The creation of the European-based Freeride World Tour has taken freeskiing (also called extreme skiing) competition to a whole new level. Athletes that areawarded one of the few coveted spots on this circuit get the chance to competeon massive, unskied faces in mountains around the globe, from Russia to Europeto North America for over $200,000 US in prize money.
I caught up with Jackson Hole-based freeskier Crystal Wrighton one ofthe biggest powder days of the season in Jackson Hole.The girl skis fast off big cliffs, stomps landings in powder or hardpack, andshe is ready to show off on the world stage. We chatted about how it feels tobe invited over to Europe as a Freeride World Tour rookie, the coming onslaughtof the European media, and what she’s packing besides big skis.
Only 21 male and 9female skiers were selected to compete on the FWT this year. How did you feel when you found out youwere invited?
I was so excited…I’ll get to ski against some of the 8 bestgirls in the world. There are only3 Americans going, two of us from Jackson, me and Jess [McMillan]. I’ve never competed against Elyse[Saugstad from Alaska], or any of the Euro girls; it’sgoing to go off.
You’ve competed onthe US-based version, the World Freeskiing Tour, for a couple years, andtook the tour champion title last year. What’s the difference between the tours for you?
A big difference, and what I am most stoked about is theuntouched venues. It is visualinspection only, and you get one run. It is really big terrain, and the venues are huge and untouched. You have to know what you are doing, because there’s a lot ofexposure and no fall zones. It’s kindof like filming but you are competing; it is really cool.
Freeskiing and thecompetition circuit doesn’t get much press in the US, but in Europe they loveit. It’s pretty different from ourcompetitions, how do you feel about all the media and money on the line?
The media coverage in Europe is ridiculous! They show the comps on like 6 differentTV channels, and it is all over online. My goal is just to experience the different type of competition; I’mtotally in this for the experience too. It’s a lot of media, and there are huge amounts of spectators, and fans,even! Chamonix is even running a travelspecial for spectators of the competition there-it’s crazy! You just don’t get that here at all.
You are also apersonal trainer. What’s yourdryland regimen for the strength you need on big venues?
I trained physically a lot harder for the FWT, it is alonger run, and the airs are bigger. I need to be strong to stomp my airs and my lines. The new scene, new people, and newvenues I’ve never seen before…it’s a little intimidating. And the level of the other athletes isamazing. I wanted to be ready. I have been working really hard onbeing physically and mentally strong. I believe that balance, stabilization, and strength are the mostimportant for a skier- I’ve really focused on balance and stability exercises.Also, just trying to ski as much as possible and be confident in my ability asa skier.
Training at one ofthe biggest mountains in North America, Jackson Hole, has got to be a plus, butuntil now, this season didn’t start out so hot. What do you do when conditions don’t cooperate?
Trainingin JH this season has been challenging, sure, but I feel it is great for myskiing. Skiing long challenging conditions makes you a better skier. Growing upskiing in Jackson made me love the sport . I grew up ski racing and I alwayslooked forward to going to the mountain to freeski. I love it all the time-my parents had me on skis at age 2 skiing Jackson. But now we have so much powder, it is just what I needed before I go and compete!
I always travel with something that has sequins! I usually bring two sequined pieces ofclothing. You never know whenthere is going to be a dance party! I definitely would love to show the Euros how to party in sequins. Haha! I feel that thy might already know how to do that. Euros are fun and crazy already, hopefullyI will fit right in.
But you have a dancemove they might not know!
My dance move is something that I have always loved to do,and gave been trying to perfect since I was 15. I know it seems weird, but ever since I had knee surgery[dual ACL repairs] I have been able to do the limbo but with my back almosttouching the floor. A lot of timesI mop the floor with my hair. Mygoal is always to see how long I can stay down there, and I try to move to themusic.
What do you want totake away from the whole FWT?
I cannot wait to experience the terrain. Ideally, it would be amazing to win thetour, and I hope to have an amazing experience and meet a bunch of rippinggirls!