Nichols finishes breakout season in sixth place in Freeride World Tour overall | VailDaily.com
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Nichols finishes breakout season in sixth place in Freeride World Tour overall

25-year-old Edwards native had career-best fourth-place finish in Verbier final

Jack Nichols of Edwards finished sixth in the Freeride World Tour overall standings in 2022.
Claudia Lederer/Courtesy photo

Battle Mountain High School might need to rebrand itself as “Big Mountain U.” After all, it funnels freeride skiers and snowboarders to the FWT as consistently as the University of Kentucky forwards phenoms to the NBA. Last season, not one, not two, not three — but four — Huskies competed in 2022’s 21-member World Tour.

“That was cool — four brothers from Vail, all on the tour together was definitely unheard of,” Jack Nichols said of himself, brother Kevin, and Grifen and Blake Moller. While Moller won the snowboard overall crown this year, Nichols had his best season ever, finishing sixth in the ski division.

“I’m pretty stoked. I’m definitely thrilled about how it went,” the 25-year-old said about his 2022 campaign.



It’s been a steady progression for the Edwards native, who was 15th in his 2020 rookie season, missing the cut for FWT 2021 as a result.

“I don’t think I want to be done competing. I don’t want it to end like this,” he said to his parents at the base of Fieberbrunn (Austria) after his 12th place finish knocked him off the big stage in 2020. He watched as his younger brother Kevin extended his season with a sixth-place finish that day.



“So, I was pretty determined to come back after getting knocked off, especially with my brother still on it. I was like, I gotta come back,” he said.

Back on the Freeride World Qualifier Tour, Nichols won at Snowbird, was second at Big Sky, and took ninth at Crested Butte to win his way back onto the FWT for this season.

“I was pretty fired up,” Nichols remembered. “I was like, ‘I like where my skiing’s at, like, let’s go make the cut of the tour now.’”

At the Kicking Horse Golden BC event in February, Nichols did just that, albeit by the thinnest of margins.

“They took 11 riders, I was ranked 11th,” he chuckled. “I was like, ‘wow I made it — barely — I’m lucky,’ but I was super happy. That was my goal of the season. From there it was like, what’s my next goal?”

He hoped to move up gradually.

“It was like, let’s prove that I’m supposed to be here. I want to make sure the judges know they made a good call and that I’m on the same level as these guys,” said Nichols.

He finished ninth at Baqueria Beret (Spain) and a career-best fifth at the penultimate Fieberbrunn event. Then, at the tour finals in Verbier, Switzerland, on March 26, he finished fourth, ending his season in the sixth spot on the overall standings.

“So, definitely my confidence is way higher than it was in 2020,” Nichols stated.

Nichols started ski racing at a young age, joining SSCV’s mogul team when he was 9. After a few years, he joined the park team, but the rigidity of both felt constraining.

“I wasn’t super into it,” he admitted.

“I never really cared for ski racing or moguls. It’s kind of a strange sport to me. They kind of want you to be robotic and freeriding you can have your own style and make your own style work and make it look good and just kind of do whatever you want, which is awesome.”

Garret Scahill, who currently co-owns and operates Vail Brewing Company, and Jack’s older brother, Christian, lured him over to big mountain. The camaraderie and creativity fostered amongst his fellow competitors hooked him from the start.

“Early on, just making friends from all over — Utah, California, Washington — I’ve met people that I’ll know forever,” he stated warmly. “Everyone’s kind of on the same vibe.”

On tour, Nichols doesn’t have a coach now, preferring to bounce ideas off of his brother, Kevin, and other riders, like Alta, Utah’s Andrew Pollard, who has lovingly earned the nickname, “Coach,” from his peers.

“We’ll just talk about lines and he’ll tell me what he thinks is cool and I’ll tell him what I think is cool,” Nichols said. Nichols also spends time studying film, something which was especially valuable in Verbier.

“That face is really intimidating and probably the hardest time I’ve had to pick a line,” he said of the famous Bec des Rosses. “So that was helpful to watch old film and be like, ‘oh I didn’t see that.’”

Nichols chose start one (of three choices) in the Verbier final and eyed a wind lip after the initial mandatory top air. From his vantage point, unable to see most of the face, he misjudged the nature of the feature.

“On the way in it was super different than I thought,” he said of the cornice, which leaned out over a no-fall zone. He planned to execute a 360, but opted out.

“I hopped off and was like, ‘oh, kind of glad I didn’t do that,” he laughed.

His monster backflip off the lower cliff went perfectly, but there was a feeling — between both the judges and Nichols – that he left some points on the table.

“I think they knew I had a little more planned but it’s just always so different once you get up there,” he said.

Jack Nichols sends it at the Verbier (Switzerland) FWT Final on March 26.
Jeremy Bernard/Courtesy photo

With no practice runs, the improvisational nature of his line is something Nichols accounts for when he formulates his attack.

“I’ll usually have two or three hits I know I want to hit, I know how I want to hit it, and then other stuff where maybe you can’t tell how it’s going to be,” he stated of his game plan.

“You just go, ‘oh I’ll roll into that and if I like it, I’ll hit it, and if I don’t, I’ll do this. So it’s kind of a mix between having a big enough plan where you can have a backup plan. If I had a better backup plan in that chute, I could have added a feature in there, which probably would have scored a few more points.”

Heading into the off-season, Nichols plans to complement his mountain biking with workouts from GOAT Training in Edwards. “We get a lot of our workouts from my dad or John Mark,” he said. Trips to New Zealand or South America in the August pre-season are also a possibility. “It all happens really fast,” he said of the transition from fall to winter.

“We only get a month to ski and then you’re competing, so it would be cool to get my legs under me over the summer,” he stated.

Before all of that, however, Nichols is excited to head out to Lake Powell to do some wakeboarding.

“That’s always the best way to unwind. It’s the closest thing we’ll get to a beach,” he laughed.

 


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