchis, BeanieBoos or Hannah Montana sticker packs. In fact the number of gold medals hanging around her neck would put Mr. T to shame.

Photo: Will Radula Scott

The next big turning point for Mia followed the propagation of an airborne pathogen which originated in the city of Wuhan, China. You may have heard about it.

When the world was melting down in March 2020 and people were losing their shit, buying up dozens of bog rolls they didn’t need, burning down 5G telephone masts and drinking white spirit whilst wrapping their heads in cling film, the Brookes’ clan faced a choice: Stay at home, in Sandbach, not going to school, not snowboarding, not watching snowboard videos and not winning any more medals – or pack your bags, get the fuck outta dodge and drive overnight to Switzerland to beat the travel ban and install yourself for a couple of months in the freestyle capital of Europe, Laax.

Mia, Nigel and Vicky were used to making sacrifices. Giving up holidays to schlep to competitions in unremarkable places. Pouring money and diesel into a motorhome in which they could live for a winter, rather than buying a new car and enjoying the delights of slopeside apartments. Despite being one of the brightest prospects in European snowboarding, back in 2020 there was minimal funding from the GB team, and whilst sponsorship deals were putting clothes on Mia’s back and a board under her feet, they weren’t putting much food on the table.

Photo: Sami Tuoriniemi

But by taking this latest gamble and installing herself in Laax for the latter part of the 19/20 winter – where she could shred pretty much every day (under the watchful eye of her Welsh coaching wizard and boss-level hype man Jason Rickwood) – Mia kick-started a freakish wave of progression and began writing what may yet turn out to be one of the greatest triumph-over-adversity stories in any sporting arena.

“I’ve always been uninterested in watching videos. I don’t want to watch snowboarding – I want to do it”

In the footnotes of that story will be the months the family spent apart each winter, huge financial risks, thousands of miles driven, unglamorous #vanlife, hundreds of pounds spent on Covid tests, ‘computer-says-no’ battles with school teachers, wrangling over coaching time and myriad other hurdles that would have flattened mere mortals.

These sacrifices, I put it to her dad, must have been made with a vision for the rider Mia might become? Because without that vision, why would any family bend their lives so far out of shape?

“There was never a vision,” Nigel replies, “but we always said that to develop, Mia would have to keep stepping outside her comfort zone. So at each stage we’ve just done whatever it takes to move forwards. We’ve had constant imposter syndrome, waiting for someone to tap us on the shoulder and tell us we shouldn’t be here, but whenever we’ve pushed Mia to the next level, she’s been successful. So we’ve been on this wild ride with Mia for a few years now, which has involved a lot of sacrifice and been a bit of a financial nightmare.”

For Mia however, this has just been ‘normal’.

“I don’t feel like I’m making massive sacrifices, because this is what I’m used to,” she shrugs. “I actually really like living in the van. I do miss my cats though… and I suppose Dad too when he’s not around. But when I’m away from home, I just focus on snowboarding. Wherever I am, snowboarding is my home.”

Photo: Will Radula Scott

As natural as she makes it sound, ditching the school run for a mountain-based shreducation has had its challenges: “It’s been tough with school recently. They don’t really understand that snowboarding can be a career, even though it’s an Olympic sport. The biggest emotional rollercoaster has been trying to get [my] school to agree that I can do my schoolwork remotely.”

Mia’s mum Vicky lays it out straight: “The school said they would support Mia’s career, but then put a lot of barriers in front of us this winter. When we challenged them they said, ‘Well, we thought she would have given up all this snowboarding stuff by now…’”

The education system, and society more generally, can’t really cope with the ‘shit or bust’ mentality that’s required to be successful at an elite level. No one who makes it to the top of any discipline spends ages worrying about back-up options. And what the Brookes family have in spades is the determination to do whatever it takes.

Photo: Markus Fischer

“If we’re going to support Mia’s pursuit of competitive snowboarding, we have to go all in,” explains Nigel. “It’s 100 percent or nothing. I’d far rather be riding powder than standing on the edge of icy kickers freezing my arse off watching her do spins. But if Mia’s committed, I’m committed.”

