Words: Kade Krichko
When Dylan Ferguson moved to Utah at 18 to pursue freestyle aerials and a freeski film career in 2006, he appeared to be treading a thin line between notoriously touchy parties. But he never even attempted to pick sides of that line. Instead, he erased it, becoming a fixture on the U.S. Freestyle Team and member of the 4bi9 freeski crew
"I don't want to just be known as a certain type of skier," says Ferguson. "I want to be an all-around guy."
And so far, he's done just that. The Amesbury, Massachusetts, native, trains full time with the U.S. Freestyle Team and films segments with 4bi9, the same group that helped launch LJ Strenio and Tom Wallisch.
The 23-year-old got his start out of New Hampshire's Waterville Valley at age 7, when he enrolled in the freestyle program and met Nick Preston, Director of Freestyle Programs at Waterville Valley Academy.
"[Dylan] was small and kind of shy," says Preston, who coached Olympian Hannah Kearney. "Still, right off the bat you could see he was very talented."
But Ferguson's talent wasn't the double-full or corked-10 variety; it was in ballet. Ski ballet. When the discipline hit its heyday in the mid to late-90s, Ferguson was one of its shining stars. At 10 he finished in the top 10 at nationals, competing against skiers twice to three times his age.
"We were sure he'd be the top ballet skier in the world," says Preston.
Then the bottom fell out on ski ballet and Ferguson took his talents elsewhere, focusing on aerials and the new up-and-comer, slopestyle.
In 2006, Ferguson shifted operations to Utah, his eyes on the U.S. Freestyle Team. He enrolled at Westminster College in Salt Lake City for the fall semester and shortly thereafter made good on his goal: showing U.S. coaches his aerials potential at 2007 Selections. The result was enough to earn discretion onto the team, says U.S. Ski Team Freestyle Program Director Todd Schirman.
Ferguson took advantage of the chance and increased his competition stock enough to earn a trip to the 2010 Olympics.
Across the tracks, his freeski career was also taking shape. He reunited with the East Coast park riders of the 4bi9 crew to win "Best Video" in the Amateur division for their film, "Slamina" at the 2008 IF3 in Montreal.
The rise wasn't without its setbacks. Weeks before the 2010 Vancouver Games, Ferguson came down with appendicitis, and watched his Olympic bid slip through his fingers. "It was a real blow to all of us," says Preston.
He rallied, snagging World Cup podiums twice in 2012, and winning National Aerials Championships in 2011 and 2012. In addition, his work with 4bi9 netted him sponsorships from Volkl and Marker.
"There's very little that can hold him back for very long," says Preston. "He doesn't get bent out of shape with the ups and downs of sports. It's a remarkable quality."
Ferguson doesn't see his full competition and filming schedule as a big deal. For him it's simple, "I'm all about skiing," he says. "The (U.S.) Ski Team helps me out a lot, and 4bi9 is something I've been a part of forever, so it's my life, my family."
And, perhaps more impressively, he's got both sides on board. "Freeskiing keeps him fresh," says Schirman. "He has a lot of fun with it and it gives him that mental break he needs to come back and jump really well."
"Everyone's stoked on (Dylan's aerials success)," says 4bi9 founder and owner AJ Dakoulas. "He's a busy kid, so it's awesome that he has time for us, whenever that may be."
The addition of slopestyle and halfpipe to the Olympic bill brings Ferguson full circle. Suddenly his park crew—the likes of Wallisch, Devin Logan, and Brita Sigourney—are his teammates. "Dylan's connected to those athletes," says Schirman. "It's important for those guys to have someone deep in the system that can help out, and Dylan is there."
Though Ferguson voices the fears of many freeski athletes—that Olympic judging may limit the creativity and style that forged the sport—he embraces the opportunity to train with his friends. "Devin (Logan) and Brita (Sigourney) live in the apartment above me," he says. "So we're all close." Ferguson was even invited as a guest to the Freeski Team's summer training camp at Mount Hood last week.
And as for ski ballet?
"Every once in a while I whip out some moves in the park to switch it up on the hill," says Ferguson. "But yeah, it's just not my thing anymore."