Former Ski Club Vail racer Bolduc wins freeskiing contest in Jackson HoleBy Shauna FarnellDaily Sports WriterJACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - Right before Tyson Bolduc drops off a ridge to ski 1,500 vertical feet,, dodging trees and hucking one cliff after another, he clears his head of all possible consequences."You just kind of have to tell yourself you can do it," said the 23-year-old former Ski Club Vail racer who won his first big-mountain freeskiing competition last weekend at Jackson Hole, Wyo. The event was part of the Subaru U.S. Freeskiing series.
In a competition where competitors are regularly transported off the mountains in toboggans, worrying is not a preventive measure."I'm not going to say the risk is imminent, but I've been to many (big mountain contests) where they've taken four or five people out on toboggans," Bolduc said. "Then again, I've been to some where no one gets hurt all day. Some people try to ski things they're not prepared for."Bombs awayOne can imagine it takes a lot of practice to, say, do a front flip off a 50-foot cliff, land on one's feet and keep bombing down the mountain toward the next obstacle. This is what Bolduc did in the final run of the Jackson Hole contest. He had already separated himself from the competition on day No. 1 by dropping in off a ridge at the top of the mountain (all competitors had to hike for about 40 minutes to reach the summit), launching across a large gully and skiing precariously down a steep spine. He said he was the only competitor to ski that line the first day. Bolduc's victory, however, was bittersweet. A good friend of his, Aspen resident Charlie Gaylord, had a bad landing off a rock face during the contest and had to be airlifted from the mountain. He is still in a coma.
"That's showing the reality of (risks) in the sport as blatantly as you could see it," Bolduc said. "He was doing a double jump; he landed harder than he anticipated. He hit a cliff below a flat. It's shocking to me still, but that's the reality. You're playing with a mountain." Bolduc himself is no stranger to injury. His tally includes a ruptured pancreas, cracked kneecap and broken back.Necessary skillsIn big-mountain competition, participants aren't allowed to ski their lines before the contest begins. They must scout them out from other locations on the mountain or by binoculars or helicopter. Judging is based primarily on the skier's line down the mountain, and also factors in control, technique, aggression and form.Bolduc said he views his ski racing career as a huge asset in his big-mountain skill set.
Reaching speeds of 75 mph on the race course, he said, makes a person more apt to successfully drop cliffs at speeds of around 50 mph when freeskiing."I think ski racing is the foundation of the sport," he said. "I personally wouldn't be able to ski at the level I do if I hadn't had a foundation of ski racing. You can tell at the comps who does have that foundation. They're the kings of the mountain."As for challenges, Bolduc said that of all the obstacles in freeskiing contests - cliffs, hidden rocks, trees, poor snow conditions - his biggest challenge is finding the right mindset. "I tell myself mentally that skiing is just having fun with friends," he said. "In the past, racing, when you put yourself in that mental zone, you create stress for yourself. Now, you really know you're putting yourself at risk. But at the top, I just think very positively and don't think about the consequences."Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado