If you've seen Chas Guldemond at a contest this season, his fiance Drea Russell was either by his side, helping set up his media opps or out taking some runs herself. This Valentine's Day marks thier five-year anniversary and it all goes back to when they met as high school groms hitting up all the same snowboard comps. For this edition of Better Half, we caught up with Drea to hear what it's like to date a snowboard slope star with an arsenal of tricks and one of the best personalities in the biz.
How did you and Chas meet?
Chas and I met on the East Coast. I went to Stratton Mountain School and he went to Waterville Valley Academy, so we traveled to a lot of the same contests and had a lot of mutual friends...its funny because at first we didn't really get along but after a while we became best friends.
What year was that?
We met in 2002
When did you start to think of him as "The One"?
(Laughter) Well, we were best friends. Inseparable. After we graduated we both were in Tahoe and we rode together at Northstar every day, then we would have “soup in a bread bowl” dates at my parents house. It was amazing. He adored me and I just didn't look at him in that way, but one day I realized that the perfect guy for me was sitting right in front of me and from that day forward I knew I would marry him...the day he turned from friend to boyfriend I knew.
Was Chas the first snowboarder you dated?
No, we have been together since we were 18 so before him all of my childhood boyfriends were snowboarders. It's one of those things...as a girl who snowboards it would be really awkward to date someone who wasn't as good as you! Plus everyone who I hung out with was a snowboarder, boy or girl.
What were you doing when you met?
We both thought about one thing - snowboarding every day.
You guys are engaged, how did he ask you?
He got down on one knee on Christmas morning while me, him and both of our families were opening presents at our house. It was a complete shock...how he got that past me without me finding out is a miracle. I know everything, or so I thought.
You are kind of Chas' manager, is that right? What kind of stuff does that entail?
Hmm, manager? I don't really like that term and I don't know how it came about buuuut...I guess I manage him and a lot of what he does. I always have, it's just now that's all I do. Up until this year I worked two jobs and helped him from behind the scenes...people thought they were emailing back and forth with Chas but it was really me (laughter)! Nowadays most everyone knows who I am and the part I play in Chas' life. I am a very organized person and I am constantly planning so I help him with everything from planning his season, travel, also in dealing with contest organizers and relations with sponsors. I deal with all the bills and house stuff, taxes. Honestly, I do mostly everything. He snowboards and that's what he loves so I try to make it easier for him. We are a team and anyone who knows us personally knows that.
How did your working with Chas come about?
Well, me helping him came about even before we started dating. He had so much talent but he didn't quite have the confidence to deal with sponsors and to know his worth. He is still very humble…the honest truth is that he doesn't like all the business stuff and he wouldn't do it. So I did it and still do. I have tried many times to give him back all of the responsibilities but it never works, so I have just accepted the fact that this is my calling, to help him become what he deserves to be. Its a hard industry and I feel sorry for the athletes who don't have the help of a parent or someone else who understands the way things work. It’s a crazy world out there. I can't imagine trying to make a name in snowboarding and having so many obstacles thrown your way and having to deal with it alone. In the past 5 years we have seen so many talented kids go over the deep end with partying, financial struggles and other things. It’s sad. It's not all fun and games and it is hard for some to understand. You have to have a really good head on your shoulders and a good support system doesn't hurt either. Like I said, we are a team and I pull my weight and he pulls his. It works for us.
Do you always travel with him?
No, actually before this year I rarely traveled with him. A contest here and there when I could get the time off from work. When he got dropped by DC this fall things changed. He was going to be on the road alone. It was really hard on him and we both knew if there was ever a year to transition and for me to go on the road it was this year. So I did. It could have gone horribly wrong but it worked out great. It is like this is how it always should have been. The only trips I don't go on now are overseas.
What’s it like for you when you are at the events watching him compete?
It gets easier every time. You get nerves for sure because you love the person so much but you just have to trust that they know what they’re doing and they got it. He’s been doing this for so long, he’s a veteran and he’s competed more than any of these guys. He’s in a good place, he’s confidant and he’s stoked with his sponsors and I know that he’s happy so I know he’s going to ride well.
Do you guys ever get in arguments related to working together?
Oh yeah. I could lie to you and say no, but we argue. This is our life. I am a fighter and we fight things out... we don't always agree but we always come to an agreement, you know. We never fight for more than like 30 minutes...its funny.
How is living in Reno?
Amazing! I love Reno! I never thought I would live here and like it but, hey, I like the convenience of things. I like how I can go to the store and not know every single person!
You guys moved into the house about a year ago, do you plan to live there for a while?
Yes, we bought this gigantic house so we better be here for a while. Honestly Reno is the best place for us at this time with the mountains, airport, city, fun, dirt biking, skating, life...it's all here. One day I would like to be near the beach but that's unrealistic right now.
How is it living with two males?
The house is so big you can find your own space. Mine is the office, haha.
Any funny stories regarding Chas?
Yeah I mean everything about him is funny, he's a funny guy. I think the funniest stories are when I tell him he should go to a certain event... like last year it was Nissan X-Trail in Japan and he said, "No I am not going to Japan! I don’t want to go there” (He is a very proud American who surprisingly doesn't like to travel.) Obviously I won that argument and he went, then he came home with a second place in quarterpipe. On the ride home from the airport he humbly giggles to himself about how he really didn't want to go but with $25,000 cash in his lap he guesses it was a good idea. It's just funny to me when he is stubborn about going places but when he comes home he has a grin from ear to ear. It makes me laugh. Oh, and now Japan is his favorite place.
Anything embarrassing or funny you can tell us about him?
Chas has the ugliest feet. They are huge and his second toe is a solid half-inch longer than his big toe...I swear it just keeps growing. He is convinced that it helps him land. When this is all over we are going to get it removed. Also, he is the most frugal person you will ever meet. He hates spending money... its one of those situations I guess... he fears he will wake up in the morning and all of his money will be gone! I have to force him to buy things for himself. I have to go through the pros and cons and explain why he really needs something...its funny...we got him a new truck this summer and he pouted through the whole experience. Now that truck is his baby, he is actually detailing her right now.
Lastly, he is a troll. That's what we call him. He is constantly moving, walking around the house (his troll cave), fiddling with his dirt bikes, cleaning his garage. He never stops going. He’s like the Energizer bunny.
Do you feel contests are always judged fairly?
If he wanted to be part of a “fair” sport he would ski race. Judging is exactly what it is....judges are people with opinions, and preferences. I do think sometimes mistakes are made but it all works out in the end. Chas and I both believe everything happens for a reason. The fact is that in a final with 10 people, nine people will lose and only one will win, so the chances are you will lose. We decided long ago the importance of being a good loser - be stoked for your friends, be happy with yourself and your performance and move on to the next.
Where do you like to ride?
Northstar, sunny park days, nothing better.
What are the best parts about your life
Chas is the best part of my life. He is my other half. I know it sounds corny but we complete one another. I also really enjoy helping him through this life. We live and learn together, call it co-dependent but it's rewarding. The travels, the big house, good food, great people, those things are awesome too!