WORDS: Drew Petersen
It wasn't his first, and won't be his last, but at the moment, Sam Smoothy's recent Freeride World Tour win may be his most impressive performance yet. The New Zealander was the clear winner at the second event of the year located in the small country of Andorra, a first time host on the FWT. Questionable snow conditions, consequential exposure, and technical airs highlighted the run of the day, and planted Smoothy rightfully atop the podium. Since then, the video of his run has all but broken the Internet. If you haven't seen the video yet, do yourself a favor and click play. Sam joined me on Skype over the weekend to discuss the run, ensuing media attention, and his goals moving forward to the last two FWT events of the season.
POWDER: First off, congrats on the win in Andorra, as well as the attention your run has garnered since then. It's been pretty cool to see your video get so many views.
Thanks, mate. It's kind of crazy; you always work hard to try to create things that people will watch. And then that thing just took off like a rocket. Any win on the FWT is big, but this one—just with the media storm around it—is for sure one of the highlights of my career so far.
The line was absolutely mental. What were you thinking before you dropped in, and then during the run? Walk me through it.
I was just a bit nervous that the snow hadn't softened up enough. I knew that if I aired into that zone and it wasn't soft, I'd be in all manner of trouble. But once I committed to it, it all went by so fast. I was just so far gone and in that moment the thought processes weren't really there. I was just on autopilot. When I came out of that top zone, I just exploded yelling.
What would you say were the cruxes of the line?
I think that left hand turn after the first air was super critical. I just stood on that outside ski and drove it home. Also, when I came into that next section and I had to get onto this little ski width platform to go back left, that was probably the other really tricky bit.
I was coming into it blind, and I knew if I couldn't get enough skier's left off it, I'd just air straight fall line into that wall.
I've heard you say that this line reminded you of tussock skiing in New Zealand. Can you describe what you mean by that?
Tussock is a large, native grass that grows in the alpine. At home we don't get a lot of snow, so the grass often pokes through in late season. We have a lot of fun skiing really skinny lines that involve straight lining tussock sections and bouncing around on the grass. That all kind of culminates in the closing day antics, which is who can ski the gnarliest thing without really any snow in it. That's kind of where I drew my inspiration from for this run.
Some of the headlines on the Internet sharing your video include this question in some form: "Is this the greatest comp run ever?" What are your thoughts on that claim?
I think that's fairly ridiculous really. It was the best run on the day, it's one of my best runs ever, but it's still a small face—it's still just a bit of a laugh. I don't think it's even close to some of the best runs the world has seen, so it's flattering, but it's fairly wide of the mark I think.
In your opinion, what are some of the best comp runs of all time?
Some of the runs that Reine Barkered has done on the Bec de Rosses, for sure. Ditto with Aurélien Ducroz. Just full throttle, full line skiing, but super precise and clean. That's definitely some of the riding I've looked up to over the years. It's just those guys on big faces making big moves in critical places and making it look easy.
What are some of your best comp runs of all time? Where do you rank this Andorra run?
This one would be right up there. I think it was a completely different style, but my win in Chamonix was a pretty good one in 2012. And then I did a pretty rowdy one in New Zealand at Mount Ruapehu once in a qualifier. That one was kind of similar to the run in Andorra. It had this blind air into an exposed zone—you just couldn't fall in—and a couple more airs out. That was in even worse snow conditions (laughs).
Are you pretty excited to head up to Haines for the first ever FWT event in Alaska?
Massively excited, I think everyone is. It's what everyone's been talking about all season on tour. I'm going to Haines for the stop and then coming home to Verbier for the [Swatch] Xtreme and then going straight back to Haines to film with Legs of Steel. I might even leave my toothbrush there or something.
You know Verbier and you know the Bec de Rosses. Do you have anything in mind for a line on the Bec this year?
Yeah, it's kind of hard to tell this far out. I've had this line in Dogleg [Couloir] that I've been looking at. I wanted to do it last year, but I had a crash and I wasn't healthy enough at all. It's kind of a classic, but with a twist. I hope it will get people excited. It's either going to go really well or I'm going to explode.
Now that you've survived the first part of the year, and qualified for Alaska and Verbier, what is your focus moving forward? What are your goals for the rest of the year?
My goals the rest of the year would be pretty basic, non-ambitious goals: winning the next two events and the title. Just simple stuff (chuckles). I'm not sitting too good now, I've had one good run and two bad ones. I'm in tenth, but it's really tight at the top. I'm just going to not think too much about the rankings to be honest. I'm just going to find the best thing I can ski on each day and send it as hard as I can. I'm not much of a tactician. I'm just going to ski hard and go all in.