“My teachers don’t understand that snowboarding can be a career, even though it’s an Olympic sport”

So what rewards has this sacrifice delivered? Having cleaned up early on in her career at the Brits and World Rookie tour, last winter saw Mia step up to the next level. She was the overall winner on the Europa Cup tour for slope and big air, having won pretty much every event she entered. She was also the Junior World Champion in big air (at the age of 15, in an under-18 event), and came second in slopestyle by a fraction of a point, having spent the two previous days throwing up in bed with a virus.

Her success was not limited to classic contests either. Mia was invited to the Red Bull Rail Yard jam, which she duly won – beating industry titan Anna Gasser in the process. She was also given a coveted invite to the Nines, where she took the ‘Ruler of the Week’ and ‘Best Style’ awards. So basically ‘won’ the Nines, then.

Her victories are underpinned by – in my opinion – the strongest rail game of any female snowboarder anywhere in the world. I challenge anyone to drain instagram, rewind all the X Games footage, or rewatch the Olympics, and identify a female rider who has the same sack of tricks – but more importantly the effortless style – that Mia brings to the street features. OK, a case could possibly be made for Jamie Anderson, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Tess Coady, but I firmly believe that when Mia steps up to World Cup level in 2023 (and perhaps even drops into a Dew Tour or X Games course) my assertion will hold true.

Photo: Will Radula Scott

Meanwhile, when it comes to marquee kicker tricks, Mia was pumping out effortless 80ft+ Cab 12s at the Nines and can do back-to-back 1080s in her sleep. No one who saw her at the Nines will be surprised if she’s soon eyeing up 14s.

But Mia is very aware that she is now competing with the world’s elite, and they too won’t be standing still in the run up to Torino. Indeed, the level of progression in women’s riding is going ballistic.

“To make it into the women’s Slope or Big Air podium at the next Olympics you’re probably going to need triples,” she says. “Lots of the girls already have doubles dialled, and I’m only just starting to get comfortable going upside down. That’s my next big goal over the next 12 months – nailing doubles.”

So how does that happen?

“I’m going to have to do lots more gymnastic work to improve my aerial awareness,” she says. “I find it really easy spinning flat, but flipping doesn’t come naturally. I’ve just been to Belgium for a week, hitting an airbag. We stayed in a static caravan that stank of dogs, there was no drag lift so your legs got super tired hiking up all day, and it was soaking wet so my boots were sodden after about 20 minutes. I mean, life could be a lot worse and I shouldn’t be moaning, but it definitely wasn’t glamorous!”

Nigel spells out the reality from his own perspective. “I think parents of snowboarding kids need to be careful what they wish for. It’s not all that it seems from the outside, the reality is much tougher. As a parent [in the UK], you have to be prepared to do the heavy lifting to get your kid to an elite level. Once they’re there, the system can pick them up – but the GB team simply don’t have the resources to support every single kid who shows some talent.”

No doubt there will be many more hurdles to clear in the future, but – being a fellow dad to a snowboarding daughter myself (three of them, in fact) – I wonder what’s been the toughest moment so far?

“Mia’s injury, when she knocked herself out and was helicoptered off the mountain, Nigel replies without hesitation. “Going through that is not something I would wish on my worst enemy.”

Ah yes, the injury. At the end of the 20/2021 winter, Mia suffered a serious brain trauma when she fell and knocked herself out, riding switch into the transition of a huge pro-line kicker.

“I can’t remember much about it,” confesses Mia. “I remember doing a 9 on my previous lap, getting back on the chairlift… but everything after that is blank, until I woke up in hospital. Initially, the Swiss doctor said I needed a couple of weeks off, no exercise or screen time, but when I got home, the doctors realised it was more serious and said I couldn’t ride or do anything where I might bang my head for three months. It was frustrating having to sit still and do nothing, but I was getting really bad headaches. The headaches would ease, and my hopes would raise, but then they’d come back and be horrendous, which set my recovery back. I basically spent a lot of time in tears.”

Photo: Will Radula Scott

Eventually Mia recovered and was able to ride again. And thankfully, her accident doesn’t appear to have had any lasting effects. Landing a cab 12 at the Nines was effectively her ‘all clear’, having slayed any demons associated with riding switch into huge booters.

