Andre Agassi on snowboarding

A few years after leaving a 20-year pro tennis career, Andre Agassi is finding himself a relative rookie on the slopes. The tennis great—who runs the $60 million Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation and whose new book, Open, details everything from his use of crystal meth to wearing a hairpiece—has been snowboarding everywhere from Vail to Idaho’s Tamarack, where he has a home with wife Steffi Graf and thier two children. We caught up with him at a World Cup race in Beaver Creek.

Love All: He of the mighty backhand works on his backside

Love All: He of the mighty backhand works on his backside

When did you pick up snowboarding? In 2005, I watched my son go out, ride a lift and then disappear for about 45 minutes. I said to myself, “Hey, I’m missing out on some good times … I’d better learn this.” So I started the next year, and went out maybe 20–30 times.

How’d you do your first few times out—any biffs? I sure did. I hurt my left wrist my first couple of days. I’d never been on skis and don’t understand the sensation of speed with the body or angles of the mountain, so there were a lot of obstacles to get over.

You’re known for a whopping two-handed backhand. So tell us, on a snowboard…backside or frontside? My weakness is getting up after I fall to my heel. I sort of flip over and drop the board down. But I always prefer coming into a heel turn than a toe turn.

Think your heel side will ever rival your backhand? I hope so. My backhand was what got me where I went. To be in the top of any field you have to have something that you count on in a ridiculous way, and you could wake me up in the middle of the night and I’d still go out there and not miss a backhand. But I still miss heel sides.

Who’s the Federer of snowboarding … Shaun White? I love that guy. I did a charitable commercial with him for American Express. I don’t know if I love his snowboarding more or his hair. I’m envious of both. But what a sweet spirit he is. He’s amazing.

His hair’s kind of like the Agassi of old. Oh, that’s generous. You could put his hair in a ponytail and hang from it. His is quite a bit longer than mine ever was.

Your sponsor Longines’ slogan is ‘Elegance is an Attitude.’ That apply to snowsports? Looking good is half the battle. If you can’t actually do the tricks, it’s nice to at least go up the lift. But it’s not about how you look, but how you live. It’s a great life being out here on the mountain, and it’s a great life making a difference in people’s lives.