More than 60 young riders from around the world were invited to compete on the technical slopes of Andorra (Grandvalira, Pic Alt de Cubil, 2700m) for the most prestigious event in junior freeride. Best riders of Freeride Junior World Championships 2017 Heidi Farmer (CAN, Snowboard Women), Olivia Askew (USA, Ski Women), Hank Kennedy (USA, Snowboard Men) and Ross Tester (USA, Ski, Men) told all-andorra.com about their motivations, feelings, qualities and plans for the future.
What was your key motivation to take part in FJWT competition? What’s the difference between freeride and extreme for you?
Heidi Farmer (Heidi): First key is motivation, to be a part of a free ride community where you can continue to push yourself and continue to become a stronger rider, also meeting people from all over the world that share the same passion is great.
To me free ride is about skating out and having fun and challenging yourself getting down the mountain in one piece safely and extreme. I would have to say is you are pushing yourself beyond your limits and yeah doing crazy stuff, I am definitely more freeride than extreme.
Olivia Askew (Olivia): There are a couple huge motivators. The Freeride Junior Tour puts on such fun comps, the judges are all great people and really know the sport, and getting to compete in Europe as an American is also a huge one. Since only three of us American females get to qualify each year it makes it that much more exciting to travel and compete on a world level!
Freeride is all about having fun. You can freeride whenever you want, still be in resort, and also be as mellow as you want. Extreme to me is more about getting completely out of your comfort zone. Both types of skiing are needed to make a competitor successful.
Hank Kennedy (Hank ): My main motivation for competing in the FJWT this year was really to get redemption from last year. I was here last year and fell right at the bottom of my run and wanted to come back and prove to myself that I could do it and put down a solid line. I also had so much fun last year here, when we got invited back it was an easy decision.
To me, there really isn’t much difference between freeride and extreme, because freeriding is extreme and there’s always some variables in freeriding you can’t control that make it extreme.
Ross Tester (Ross):
My key motivation to take part in this competition was to see how I measured up to the rest of the freeriders my age and to represent my town/country and sponsors.
Were you expecting a victory?
Heidi: I never expect to have a win because some days you’re on and some days you’re off and it could really be anybody’s win that day it’s just luck of the day I guess.
Olivia: Since I’ve only competed in Europe once before I had no idea where I’d end up among such a competitive group of girls. Everyone at the FJWT this year was amazing and my only goal was to not fall.
Hank: I wouldn’t say I was expecting a victory but I was coming into the competition confident. Having been here last year I feel like took some of the stress out of it so I could focus more on my riding and what I needed to be successful.
Ross: Coming into this competition, I was hoping for a victory but not expecting it. All I could do was trust that my training leading up to now has been enough to get the win. You never know what’s going to happen out there; you can have an amazing run and win or take a season ending fall, but that’s how it is, that’s why you have to train hard.
How did you choose your first “out of piste” path?
Heidi: I was looking for a line that I could take a nice smooth strong fast approach. I was meant to hit some different features but with the lighting of the day in the snow conditions. You know, it didn’t go exactly as planned but overall I was still happy with how I rode.
Olivia: Since in America we get to go on venue and look at lines first hand, its quite a handicap for us to come to Europe and have to only visually inspect lines. I tried to keep it simple and fall line in order to not get lost.
Hank: When I first saw the venue I just picked a line that looked fun to me and found a line that I thought I could ride well. But since the weather wasn’t cooperating I had to change my line 3 times before I finally found the one I wanted to do. Basically when I pick a line I just look for something that I think would be fun to snowboard because that’s really what it’s all about.
Ross: I chose my first “out of piste” path by thinking about what will make the judges say “wow” and what path will I have the most fun with.
What does the concept of discipline mean to you? How do you prepare yourself for contests?
Heidi: I really feel the best way to prepare for a contest is just to really get out there and ride any day that you can and try and push yourself to your limits. It also helps when you can be out there with people that are pushing you beyond your limits as well.
Olivia: Discipline is something I think all of us on the tour have. To compete on a world level requires a minimum that we all put in the hours to practice really hard and stay focused. Preparing for contests after you’ve put those hours in means its all mental. Keeping a level head and battling nerves is what the preparation comes down to. Coming into a competition with confidence helps with all of those things.
Hank: To me discipline means being able to prepare yourself the best you can for the competition mentally and physically. I was riding everyday before we came to Andorra to make my legs stronger and was really just trying to get myself prepared in my own head because it’s a really big mental game just even coming over here.
Ross: The concept of discipline is something that is constantly on my mind. I always want to be thinking about my goals and making sure my each day has some kind of goal oriented activity.
Which qualities are strongly needed to be the best? Are there any technical secrets to your success or do you believe it’s mainly having good reactions and being in good physical form?
