by jim moran
The year was 1999, and the location was Blackcomb, British Columbia. I had
spent the last six years on the US Ski Team, so I felt it was time for something
new. There was an event that was going on called the World Tour of Extreme
Skiing. I made the trip up to B.C. to see how I could do in this type of competition.
I had always loved Blackcomb, but I was a bit nervous because I did not know
how I would stack up. I felt that I was decent in the backcountry, but the
last thing I wanted to happen was to suck and make the US Ski Team look bad.
Since I had never competed in extreme skiing, the first day was a qualifier
for me. It is critical in extreme skiing to weed out the people that can't
ski on more difficult terrain. I realized this, and did not want to mess up
my event before it even began.
The day of the event was odd; the freezing line was right across the middle
of the run. The top of the course was a bit frozen with less than an inch
of snow. The bottom was punchy and wet. I decided that a huge air route was
not wise, so I made nice carving turns around some bushes at the top. I got
some air, but only from a five-foot bush.
Then I figured I would find some bigger air, so I headed in the direction
of a 10-foot and 25-foot cliff sequence. I skied through the trees then over
the 10-footer with control. Then I punched it on the 25-footer. I got in the
front seat, but made it look like it wasn't a mistake. I hit a bunch of rolling
hill areas, and then found myself at the bottom.
It was enough to qualify me, but it didn't matter because all the scores
would be thrown away for the World Tour event the next day.
When it arrived, they had the event on the Sudan Couloir, which in town is
known as a pretty tough run. I went up to scope out my line. In extreme skiing,
that is something you have to do-unless you don't mind getting trapped, then
dying trying to get out.
I had picked a sick line that I thought no one would go near. I was wrong.
About 10 people went right next to it. I was skiing through a bunch of rocks
and steeps cutting over toward the difficult section that I thought no one
would touch. It looked like nobody had jumped off the cliff. They all skied
to the right in another very technical area.
I pointed 'em right off the top of the cliff, and with my speed of entrance,
my planned 40-footer turned into a huge 55-footer. When I landed, I punched
forward hard and did about four summersaults. In extreme skiing they don't
kill you for a fall; they just mark you off for control, and fluidity. I guess
they liked the run despite the fall, because I still got 23rd. The top 25
people qualified for the finals.
The day had come to see what we could do on the most difficult terrain. I
was still pissed at myself for crashing the day before. We had all scoped
it out. It was time to show our stuff. I was in the gate, and the starter,
Jack, was getting me all psyched to get going.
I left the gate, and was ready for action. I immediately went to a small
25-footer, and stuck it. Then I figured I would throw a bit of freestyle into
my run. I did a reversal on the wall that was opposite the 25-footer. Then
I skied through some five-foot rocks. They were perfectly spaced for me to
hit every one with a carved turn to the next rock.
Then it was time for a traverse over to the big daddy cliff. It was approximately
65 feet high, and I stuck the hell out of it. I then had to just make some
nice turns through a flat section, and then some more through a steep icy
I finished my run with a 35-foot drop. I was thinking to myself "Wow I just
stuck that whole run!"
It turns out that the judges liked my run a lot. I won the day's event by
6.5 points. In extreme skiing that is quite a bit. It moved my overall score
from 23rd all the way to third place.
For my first extreme competition, I could definitely live with third.