The Subaru Freeride Series features the best competitive big mountain skiing and snowboarding in the United States. With three events at Snowbird, Telluride, and Big Sky, the series qualifies skiers and snowboarders for the international competitive big mountain circuit, Freeride World Tour. During each event, athletes drop into a 1,500-foot steep face covered with chutes and lined with cliffs. Judges award each athlete points according to the skier or rider’s line choice, fluidity, speed, airs and style.
Big mountain skiing requires explosive power. Skiing fast and hard and landing cliff drops gives your posterior chain a beating. For Kitten Factory skier Cam Doane, his Massif Athletics program design built off his existing explosive power in order to reduce his fatigue. From the top to the bottom of his line, he needs to maintain his speed and fluidity and have enough powder left to throw tricks off cliffs.
“Normally everyone talks about having their wobbly legs and burning legs. I haven’t had that all season. No screaming pain. I get to the bottom of a run and feel fine. It’s the biggest confidence booster. When you have endurance, you’re thinking about where you’re supposed to be going instead of how you’re going to make it through.”
Like all athlete's at Massif Athletes, Cam's programming is build with short term and long term goals in place. Cam's coach, Nick Fowler, designed his individualized programming to prepare him for all three events of teh Subaru Freeride Series.
Event #1: Snowbird
Cam went into the Snowbird event, visualizing his run for the qualifiers.
“It’s a mental game to tell yourself you’re good enough, and be comfortable skiing your own style. [During inspection], I was weighing the pros and cons of different features. I wanted to throw a backflip, but I’d only thrown two all season. So the day of qualifiers, I threw four backflips before my run. I had to scare myself. I knew I had the air awareness, and had the run. So, instead of being nervous, I had a great feeling of confidence that I could ski the line how I wanted to ski it.”
Specific to Cam's program design was the introduction of proprioception work, or in layman's terms, learning body awareness in space. Fowler programmed in specific movements to help Cam hit highly technical movements in the heat of competition. Doane warmed up before his start, doing laps with his buddies. When he arrived at the start gate, three skiers had to drop before him--perfect timing to catch his breath and compose himself. The wind at the top of Snowbird hit 70 mph that day. He dropped into a chute in East Baldy to find a lot of the snow was already windswept and skied out. He hit an air at the top of his line before throwing a backflip near the bottom. He qualified third.
“It was a relief to know I was still capable of putting that run together and going to the next round. Whether you’re a good enough skier or not, there are so many variables in big mountain competition and so many great athletes that you wonder if the consistency will play over.”
In finals, Cam was scheduled to drop fifth out of 50 male skiers. Event officials delayed the finals for a half hour due to high winds, which had cancelled semi-finals two days before. During inspection, he had to pick a line to ski and then get up to the top of North Baldy without a lot of spare time to get warmed up.
“Finals had a different vibe. There was an edge to it. It was a bit more nerve-racking because I hadn’t visualized, skied or seen that run. Originally I was psyched because we had fresh snow, but after I dropped, I realized it was just as hard as the day before,” he said about the finals venue. “After my first air, I told myself to breathe and have fun--that’s what it’s all about.”
With another air before his third cliff drop of the line, a double, Doane says he knew he had to land forward on his skis. The mental challenge, he said, was telling himself he needed to air into a hazardous landing peppered with rocks, roll into a jump he’d built during inspection for a backflip, and still anticipate a high-speed double air at the bottom of his line.
“I overlooked the third air mentally, washed out, missed the next air, and decided to bypass fifth cliff drop, and just skied high speed to the finish line."
Between Cam’s third place qualification and his fall during finals, he was hungry to get after it at the next event in Telluride.
Event #2: Telluride
“What I have learned is that training before the season, 3-4 days in the gym each week, yields impressive results. Finding the balance between mastering my craft on the slopes and making time for gym training has been my struggle.”
Cam’s goal for the Telluride competition was to ski strong and lay down a solid run. Last year, he was on the waitlist for the Telluride event, but didn’t get to compete. This year, on inspection day of qualifiers, he learned that venue was not where he thought it was.
“My first impression of the venue [Telluride] was that it was limiting creativity and playfulness. Then the venue began to speak to me. I found a creative line that spoke to me with a cliff that I felt confident in landing. The landing area was drifted snow from riding skiing above the untouched landing. The area above it would be tight technical exposed turns, just my style.”
The day of qualifiers he felt a bit off, never what you want to feel as an athlete during a competition. He made his way up to his run, using visualization methods taught to him by his coach Nick Fowler & got ready to ski. Even with the visualization techniques, Cam didn't fully commit to the drop in and wasn't confident in a few of his moves.
“The switch 180 off the cornice was less than my normal style. The turns over exposed cliffs were confident. And the air off the cliff was where my run ended. Coming off the cliff from a technical exposed area may have been what threw me off, or maybe the angle of the landing, or the heavier-than-expected snowpack. No matter the reason I took a tumble over my skis and tomahawked at least three times.”
And just like that, the run was over. Cam took the rest of the day to pout and question himself.
“This was a learning experience of how to play the Qualifiers game. I know I can easily put down a run that qualifies me to the next round without putting myself in unmanageable situations. I now have a better understanding of my own ability. And I was able to shake myself from my pity party and enjoy the rest of my time at Telluride.”
Going into Event #3: Big Sky
Most athlete's don't realize the mental game is just as important as the physical game when it comes to their sport. How confident you in your abilities can mean the difference between a qualifying finish or a scoreboard disaster.
With the help of his coach, Cam plans to take a more carefree attitude into Big Sky.
"I want to enjoy my trip...Knowing you skied and didn’t ski hard enough is always the fear that accompanies falling. Where is the balance? I now feel strongly that my skiing style does not need to be pushed out of its comfort zone by very much in order to qualify. From there, I can expand on my strengths in semi-finals and finals each comp."
Coach Nick has been pushing Cam to work on his speed and hip power. According to Fowler, Cam's programming will play well into his strong charging style and his ability flip and spin. The key to Cam's success will be winning the mental game and heading into Big Sky confident in his own ability.
“One reason I enjoy these competitions is because of the camaraderie. Being around talented athletes that are willing to compete and willing to push themselves into challenging terrain with style pushes me. It’s rewarding feeling I search out. Even though you can ski like that day to day with your friends, I’ve found this pushes me the most.”
With Big Sky on the horizon, Cam's dedication to his programming here at Massif as well as his training on the mountain will prepare him for the unknown and unknowable.