Making history is old news for Scotty James, the 27-year-old snowboarding sensation from Melbourne. When he competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver at just 15 years old, he was the youngest Winter Olympian in more than 50 years and the youngest Australian to ever compete at the Winter Games. Since then he’s become a three-time world champion, won an Olympic bronze medal and six X Games medals, and is in competition at the 2022 X Games in Aspen, Colo., before he heads to Beijing to compete at the XXIV Games.
It’s not immediately clear you’re speaking to someone of such accomplishment when on the phone with James; he’s humble, sweet and a bit reserved, politely fielding calls on his second day in Aspen, just before competition begins.
“The weather is beautiful and I’m looking out on the mountains now so no complaints from my end,” he says.
“My emotional state? Well, usually competition week, naturally I’m always nervous. If I wasn’t, I would be worried,” he adds. “I’m a bit nervous. I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to getting into the half-pipe. And you know, this week is always pretty special. For us athletes, it’s one of those really great events, where there’s a lot of really cool atmosphere, a lot of people. It’s just a really good show to be a part of.”
Leading up to getting into the half-pipe, James will make sure his music is all ready to go as he listens while he competes. Lately he’s been into the TV shows “Nashville” and “Yellowstone,” which have him on a country bent. Other times, it’s R&B.
“It really depends on my mood, if I’m honest, whether I need energy or whether I need to calm down a little bit,” he says.
James, who is based in Monaco these days, is also known for his choice in gloves, which drew attention at the 2018 Olympics for their resemblance to boxing gloves. In fact, he competed in actual red boxing gloves at the 2017 X Games, but for the Olympics, where such is not allowed, he’s had lookalikes made.
“That’s probably the most notorious ritual for myself,” he says of the gloves. “When I get those, I’m ready to go and jump into finals.”
James grew up in Melbourne and got his first taste of snow when his dad returned from a trip to Canada and brought him back a snowboard, that, legend has it, cost just $10.
“It was a door stop at a snowboard store,” James says. “So it wasn’t really something people were using. He bought it for $10 and then he brought it home to me. I was about three years old at the time.”
His family is one that loves being in the mountains, and they would travel to Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland, which is how he got his start.
“I don’t think there was a certain moment where I was like, ‘This is exactly what I want to do.’ I think I just naturally gravitated to it. And there were certain elements and even competition results when I was younger on the international scene that naturally made me feel like I belonged in snowboarding,” he says. “I’m sure my parents would say otherwise, I’m sure when I was very young, they probably saw something that I hadn’t seen yet. But pretty much from when I was about 12 years old, we decided that this is what I wanted to pursue and I wanted to be a professional snowboarder. And here we are.”
Outside of the sport he’s recently developed an interest in aviation, pursuing his pilot’s license.
“I’ve obviously spent a lot of time on planes and it always fascinated me, so I wanted to learn more about it,” he says. Another interest? “Recently I’ve been doing a few more investments. I love cryptocurrency, obviously the new digital space, and venture capital and investments and things like that. I think it’s a pretty cool industry.”
Next month he’ll once again don the Australian colors and compete in the Olympics, which is the rare moment when individual sports like snowboarding become part of something much larger, he says.
“When you get to go to the Olympic Games and compete, you’re obviously doing it for yourself, but you also have that additional pride of doing it for your country as well, so that’s always a special element that comes into the mix,” he says. “The whole atmosphere of doing big games is always a special one.”
In November, James proposed to his now-fiancée Chloe Stroll, the daughter of Aston Martin F1 team executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. Despite having the experience of competing on an international stage at the highest level, nothing could’ve prepared him for the proposal nerves.
“We got engaged in Switzerland, and it was super exciting. I would say it was a more nerve-wracking experience, a different kind of experience than I get from snowboarding in a competition,” he says. “It was a pretty special day.”
They are planning to start looking at wedding venues in Italy this year, for a wedding date in 2023 — between competitions, of course.
“She checks me all the time — there have been a few occasions now where I’ve accidentally introduced her as my girlfriend and she gives me the stink eye,” he says. “So I’m learning to say fiancée now, to transition.”