Words: Jeremy Benson
For the past decade, the name Hugo Harrisson has been synonymous with big mountain freeskiing. The 2000, 2001, and 2002 Freeskiing Champion, Hugo has also starred in numerous ski films by MSP and others. Known for his solid fall-line skiing and an uncanny ability to stomp impossibly huge cliffs, Hugo is one of the most aggressive and impressive freeskiers in recent history. Now age 36, Harrison is the proud father of two young boys. You probably won't see him in any more ski movies, or in the start gate of any freeskiing comps, but that doesn't mean that he's no longer involved in the sport.
Now in his second year as a judge for the FWT, Hugo has taken over as the head judge. He leads a qualified team, including Eric Schmidt, a former Freeskiing World Tour competitor and judge, the U.S. Olympic Slopestyle Coach, Skogen Sprang, and Omar Otte, an X-Games judge. Powder caught up with Hugo just minutes after the Athlete meeting at Kirkwood to discuss the upcoming event.
Powder: How do you feel about the current conditions on the venue?
Harrisson: This is the first event that the skiers will have to deal with difficult snow conditions, every other event has been good. I think it will show who the better skiers are. It's really only the top quarter of the venue that's bad, the rest should be plenty rip-able. I think it'll be a good show.
Powder: What do you think of the Cirque as the only U.S. venue of the FWT?
Harrisson: It's perfect, it's probably the best venue we've had so far this year because it has so many options. Every other stop we've had this season we've had good snow, and good light, but they don't have as many options for the skiers to be more creative with their line selection.
Powder: How do you feel the three FWT events leading up to Kirkwood have gone?
Harrisson: The first three events went really well, we had really good snow. This stop is now the second half of the winter, everyone has had a break. It should be interesting to see who is going to do well here.
Powder: Could you give a little insight as to what you're looking for from the athletes?
Harrisson: I want to see it all, someone who is really creative and can link it all together, a run that flows well.
Powder: Any predictions for the podium here at Kirkwood?
Harrisson: There's so many good skiers competing, I think anyone could win it.
Powder: Have any skiers in particular really impressed you with their performances?
Harrisson: Drew Tabke impressed me a lot. He's been charging lines and also throwing tricks. He does simple tricks like backflips and 360's but he's so consistent, he always lands them.
Powder: As a former competitor, how do you feel about the single run, visual inspection only competition?
Harrisson: I think it's good. Everyone puts all their eggs into only one run. I think it makes for a better show because they only have one chance to show what they have.
Powder: Do you think the Americans have any advantage competing here in the U.S.?
Harrisson: Not necessarily the Americans, but Josh Daiek, he's a local here. He's skied this venue for so many years in previous competitions when there's been on slope inspection, not just visual. People like that have an advantage for sure.