“I remember getting back on the chairlift… but everything after that is blank, until I woke up in hospital”

This whole episode, though, serves to highlight a dynamic every parent must grapple with sooner or later: the point at which you have to ‘let go’ and allow your child to be independent, irrespective of the risk they could hurt themselves, or any other trials and tribulations the world might have in store. Mia will soon finish her GCSEs and begin travelling the world without Mum and Dad, making her own decisions about tattoos, downing shots and all sorts of other stuff that freaks out parents. Is Mia ready for all of that? Are her folks?

“Well, I don’t really want to do everything with my mum!” says Mia. “I like having the freedom to make my own decisions, but it’s a real comfort having her with me on trips. I’m definitely never getting drunk though, after seeing some of the other girls getting into a state.”

“Can I quote you on that?!” asks Vicky.

“I think my presence at competitions is actually now toxic for Mia,” says Nigel. “She’ll do much better without me there. Ben Kinnear [GB Snowsports Coach] is the man for the job now. I just need to be Mia’s dad.”

So, no more giving style notes on her method, then?

“I don’t think Mia will really know what snowboarding is until she’s ridden powder with her mates with a hangover, or felt that sense of community that comes with travelling together and sleeping on floors. Vicky and I can fade into the background now; we’ve done our job.”

Photo: Will Radula Scott

Fortunately, as Mia begins flying the nest, the wider snowboarding family is ready to welcome Mia in with open arms. The sense of community amongst the female riders on the circuit isn’t just for show in front of the Olympic cameras. At the recent Monster Hell Week event, for instance, none other than Jamie Anderson took Mia under her wing.

“Jamie was so friendly,” recalls Mia. “She’s my hero. She was lovely all week, and Zoi and Tess were amazing too. They really made me feel so welcome and part of the crew. I had to pinch myself a couple of times because I couldn’t believe I was hanging out with all these legends.”

Is she looking to emulate Jamie’s success, then?

“I think it would be amazing to have a career like Jamie. I obviously want to go to the Olympics, and make a career from riding, but if it came down to a choice – have Olympic success or be able to live like YungDoli – I would choose YungDoli every time!”

I’ve known Mia for several years now, and she is definitely competitive. She’s a winner. The dopamine fix of standing on the top of the podium has been coursing through her veins for the best part of a decade now, and she’ll keep pushing harder and harder until she reaches the goal of being an Olympian. I’m sure she has luscious and vivid technicolour daydreams about a gold medal hanging around her neck. She doesn’t want to just make up the numbers. She wants to win.

Photo: Will Radula Scott

But she remains, above all else, a frother who’s mad for snowboarding in all its beautiful idiocy. She, like her parents, has given every part of her soul to this ridiculous love affair we all share with little ice crystals that have settled on high-altitude slopes. So when she says she just wants to ride, she really does. She would sacrifice everything to spend her days bezzing around with her friends, laughing, goofing off – and busting out huge, steezy 100ft backside 180s of course.

“If it came down to a choice – have Olympic success or be able to live like YungDoli – I would choose YungDoli every time!”

I think Nigel and Vicky should take an immense amount of credit for shepherding their daughter right up to the gates of snowboarding’s promised land, whilst retaining a clear sense of what matters. Nigel himself puts it beautifully:

“I don’t consider Mia winning the Olympics as ‘success’. Success for us will be spending a day riding powder with our grandchildren. That’s why we started Mia riding at such a young age, to be able to snowboard as a family. That is the ultimate goal.”


Favourite Colour?

Favourite animal?

Favourite resort

Favourite meal?
Curry. Any curry as long as it is not too spicy

What is your favourite drink
Bubble tea

Favourite TV show
Stranger Things and Superstore

Favourite book
The Hobbit

School subject

Favourite Movie

Favourite song to snowboard t
Anything by Biggie Smalls

Chill out song?
Nirvana or Foo fighters (also good for snowboarding)

Wish for one thing, what would it be
To be like Yung Doli. Or Jamie Anderson

Who is your idol, not snowboarding
Billie Eilish or Dave Grohl


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