As a bakery in a winter sports town, we try to keep up not only with the start and end of the snow season but also with familiar faces who might pass through our doors. We also love talking about notable vegans who show that it’s possible to do anything on a plant-based diet.
Here’s our list of 5 skiers and snowboarders you may not have known were vegan.
Seba Johnson started skiing very young. At 14, she competed in Calgary in the 1988 Winter Olympic games in the women’s Giant Slalom, becoming not only the youngest alpine ski racer in Olympic history but also the world’s first black woman to ski in the Olympics. Competing against some of the world’s best adults, she placed an impressive 28th out of 64.
Seba was raised vegan from birth by her mother, who took her to animal rights protests from a young age. Although she competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics, she did not compete in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway in response to the country’s decision to resume whaling. In 1998, Seba was disqualified from a race for refusing to wear a ski suit made of leather and wool.
Seba is not only a model vegan and animal activist, but has been on the receiving end of much abuse and harassment—including death threats that disrupted her training—for competing in a sport dominated by white people. Since retiring from her skiing career, Seba has spent her time educating young people about health and animal welfare and bringing skiing to inner city Boston. She is also a yoga instructor, actor, and model.
Snowboarder and three-time Olympic medalist Hannah Teter transitioned to a plant-based diet after she watched the documentary Earthlings in 2016. She says it’s a big part of her sense of happiness and, as a snowboarder, she’s also concerned about the link between the environment and animal agriculture.
Hannah said the following about eliminating meat and dairy from her diet: “I feel stronger than I’ve ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I feel like a new person, a new athlete.”
She starts her mornings with a high-protein smoothie, and for lunch or dinner, she eats a vegetable dish with whole grains. One of her favourite dishes is a vegetable stir-fry with a side of quinoa.
Besides winning three competitions and a gold medal, Hannah was featured in the snowboarding documentary First Descent.
Tommaso Leoni has been snowboarding since the age of 13 and is a member of Italy’s national snowboard cross team. While initially vegetarian, he went vegan for ethical and environmental reasons and felt a boost in his health and athletic performance.
“At first, I was a bit skeptical about being at the same time both [an] athlete and vegan,” he told Plant-Based News. “This was [because of] the several myths about lack of proteins, iron, and other essential nutrients deficiency. But, after a while I discovered that my performance was great and I was feeling strong and energetic. Also after injuries, I had a better and faster recovery, and this is just amazing!” he continued.
Tommaso competed in the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014, placed 8th in Men’s Snowboard Cross in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. He’s also competed in various World Cup competitions.
Niki Kelly is a professional snowboarder who lives in rural Canada. She initially went vegan in 2015 for health reasons, but environmental impact and animal suffering solidified her decision. “It gave me hope that we can change so much just by choosing not to eat meat,” she said.
Living and travelling in a van with her partner Mitch and dog Nelson, she’s accustomed to exploring new places by sled and on foot, having a minimal impact on nature.
Competing since 2016, Niki has won the Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Kirkwood events and the North American Freeride Championship for Female Snowboard.
One of our regulars at BReD, Olympian Julia Murray was named one of Canada’s top 10 vegan athletes. She competed in the Ski Cross debut at the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympic Winter Games and grew up in Whistler BC, who loves nature, biking, skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, and camping in Whistler.
Over the course of a year, Julia transitioned to become vegan. Her excitement for food has since sky-rocketed, her relationship with food has become easy and emotionally healthier, and her passion for sharing vegan recipes and newfound knowledge grew to a point that she needed an outlet. At hookedonplants.ca, Julia shares a variety of vegan recipes and reasons to go vegan. She’s also a speaker, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, certified plant-based chef, and entrepreneur.