Queens of the Rome Age | Madison Blackley and Ivika Jürgenson

We sat down with the ladies from Rome's Pro Team

Rome SDS, a perennial favourite in the snowboard world. Often seen as the opposite end of the spectrum to certain large scale ‘corporations’, a refreshing alternative, the snowboarders’ snowboard brand.

“Rome is a brand of the riders, by the riders, and for the riders” – Abraham Lincoln (probably)

And to be fair, we totally see it. For starters, their pro team features more ‘core’ riders and fan favourites than it does podium topping comp kids (even though said podium topping comp kids are in fact core fan faves). The Venn diagram of the Rome pro team and people we’d want to go for beer with is a circle.

Ivika catchin’ some airtime | PC: Tim Schiphorst

Rome knows there’s exceptional value, not just in the riders that we see on cereal boxes after a mega Olympic run, but in the riders that the average joe can resonate with. Not to say that we can ride anything like them, but they’re relatable, y’know? These riders fuel the stoke, watching them snowboard makes you want to go out, grab some buddies and go snowboarding. A quad cork is undeniably a gargantuan feat of athleticism, but does it invoke the same visceral feeling of ‘get up and go excitement’ as a lofty back 3 or a perfectly boned method?

Two riders who epitomise Rome’s vibe are Madison Blackley and Ivika Jürgenson. They’re the ladies heading up Rome’s Pro Team, different in style but bringing the same infectious energy and contagious hype to the table when they’re strapped in. They’re keepers of the froth, bringers of the hype, and Queens of the Rome Age.

“Despite growing up on opposite sides of the world, Madison and Ivika have similar stories in their early snowboarding life”

Despite growing up on opposite sides of the world, Madison and Ivika have similar stories in their early snowboarding life. Both started out on skis, but soon ditched the two planks once they’d had their first taste of sliding sideways. And while Madison’s home state of Utah may be more recognisable as a winter sport haven, Ivika’s early endeavours in Estonia clearly paid dividends in the long run.

Although, with the highest peak in the country sitting at a mild 318m (for reference that’s only roughly the height of the Eiffel Tower) it makes sense that Ivika’s bread and butter is riding street. One of the most proficient ladies in the game with involvement in some of the most defining videos of the last decade, including her two-year project ‘Honey’, which Ivika counts as her proudest moment in snowboarding.

“Her thing is absolutely proper presses and making really serious features look way too easy”

“When my Honey video came out, I was pretty proud of that. That was awesome.” And so she should be, received with accolades through the community, it showed off Ivika’s tech rail skills and highlighted her keen, creative eye for picking spots. Rome’s Marketing & Team Manager Matt Stillman would agree…

“When Ivika dropped her project ‘Honey’ I recall thinking ‘Yo, Ivika needs to be on Rome’. It was such a great mixture of interesting spots, incredibly stylish riding and just overall snowboarding that got you stoked, it just felt right. Smash cut to the following year when we were able to make it happen and Ivika just keeps doing her thing. Evidently her thing is absolutely proper presses and making really serious features look way too easy.”

Ivika FS Wallride for Honey | PC: Tim Schiphorst

And Madison? She counts her most memorable moment as taking the top spot in Jackson Hole to become Queen of Corbet’s Couloir 2021. (If you haven’t seen the footage from the event, check out the full replay here, or catch the highlight reel here. Madison is hard to miss in her neon pink ‘fit).

“It was pretty horrible conditions, but it was also like 10 feet of powder. So you know, I felt pretty safe.”

And she’ll be back this season, to defend her crown and hopefully take home another huge ass Bison skull trophy, but Madison has her sights set on another contest that’s set to return to Jackson in 2022- Travis Rice’s Natural Selection.

Madison’s big ass bison | PC: A.Jimmerson, Red Bull Content Pool

“Yeah, I mean even to be like a Wild Card just to like be able to see it in person, you know, would be so cool because you see it on TV, but like I don’t know, I want to watch that up close and personal. That’d be so sweet. Oh my god, I mean, I would cry first of all, then I would huck my shit.”

As a rider Madison is nothing short of genre defying. Park or powder, street or backcountry, she’s got a deep bag of tricks and an explosive style that’s a pleasure to watch. She warrants the highest praise from everyone, including fans, fellow riders, industry pundits, and of course, her Team Manager “Madison has an infectious energy about her, it’s a perfect blend of ‘not giving a fuck’ but at the same time clearly wants everyone to be stoked and get in on the session. It was awesome seeing the reaction to her joining the team last season, just a snowboarder’s snowboarder in every sense of that term. We’re really stoked to see her expanding her riding in the backcountry and can’t wait to see what this season holds for Mads.”

“When I got into filming, I kind of just lost that. I didn’t see the point anymore”

Equally at home filming and competing, but Madison admits that while she does prefer stacking clips, there’s an undeniable buzz that comes hand in hand with competing.

Ivika on the other hand has a love for filming that outweighs everything else. “I don’t have that drive for the contests in life to be honest. When I first started snowboarding, I did those Peanut Butter railjams from Volcom. And that’s when I really felt like, “I’m a contest person, like I love contests”. I got that, like extra push or some sort of a feeling that I wanted to do more and do better, but then when I got into filming, I kind of just lost that. I didn’t see the point anymore.”

Filming with Ivika | PC: Tim Schiphorst.

Both have filming projects in the pipeline for this season to keep your eyes peeled for, and Madison dropped us a few hints about her plans for this winter. “Well, loosely I’m planning on filming everything, y’know but I am planning a project. I don’t wanna say it’s like a serious backcountry project, but it’s more like a powder oriented thing. I wanna get some airtime!”

While both Ivika and Madison have several high-profile projects under their belts, in terms of ones that the two have seen collaboration on, both Ivika and Madison were involved in Jess Kimura’s groundbreaking all-female project ‘The Uninvited’ back in 2018 but they’ve not actually ridden together in person in a hot minute.

Madison doing her thing

Madison recalls “We’ve ridden together in Salt Lake, we filmed together before I was on Rome for a little bit, which was fun, but only only in my area. It was like it was like three or four years ago, it was kind of a while.”

This season though, the two will meet again for Rome’s Sidehit Seance. Taking place at Sugarbush Parks in Rome’s home state of Vermont, it’s an event that encapsulates the brand’s core vibe. A vibe that drew Madison to Rome initially, “I would say [Rome is] like very homie style, like there’s something about people in the woods of Vermont that’s kind of like old school, I guess. Like when I think of snowboarding in like the 90s.”

“That’s the beauty of snowboarding, it’s a family affair”

Madison speaks with experience even though she was still a wee nipper during the snowboarding heyday in the 90’s, she’s actually a legacy grom whose dad was one of the OG’s in the scene. “On one of my walls in the other room I have his old snowboard, which is a 1984 Burton performer. Original shit”

And that’s the beauty of snowboarding, it’s a family affair, not necessarily blood related, but bonded through a mutual love of sliding on snow. So, while you or I might not be locking in nose presses like Ivika or hucking into Corbet’s like Madison anytime soon, there’s still a place for us within the Rome family. A family full of renegades, punks and shredders who do it for the same reasons we do- for the love of snowboarding.

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