The level of competition in freestyle skiing is so high right now. Preseason training can be the marginal gain to be the best when competitions start early next year. After a summer of hard work and training I decided to embark on a two-week trip to the Austrian Alps. The plan was converting all the airbag tricks I had trained this summer to the on-snow jumps, ready for the upcoming season on the Europa Cup competition circuit.
Before arriving in Austria, to be able to balance my university study with performing at an international level in sport, I had to spend weeks with my head in the books, so I was academically on track. Coursework deadlines loomed over me while I was travelling to Austria, whether on trains, planes, or waiting on platforms, every spare moment was dedicated to finishing my recursive algorithm complexity problem sheet due the next day. Late nights were spent fine-tuning my team project and bad weather days were spent coding artificial intelligence constraint problems.
I knew glacier resorts are known for their capricious weather conditions; which presents an unexpected hurdle whilst training. Out of the initial seven days, only two were suitable for skiing. Even then, challenges persisted as the park lift remained closed due to gusty winds, heavy snowfall and poor visibility. This compelled us to hike rails for training when we could get up the mountain. Down days were spent training in the gym, practicing flips on trampolines and, for optimising recovery, doing a combination of sauna and ice bath. This abundance of snowfall, however, does promise pristine conditions for the imminent winter season.
Just as the weather began to cooperate, I unfortunately fell ill for three days. Frustration mounted as my last bit of training time slipped away whilst I was in bed trying to recover for the two remaining good weather days.
Finally, with improved weather conditions, Tyler, another athlete supported by Ski Exchange, and I headed to the freestyle park. The pro-line jump there measured approximately 70ft from the lip to the landing and had a slightly flatter takeover of 34 degrees. With a very long and flat inrun to this jump, wind conditions became pivotal. This meant that a small headwind on my second hit of this jump was enough to slow me down and cause me to come up short of the landing and I hit the knuckle hard. Undeterred, I went back up, took a faster line into the jump and managed to get the speed just right.
After recalculating the appropriate speed for the jump, I could finally start to throw down some tricks. I warmed up with a couple of 360s, then some cork 720s with a blunt grab (my favourite). After these tricks the next step is double flips. Tyler, however, was first up to do this. Unfortunately, with the inconsistent speed of the run-in to the jump, he went too big and crashed very badly. I had to go down and close the jump while ski patrol helped him and sorted out an air ambulance to get him off the mountain. After Tyler crashed on the very trick I was going to send I decided to leave the double flips and come back to them on my last day.
Gauging the speed of jumps this size, with so much consequence on the line, is very difficult. Even the most experienced skiers get it wrong. I would advise anyone hitting jumps to watch out for gusts of wind on the run-ins, different snow conditions affecting speed and to watch other similar built riders hit the jump beforehand so that you can tell what line to take into the jump.
The last day of the trip turned out to be one of the best days skiing I’ve ever had! I got redemption on the double flips before changing conditions made it unsafe to hit the pro-line jump. I landed lots of new tricks on the medium jumps and put together some clean rail lines. Despite a lot of bad luck on this trip, the final day of skiing has given me so much confidence going into the 2023/24 winter season.