Words: Jeremy Benson
There aren't too many women competing on the FWT who send it as big as the guys, but Jackie Paaso does. Originally from Boston, MA, the 30-year-old skier now calls Squaw Valley home, and she is definitely not afraid to go big. Paaso has been competing since 2008 when she took first at the Freeskiing World Tour at Snowbird, UT. She's competed on the Freeride World Tour since 2009 and has finished the season ranked 6th or better overall every year since 2010. No stranger to the top of the podium, Paaso's "go big or go home" style demands attention, and she is definitely one to watch at Kirkwood. Powder Magazine recently caught up with Paaso to check-in about the season and the upcoming competition.
How do you feel about the coverage and conditions on the Cirque for the contest this week?
I think the coverage and conditions on the Cirque are looking pretty good considering the amount of snow the Tahoe area has received the past month. The little storm that passed through last week definitely helped. It’s variable, with hard snow at the top and on the ridges, softer snow in the landings and some wind buff in the more open areas.
How does the Cirque compare to the other venues on the FWT?
Compared to some of the other venues on the FWT the Cirque is unique since it is one of the few venues that is permanently closed to the public and only opened for the contest. That being said, there is no way of getting in there and checking it out 30+ days prior to the contest like you can on the other venues. It’s really special to be able to get in there and ski the Cirque.
How does the terrain on the Cirque work for your style of skiing?
I think the terrain on the Cirque challenges my style of skiing. Typically, I like to go fall line from the start, there you find yourself in some more technical areas with chutes. I prefer fall line big drops instead, but there are definitely some options for me out there.
You're currently ranked 8th on the FWT, how would you say the competition season has gone for you so far?
This comp season has had a few bumps in the road. After crashes in Revelstoke as well as Chamonix I’m really looking to redeem myself at Kirkwood. The season is not over yet, and I definitely have my work cut out for me.
How does skiing at Squaw Valley help to prepare you for competing on the FWT?
I think Squaw helps prepare me for the FWT because not only is the terrain great with plenty of features to drop, it’s also home to some of the best freeriders in the world. Skiing with my friends at Squaw is fun and motivating, there’s an amazing crew of ladies!
What are the advantages of competing so close to home, and the challenges of competing overseas?
It’s always so nice to come home. Having the comp at Kirkwood means I’ve been able to come home to Squaw for a few days, rest up, lose my jet lag and just ski for fun. I think it’s a huge advantage to be comfortable in your home country. While going overseas is amazing and a great adventure, you're faced with the challenges of language barriers and jet lag, etc… It’s nice to be home right now where things just feel a little easier at the moment.
As the only stop of the FWT in the US, do you think we’ll see American competitors stepping it for the win?
I certainly hope so. I know a win really sounds good to me at the moment, and for other American competitors it’s a huge advantage to ski this venue that I believe most of them have skied many times before.
One run, visual inspection only competition, how difficult is that?
Paaso: Having one shot is tough and visual inspection at comps is a skill that I’ve been trying to master. It’s a lot harder having to find the best run from a distance instead of during an on course inspection. It’s a challenge and it keeps it exciting. With one run you pick what you think will be the winning run cause you only have one shot instead of three runs to build points for the top spot.
What would you say was your breakthrough competition moment?
Snowbird, 2008 was my breakthrough moment in competition. Some people might say the Tram Face contest in 2010, but winning my first Freeskiing contest and being the second woman in over 10 years to win the Sickbird was my breakthrough moment. That was a good time.
You’ve stood atop the podium numerous times in your competition career, which victory was the sweetest?
The sweetest victory was definitely the Tram Face contest at Squaw in 2010 on the FWT. I was a wildcard entry and I really needed to prove myself to stay on the tour. Plus, all of the women skied amazing! I think it was a great day for women’s freeskiing as well!
What have you been doing to prepare for this week’s event?
I’ve been home skiing Squaw Valley with Reine Barkered, Wille Lindberg and Christine Hargin. It’s been fun to ski with a motivated group of friends and be back at my home mountain.