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The idea of skiing the Tram Face is amazing- it’s big, it’s gnarly, and it may have the best spectating of any venue in the world. The reality of skiing tram face is, unfortunately, very difficult. It needs to snow a lot, stabilize over approximately 24 hours, all the while maintaining it’s integrity (not wet slide and pin wheel) in the hot Tahoe sun. The organizers had the ambition and it could have been a phenomenal event, but based on the snow and stability , I can’t say I was disappointed when they called off Tram Face after the slide. Although the avalanche wasnt’t the reason for the event being canceled (it was because of the hard debris piles nearly everywhere), I look at the incident as the mountain simply saying, “no guys, not today.”
So, Monday we headed to Silverado for the second year in a row. I won’t lie, I’m not a huge fan of Silverado for a big mountain competition, but we kinda had to take what we were dealt. I picked a fairly aggressive line- a standard air up top and a tight chute with a mandatory and an incredibly small transition. The air up top went fine, I dropped into the chute- that was tighter than it looked- made a hop turn and then got tip-to-tailed between two rocks. I went to make another turn and my skis stayed put and I just began tomahawking down the chute toward the mandatory. After two rolls I self arrested before I went over the edge. I sent the mandatory and skied to the finish in frustration. I’ve never crashed like that- in rocks in a place you really don’t want to be tumbling. I don’t have too many bad days on skis, but that was a pretty bad day.
For sure it’s a bummer that I didn’t once rise to the occasion on this years Freeride World Tour, but truth be told I’m not super worried about it. The tour gave me three years of amazing experiences traveling the world with some of the best people I’ve ever met, skiing some of the greatest mountains I’ve ever skied, and generally having the time of my life. In the end, isn’t that the point anyway?
With IFSA registration about a week off and FWT registration ongoing, I felt obliged to give my $0.02 on big mountain competitions (BMC). With the perceived reward of money, sponsors, and film time, BMC seems like the way to go, right? The competitions have helped launched the careers of Chris Davenport, Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Hugo Harrison, and Ingrid Backstrom, among others. With open qualifiers, it seems that fame is a mere four runs (and often less) away. However, before entering said competition, there are a few things you should probably consider.
First off, subjectivity is a bitch. Get it through your head that sometimes you’re going to get hooked up, and sometimes you’re going to get burned- that’s just the way it goes. Yes, as bad as it sounds, the more recognizable names will usually get the benefit of the doubt. If you’re going to pout when you get burned, have the dignity to concede a bit when you get hooked up- your peers will appreciate it.
Second, there may be no other skiing event that provides the opportunity to ski beyond one’s ability like a BMC. For instance, in slopestyle, one is pretty aware of their abilities- odds are if you can only through a switch nine you’re probably not going to drop the hammer and try your first double cork ten- you either have the trick in your pocket or you don’t. However, the terrain and airs in BMC are more subjective. Sure you’ve stuck a twenty footer, but can you do it today, on this take off, with this landing, after ten people have hit it? Err (no pun intended) on the side of caution.
Also, if you’re looking for a straight-line to the limelight, this is probably not the place. Yes, the aforementioned people got their start on the tour, but this was a long time ago- before the age of self-edits, social media, and shameless (sigh) internet self-promotion. Since Ian McIntosh in 2004, no one has come off a winning season and went straight into filming with a major production crew. Even before then, a winning season didn’t translate into the silver screen the following year. Yes, a lot of the filming talent competed at one point, but not all of them (surprisingly few actually) dominated, particularly recently.
Next, sure you’re a good skier, but the game’s a little different when you have judges watching every move and several hundred people screaming, ringing cowbells, and lighting off fireworks. If you get nervous on shooting the final cup in beer pong- you should probably ask yourself if this sport is really for you. On that point- being a good skier doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good competition skier. There are some amazing skiers out there that just don’t compete well.
So, if you understand that competition success doesn’t translate into film segments, are realistic about your skiing ability given the conditions, are cool under pressure, and understand it’s a judged sport, than, yes, this shit is for you and you’re going to love it.
First, if you pay attention to the top riders you’ll learn a ton- how to inspect, how to create a line, how to keep cool under pressure, etc. I mentioned how a lot of guys that film now never dominated competitions- but they sure as shit learned a lot through them, helping them become the skiers they are today. Next, although it might not be a fast track to the silver screen, it will get you noticed, in a timely fashion as well. Take all the photos and video you want, and maybe next season it will get you somewhere. Win a competition; it will get you noticed that day. I’m not saying you’re going to get put on an international team for getting third, but it will at the very least give you some in roads with sponsors. Lastly, and most importantly (i.e. this is why you should be doing it in the first place) you’re going to meet some of the coolest, hardcore yet down to earth people in the world. The family on tour is like nothing else in sports. Yes it’s a competition, but everyone is cheering each other on and helping them out. If you really want to see the soul of skiing, come to a tour stop.