*(diclaimer...this ended much longer than I intended. just couldn't stop once I got rolling )
Originally Posted by ryan
did you step it up this year? add a new trick the bag? strengthen a weak area? feel good about particular progress you made on the hill?
Hmm...did i improve...tough question. Lots of what i wanted to work on this year was mental. Last year, was my full first ski season after coming back from ACL reconstruction, so the goals of last year centered around proving to myself that my knee was strong enough again to ski the way i hoped to. and I thought I had accomplished that last year and was happy. so this year, I turned to more of the mental aspects....e.g. i tend to hesitate a bit and don't ski as fluidly as i'd like to...and thus, wanted to work on that a bit this year.
so one of the ways I test myself in this regard is through freeskiing comps. hesitation in comps will kill you, and thus, a perfect proving ground to get myself over my hesitation hurdles and see where i stand.
Luckily for me, this was easy to give a shot as 1 of the US Freeskiing Tour stops (Squaw) and the 2nd World Tour stop (Kirkwood) were in my hood. So I really had no excuse to give 'em a shot.
I've tried to qualify for the Kirkwood event in the past ('02? '03?), but crashed one time, and choked and skied a mellow line the second time barely missing the cut both instances. ACL reconstruction and a following regaining of confidence and strength kept me out of them for the next 2 seasons.
So the first event for me was the Squaw Valley event, stop #2 on the US Freeskiing Tour. My goal was to ski a line that alot of the top guys would be hitting and see if I could advance to the 2nd day. Anything past that would be icing on the cake in my mind.
There weren't a ton of options as far as rowdy line choices went for the first day, so I figured that top competitors would all hit this one blind 20 footer to icy sketchy landing, and then make there over to this billygoat rock shelf area where there'd be multiple options to piece something gnarly together. During my inspections, I took a peak at the 20 footer at the top and disregarded it....the landing area looked too small and it was a reall sketchy landing. If you didn't hit it precisely, there was a hail crash factor, and the way the cliff was set up, you don't see the landing until your basically in the air (you had land very close to the base of the cliff to hit the tranny). Anyway, I figured I shouldn't even deal with it as I thought it would be too risky for me...and just should pick up a fast fluid line to the billygoat section at the bottom.
So Day 1 at Squaw comes up and I'm in the start gate and i'm sitting there thinking and arguing with myself, "****....I have to hit this top air...all the top guys are hitting and making it look smooth"...."but crap, i didn't even scope it."......the race started asks me if i'm ready...i nod sure...."dammit. just hit it. all you have to do is stay tight, stay composed, and stomp at the base of the cliff, and ride it out".......starter starts counting...3! 2!! "crap...do i hit it?!" ...1! GO! SKIER ON COURSE!..."F-yeah!! go for it! this is what I'm here for!"
so out of the start gate, I push off and make my through the trees above the air chanting..."don't slow down. don't slow down. fluid fluid. dont' stop. keep going.". i spot the edge of the cliff 10 turns in front of me and start visualizing flowing off the lip, stepping off, and tucking, and stomping....so i flow into it, get the speed right, pre-jump from about 2 feet back so i land right at the base, air over the edge and sight the landing right below me:
as soon as i spotted the landing I knew I had it and was stoked. STOMP! ride it out and make my way to the bottom section. Now at this point in my mind, my run was over. The crux of my line was behind me, and i knew the rest of my features like the back of my hand and I was just flow right into them. (or so I thought). Unfortunately, as I landed my next air, my skis got stuck in sun-baked bomb hole and I double-ejected after perfectly p-tex-ing the landing sending me off the second part of my double stager and ending my comp.
So i was bummed that because of the crash, I didn't make it to the second day, but these comps are a huge mindF**K, and overcoming the hurdles your mind throws in a front of you are a big part of these things for me. So i was really stoked that i overcame my fear of the top air and went for it. big improvement in my mind. and even with the crash and double ejection ended up mid-field for the first day. I guess i'll take that.
So the Kirkwood comp comes and being a World Tour event, you have to make it through an extra pre-qualifying day in order to earn the right to ski against the pre-qualified world tour skiers. My goal here, similar to Squaw, was just to qualify, and then have fun with it and see where i could go from there. In the back of my mind, I knew how sweet it would be if i could make it all the way to Day 3 of the event, the Finals on Saturday, but knew I had a looong way to go to get that far.
