Go big or go home may be a tired cliché in many sports, but when it comes to the ski career of Henrik Windstedt, it has been more like gospel. The World Junior Mogul Champ, World Freeride Champion, and seven-time winner of the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships has aired a few cliffs over the years, and he took the time to answer some questions for us about one his favorite things in all of skiing.
Is cliff-jumping for everyone?
More or less! If you like to push yourself a little, want to take your riding up a level and experience one of the best feelings in the world, you should at least give it a try. If there’s a lot of soft snow where you are, try to find a small cliff and jump it. When you’re jumping smaller stuff the landing doesn’t have to be perfect—you can hip check as long as it’s soft enough.
Where did you jump your first cliffs?
I jumped my first cliffs around Rödkullen in Åre, Sweden, where I learned to ski. I was skiing around with my buddies back when there weren’t any terrain parks, so we were mostly in the trees and tried jumping cliffs when conditions were good.
What’s the biggest cliff you’ve ever jumped?
The highest straight-up cliff wall was at home in Åre. There’s a jump called Högsta at Östra Ravin that we measured at 15–18 meters high with an actual jump length of around 35 meters.
Can you describe your ideal cliff jump?
The landing is the most important part, so I always look for something smooth and steep. The steeper the better because then it doesn’t even have to be soft. You want to carry some speed when jumping a cliff, because it’s easier to time the take off and you’ll have better control in the air. Ideally, the cliff will be a bit steeper then the landing but not vertical. If the cliff is vertical you’ll have to fall straight down from the take off, and unless the landing is close to 90 degrees it’s going to be tough to stick it.
When it comes to taking air, which were your biggest influences?
I’ve looked up to many riders over the years when it comes to cliff jumping, and it all comes down to landing clean on their feet and riding away—backslapping and hip-checking are old school. You can see what I mean in late ’90s and early ’00s ski movies. Jesper Rönnbäck, the Swedish extreme ski demon, was exceptionally good at stomping landings. So was Canadian Hugo Harrisson when he was charging big-mountain lines. Seth Morrison from the States and France’s Seb Michaud were also cool to watch—both stomped some of their biggest flips pretty well.
What do you like most about hucking cliffs?
The feeling of flying and the love/hate feeling just before you commit to a jump gets me every time. I’m talking about the really big jumps I’ve done: the feeling of falling is magic, but with the little bit of uncertainty about the landing really puts all your nerves on high alert and you’re 100% in the present.
Did you have to adjust your style when you started working in front of a camera?
I started shooting for both stills and film when I was 14, and already had a style that luckily worked well back then. Over the years I tried to improve to appeal to judging in competitions as well as to look good in shots. But in general, when you’re shooting, it only comes down to not making mistakes. Grabs and tricks might not always be what you want to do when jumping bigger stuff but that’s what fans want to see so you just need to man up and do it.