Heidi: I feel like just keeping an open mind and a positive attitude is a good way to be the best. Always listen open-mindedly to the mentors advice that people might give you.
Olivia: I think people sometimes get too focused on how big they are gunna go off of cliffs. Line score is so important but it makes the mental aspect of the competition way harder to control because of all the anxiety you can get when you think about line too much. At the end of the day, its about the skiing. Being in top shape and being confident in your ability to lay a turn down anywhere is what shredding really is. I try to think about that more than line sometimes and I think that helps me personally.
Hank: Strong legs and being ready mentally for the challenges to come. There really aren’t many secrets, before every competition me and my coach (Dad) find a line and go over it as many times as we can. Also I feel like being able to improvise is an important quality to have because sometimes things don’t always go as planned and you have to make decisions on the fly.
Ross: To be the best, you have to be goal-oriented. You cannot ever forget your key motivation in life and never stop pursuing your goals. While having solid goals, it takes enjoyment in your sport, whatever that may be. There’s no other place that I have more fun than while I’m on the mountain with my friends.
Your competition day – what do you concentrate on? What helps you deal with nerves?
Heidi: Technical secrets might just be remember to breathe! Also always be aware of your surroundings and go fast! I try and concentrate on just being calm and the way I deal with my nerves through meditation.
Olivia: I try to get rid of any superstitions I’m feeling and really focus on my sort of “pre-comp ritual”. I don’t let myself even think about dropping until I’m 5 minutes out of the start. Then i put in music and just get excited to ski whatever cool face we’re on top of. For me I do better when I’m excited about what I’m going to ski, so that’s what I spend my 5 minutes at the top thinking about.
Hank: During competition day I usually try to focus on my ski line and what I need to do to be successful in my run. If that’s taking an air a little slower to find a better landing or to straight line this chute here and cut left at the bottom, I try and focus on things like that to give me a better chance for success. Nerves always happen when I’m standing at the top ready to drop in. I just try and focus on my breathing and tell myself it’s just another snowboard run, and to have fun with it, because that’s what scores well with the judges.
Ross: On competition day I like to concentrate on having a normal day almost. I don’t want to change anything in the way I think about skiing. When it comes down to it, it’s just all about having a run that you could do on any typical day, just have fun with it. If you let the nerves get to you and focus on the bad things that can happen, you will be miserable on competition day and likely have a run that is less than your best.
What do you think about the organization of the FJWT in Andorra? Did you enjoy Andorran ski resorts? Do you plan to come to Andorra for the next FJWT competition?
Heidi: I think the organization is awesome the host of the event did a super job and they were very organized and this event was beyond what I expected it. I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity, definitely an experience I will never forget. I would come back in a flash to participate in the next FJWT!
Olivia: The Freeride Junior Tour does a great job putting on events. The planning and organization is always 100% and the amount of excitement everyone has about competing really solidifies people’s willingness to get these comps off and have fun.
I’ve only skied Grandvalira twice (this year and last year for the FJWC ) and I have to say its one of my favorite resorts I’ve ever been too. The resort is so huge that everything is always an adventure. The facilities on the mountain are also really nice. Next year I’ll be competing on the FWQ in North America so unfortunately I won’t be coming back next year but hopefully soon!
Hank: I think the FJWT organization in Andorra are a lot of really great people coming together to further progress the future of the sport and the future of freeriding. They’re all a bunch of really great passionate people, and all the riders really appreciate that about them. Even though things don’t always go as planned with weather and other things they always work their hardest to make conditions the best they can for the athletes.
The ski resorts here are awesome! And I’ve been having a blast riding around with my dad and my friends from around the world. The snow has been awesome and there is so much different terrain here to ride.
I wanted to thank Grandvalira for their hospitality and everything they’ve done for the FJWT and all my sponsors and parents for helping me get here and pushing me to be the best rider and person that I can be.
Ross: Overall, I think the organization for the FJWT was great considering the weather forced us to have the competition a day earlier than planned.
I enjoyed skiing at Grandvalira a ton! I’ve never skied a resort of this size, there’s tons of great skiing opportunities all over the mountain. After skiing here for a whole week, I’ve only been able to explore a small portion of the mountain, I wish I could stay longer! Next year I will be graduated from the juniors, I hope to qualify for the Freeride World Tour so that I can return to Andorra again for competition someday!
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
Heidi: In 10 years I see myself maybe traveling around and continuing to inspire young girls to snowboard. The girl snowboard community has been growing in the past few years and being part of that movement is inspiring.
Olivia: In ten years my only hope is that I’m still enjoying skiing and still involved in the community!
Hank: In 10 years I hope to either be on the tour or working to get there, I would really like to further my career in the Freeride world, and I want my snowboarding to keep progressing as I get older and stronger.
Ross: In 10 years I hope to still be skiing: either filming or competing! Hopefully I won’t be getting shown up by the people my age though!