So qualifying day comes and due to high winds there's an announcement in the morning that there would be NO inspection runs. Due to the winds an upper lift was closed, and they'd be carrying competitors to the top via snowcat which wouldn't allow any time for inspection. what this also meant was that nearly everyone would be taking the most obvious identical lines off the top and it would be very hard to make yourself standout.
I had about 30 skiers in front of me and sure enough, as I watched, nearly everyone was taking the same line. Most other stuff was kind of risky to ski fast, fluid, and aggressive w/o knowing your line ahead of time....but that being said, I was determined to find something different. So while at the bottom scanning the venue looking for my line, my eyes were drawn wwaaaay to skier's right where there was a hanging thin snowfield above a complete close-out line with mandatory cliffs. "hmmm....if there's a way through those cliffs that would be a cool line that I bet no one else is even considering." the mandatory air at the close-out appeared to be 15-20 feet while viewed from the bottom and i thought I should be able to hop off of it, to mandatory stick, and then get it together quickly so air off the next rockband and then i'd be done.
My only questions were.....1) with no inspection, I won't know if it's doable until I'm on top of it. 2) I won't know what the landing is like until I'm standing on top of it, 3) Once i'm top of it, I for sure wouldn't be able to turn around whether it's doable or not
, and 4) I wouldn't know where to take off from until I'm top of it.
so maybe there were a few questions
But when I got to the top....and still not one skier was contemplating going where I was going....I knew it had to be done and had to go for it. "Going for it" at the top air at the Squaw comp helped prep me a bit for this and I didn't have any doubts that i was going for this line even though I didn't really know if I could make my way through the close out cliff at the bottom.
so I'm at the top along with a dozen competitors, some patrollers, and the starter. Everyone...except me...is off to skiers left. but i'm alone way to skiers right. The starter yells out the next 5 guys and i'm the 5th to go out of this batch. I skate down to the started and tell him that i'm going to start way the hell over to skier's right and to tell the judges to look for me going that direction off the top. he just kind of looks at me oddly and says 'ummm...ok'.
so I skate back over to my line to wait, alone, as the other 4 skiers drop into the same line that's been getting hacked over and over again. as i'm waiting, one of the KW patrollers comes up to me and asks where i'm going.
I point to my line. "Geoff Small gap"
"but that doesn't go this year"
"yes it does"
"well, good luck."3!, 2!, 1!...skier on course starting way skiers right!
so with that vote of confidence from the patroller it was go time. Push off and straightline this easy chute off the top, get up over a little windlip and set my sights waaaaay down to the bottom where the close-out cliff dropped away. I was was focused on the bottom section, that I missed some opportunities for air at the top and picked my way through a rock garden when I should have blasted through it, but regardless, i was through the rock garden and making my way down to the close-out cliff...
"crap...there it is...I think....this looks totally different from the bottom."
"aha...there's that big hunk of rock on the right. If i stay straight I should be right above that ice waterfall..."
“ok, now I’m on rock…mmm this isn’t it, oh ****, that way doesn’t go either”
turn back around…
“aha…here it is…snow looks good in that drift, **** I have to push off pretty far off this rock…crap, go, losing fluidity points….”(vid of run)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eG73Q4_f3s
so with that I qualified. was (am) super stoked, as i hit a long time goal of mine.
now that I qualified, I wanted to survive Day 1 of the World Tour and advance to the Finals the next day. Already way too long story short, i skied a super conservative line and barely made the cut for the next day. Looking back on it, I'm glad I made the next cut, but am kind of mad at myself because I took a much easier line than I originally intended. i didn't 'go for it' as I did at the Squaw comp and on qualifying day and I basically played it safe. Same thing for the next day (video below)....I played it safe, hesitated a ton my lines, skied slow, traversed way too much...blah blah blah....now I look back on it as kind of bittersweet in that i made my overall goal, but I look back at through my super critical hindsight i'm kind of mad at myself for not really giving it my all during the final two days of the comp.(vid of finals...slow, hesitant, lot 'o traversing, mediocre...)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogTUr...elated&search=
So now with that opinion of my finals run.....i go into next year. I know what i have to do to improve and given the time and opportunity, hopefully i'll have a chance for some redemption next year