Five events. Five different mountains. On three continents. All in the span of two months.
This is what Grifen Moller — a sophomore at Western State Colorado University and member of the Mountain Sports team — will endure along the Freeride World Tour (FWT).
The FWT is a worldwide circuit in which the best freeride skiers and snowboarders compete on challenging alpine faces at renowned ski resorts. There are five competitions across the United States and Canada that qualify a skier or rider for the FWT, with the top three finishers advancing to the world stage.
Out of the 500 people who competed in North America, Moller finished in the upper echelon of male skiers last year — with two second-place finishes and a fourth place, landing him third overall.
Moller started skiing when he was 2 at Pine Knob in Clarkston, Mich., and would continue to ski at Vail and the Arapahoe Basin once he moved to Colorado when he was 5 years old.
His passion for freeride came around the age of 13, after Moller found himself disliking mogul and park skiing, due to the rules surrounding both disciplines.
“I constantly found myself wanting to ski the mountain instead of staying in the park or mogul lane all day,” said Moller. “That is what really started my transition into big-mountain skiing, and once I heard there are competitions for big mountain skiing, I never looked back.”
Now, Moller will have the opportunity to compete against some of the best freeride skiers in the world in Japan, Canada, Andorra, Austria and Switzerland.
On Jan. 10 Moller left for Tokyo, Japan — taking two flights which combined for 16 hours on a plane, paid for by the FWT.
“Luckily the movie selection on the plane was huge,” Moller joked. “So I was able to keep myself busy the entire time.”
While the first event of the FWT wasn’t scheduled to start until this past Saturday, in Hakuba, Japan, Moller arrived a few days early so he could be well adjusted to the time difference, Japan’s train system and experience the country’s culture. As of press time, competition had yet to get underway as a result of low visibility.
It took Moller six years to accomplish the dream he had stashed in the back of his head since he was 13. However, getting to where he wanted required much hard work and dedication.
“I’ve been skiing as much as I could at home,” said Moller. “Basically everyday since the mountain has opened (this year).”
The training doesn’t stop there for Moller. He also tries to get outside and remain active daily. Additionally, working out regularly and eating right have allowed Moller to remain in top physical condition for competitions.
“I would go to the dry-land (training) with the Western Mountain Sports team,” said Moller. “The days I couldn't make it, I made sure to go on a bike ride or a hike.”
Aside from his physical condition, Moller also visualizes his lines leading up to the competition. In the FWT, no athlete is allowed on the competition face prior to his or her run, which makes it hard to pick a line.
“From just looking at it from the bottom, you have to start with the good landings and work your way up,” said Moller. “The best line to choose is the line you see yourself skiing the best.”
During a competition, athletes compete individually and receive a score between 1.0 and 10.0 from a panel of six judges. Winning runs means making creative line choices and tackling natural features, all while skiing with style and control.
Moller will finish up in Japan on Saturday, Jan. 27 before heading to Canada where he will compete from Feb. 3-9.
From there, Moller will have a slight break before competing in Andorra March 1-7 and Austria March 9-15. The FWT will conclude in Switzerland, with competition starting on March 31 and ending April 8.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)