In the start gate of the Freeride World Tour stop in Fieberbrunn, Austria, Kristofer Turdell was thinking, as always: What am I doing here?
The answer, as always, would come in the run he would make down the face. With only five stops on the tour and one run at each stop, competitors like Kristofer must be at the top of their game for every single run. “To have a good run on the Freeride World Tour you have to be super prepared, and able to ski at your very best each time,” he notes.
Part of preparing to ski a big line lies in your history, and the challenges you’ve already faced. In Kristofer’s case, that goes all the way back to a childhood spent skiing the difficult conditions of northern Scandinavia. He grew up above the Arctic Circle where it’s snowy eight months of the year. His whole family skied, so he didn’t really have a choice, but it certainly became something he loved. “My friends and I would meet up at the local ski hill as soon as the lift was running, and the minute race training was over we’d go freeskiing,” he recalls fondly.
No gates, no boundaries, and no instructions were a powerful attraction—as was the ability to make your own decisions about what to do and where to go on a mountain. It took a while, but slowly he realized he wanted to give the Freeride World Tour a try. After doing the qualifying series he was convinced. Travelling with the tour was not only fun and a great way to push his skiing, but also a great way to learn the business of competing—reading a mountain, making the right line choices, developing visualization skills. “You’re not allowed to go into a face you’re competing on,” he notes, “so you look from below and take pictures, trying to imagine how it will look from the top and while you’re skiing.”
Easier said than done, though the world’s #3 ranked freeskier quickly showed a knack for it: tour announcers consistently refer to Kristofer as a strong, smooth skier who makes it look easy. “The most important thing for me is fluidity,” he says. “I look for the hardest line I can ski but still make it flow. I scan the face for things to hit and try to memorize as much as possible. Then I try to link these together into a line, and I usually end up with two or three options.”