“Freeriding is 80% mental and 20% physical” – Reine Barkered, Freeride World Tour Champion.
Fear would consume most of us when faced with jumping off 15m cliffs, hurtling down the steepest and most dangerous mountains in the world. But freeriders live for it.
They thrive on it. And most importantly, they know exactly how to do it.
Xtreme Verbier Champion Jackie Paaso lays it out simply: “I have to ask myself, why am I scared? If it’s because it’s something I shouldn’t be skiing then I have to take a step back and make a new plan. If it is something I can do then I have to push that fear to the side”.
Freeriders have an amazing ability to know their limits and push through the barriers that may stop most. This mental confidence is clearly what sets these athletes apart. They refer to it as an ongoing mental battle with yourself, with what you can and cannot do. This battle is what sets your limits on how far you are willing to go.
“Freeriding looks scary but a lot of the riders are super calculating,” says Blake Hamm, Bronze Medallist Freeride World Tour.
Freeride athletes know their capabilities and would never put themselves in a position that could lead to a fall or injury.
Interestingly, freeriders often undertake just as much mental training as physical preparation. They study photos of the mountain they are going to ski and use visual meditations and specific breathing techniques. “A coach taught me to use visualisations for comps … you have to have confidence you’re going to land it,” Blake continues.
This way, they are able to fully focus on the task at hand and perform at their best. They stand on top of the mountain with pure confidence and excitement knowing they are about to ski the line of their life.
However, it’s not just between you and your own mind. Athletes discuss their lines over with each other, relying on advice and support from their peers. “We are all buddies in the industry and none of us want to see each other get hurt, so if we think someone is skiing a stupid line we will tell them for their own safety,” says Mark Abma. They are truthful with each other, saying if a line is a bit of stretch for someone’s ability, or encouraging their buddy to have the confidence to go after something bigger if they know they are capable!
So next time you feel like channelling your inner freerider, tune in to your body, breathe, visualise your run, push the fear to the side and then drop.
Rachel Findler is the founder of Uthrive ski retreats – uthriveltd.com