There are three aspects to Nadine Overwater‘s life as a professional snowmobiler — the guide, the coach and, now, the athlete.
As a guide, she works for Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours out of Glacier House Resort, showing tourists from all over Canada and Europe around her home mountains.
As a coach, she leads La Nina Sled Camps, a series of seven snowmobile clinics for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders.
And as an athlete, she landed her first movie segment with 509Films last year.
All in, she logged at least 100 days on her snowmobile last winter and established herself as one of the leading women in a sport dominated by men.
For Overwater, it all started on a farm near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, where she got to play on all sorts of motorized vehicles growing up — ATVs, dirt bikes and, of course, snowmobiles. In the winter, she would go zipping across fields on a snowmobile. “I was pretty lucky as a kid — we always had toys available,” she told me in an interview on a rare winter day last week where she wasn’t in the mountains. “I was pretty comfortable on the throttle.”
She first ventured into the mountains in her late teens, doubling a sled with her boyfriend to go snowboarding.
It didn’t take her long to go from snowmobiling to gain access for snowboarding, to snowmobiling for the sake of snowmobiling. One day, her future brother-in-law lent her his snowmobile so she could go riding in Golden. “He was trying to marry my sister so he was using me,” she said. Still, “It was the first time I had my own machine in the mountains. It was perfect — what riding was meant to be.”
In 2007, Overwater bought her first snowmobile. She graduated from university and moved to Revelstoke, where she got a job as the environmental monitor for fledgling Revelstoke Mountain Resort and pursued her passion of big mountain riding.
Her life took a big turn in 2010 when she was laid off at work. In need of work, she took her Level 1 avalanche course and started guiding.
“You get axed so you start looking for new opportunities,” she said. “It was devastating at the time, but look what that got me into.”
Overwater is thin but strong, with shoulder-length brown hair and a look of toughness that comes with making a living working jobs traditionally dominated by men (in the summer she works in forestry) and raising a child.
Five years after her career change, Overwater’s career is taking off, both literally and figuratively. She’s doing seven sled camps this year, including a one-day clinic for beginners, five two-day camps for more experience riders, and a jump camp in April where she’ll go around building jumps and helping girls get comfortable in the air.
In the fall, 509Films released an edit of the riding she did with them last winter. “I just fell into it somehow,” she said.
She recorded her segments while out with her pro-snowmobiling friends — locals like Rob Alford, Derek Wood and Brodie Evans. “I’m always riding with these guys. I’m there, the filmers are there and it just so happens if I can squeeze in a shot,” she said.
“It worked out really well.
The segment begins with Overwater dropping a large cliff and then shredding down a powdery slope, carving smooth turns in the snow.
In the second shot, she flies off a banked jump, arcing her snowmobile through the air into a cloud of snow. The rest of the 2:20 edit shows her hitting jumps and dropping more cliffs.
She clearly remembers the highlight of her season. She and her friends were out all day building a massive, cheese-wedge booter. As it was being built, she was eyeing it up, wondering if she could hit it. She asked a friend what he thought. His response: it was a table-top jump, so if she didn’t make it, she probably wouldn’t die.
“It’s a daunting thing because when you’re looking at it from the run in, it looks really big,” she said. “It was one you had to hit at full throttle.”
Overwater decided to go for it. “I hit it and it was a pretty cool feeling going off something at full throttle,” she said.
The jump was a turning point for her. Afterwards, everything became easier.
“The more time you have in the air, the more time you have to adjust,” she said. “Being comfortable of that feeling of being in the air.”
This year, on top of her paid work guiding and coaching, Overwater wants to do more filming. Like many professional action sport athletes, she is working on a series of web edits. She fulfilled one of her dreams last year with her first film segment and now she wants to step things up with an even better one this year.
“You don’t want to be subpar. For me to support my sponsors (she is sponsored by Riderz, 509, Motorfist, Snowpulse, Somewon, and the Sled Shed) I don’t want to have a film segment just because I’m a girl,” she said. “I want it to be because I’m on par with the boys.”
Ultimately though, she wants to inspire other riders, especially women, who are a small but growing minority in the sport.
“After I run a camp and the girls are fired up — that’s the best feeling,” she said. “My goal is to be a positive person and not an egotistical leader in the sport.”