Subaru FWT Diary: One of the Crowd, Part I

By L.R. Fielding
Published: January 26, 2011

I know what you're thinking—why am I reading about L.R. Fielding's experiences competing on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour? Why not someone impressive like Julien Lopez? Where's the X Games coverage? Right, I am not special. I am a good skier, but there's a solid chance I may not even qualify for the second day. There's also a chance that even the best will not make it to the next day, and instead some new skier emerges from obscurity and into the limelight. We've seen it happen. Lexi DuPont's first competition was the 2009 Telluride World Tour Qualifiers, and she came in third. She was fresh from the racing scene, wearing tight n’ bright orange n’ pink pants, and absolutely stoked. She's since moved on from those fabulous pants (and into Warren Miller segments), and now rocks her sponsor First Ascent's outerwear. And that's the beauty of the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour: No invitation is required. (Disclaimer: That’s not an invitation, per say). Still, everyday's a toss up, and that's the beauty of skiing in general: The opportunity is yours.

Eve of Departure
It's 1 a.m., the night before my eight-hour trek to Jackson Hole, Wyo., for the first U.S. stop of the 2011 Subaru FWT. Sleep is not coming easily. This will be my first time skiing the legendary Jackson. This is also my first time competing in a big mountain event. I am nervous. If you know anything about the history of big mountain freeskiing, you'll know that Jackson is where it all began. The movie Swift. Silent. Deep comes to mind, and I recall images of guys from the Jackson Hole Air Force hopping down what looks like a 55-degree face on 215s. There goes my stomach dropping into my bladder again.

It's been happening more and more, the whole stomach thing. I shouldn't worry, really. I'm in the best shape of my life. I've known for some time now that I would be competing this season, so I've been training since last spring. But this isn't my first attempt, either. I tried competing at the Crested Butte stop last February, but tore my left ACL during my first run (ever) at a very bare and rocky CB. Yeah. The following day I woke up, swollen and dazed, to three feet of snow. Awesome. So, if I get through my first run at Jackson with no mechanicals, I'll already be a step ahead of last year.

I’m starting to curse Mother Nature—why couldn't you make it snow a little more in Telluride, so the World Tour Qualifiers could be held there, like they have been for several years now? After covering it for two years, I am familiar with ol' T-Ride and was even given the chance to ski down the venue before the competitors did last season. Damn you Mother Nature! I feel like a complete pansy for admitting my apprehension to the entire ski community, but I promised the editors a genuine first-person experience, so here it is… But in all honesty, who wouldn't be a little anxious?

I don't even know where the competition will be. I've heard whispers of Casper Bowl or Tower 3. Where’s that? I'm imagining the worst… stayed tuned.