BD athlete Drew Stoecklein ripping it in South America——Dispatch #4
Black Diamond ski athlete Drew Stoecklein is spending six weeks skiing in South America, hitting the mountains in search of steep lines, blower pow and a cultural adventure. He will be providing us with weekly updates on his travels, complete with photos from the slopes.
Here is Drew's fourth dispatch, this time after a competition in Las Lenas, Argentina:
A Guide To Turning On The Gnar Switch
After training mentally and physically for multiple weeks in La Parva, Chile, it was time to see if the gnar switch would turn on at a competition in Las Lenas, Argentina. After not ripping at intense levels of skiing for multiple months, every athlete wonders if their mind and body is going to react to extreme situations like it did before. Below are a few tips on what I do to make sure that the gnar switch still turns on; along with a list of gear that I bring to every competition.
Inspection - Inspection is the key to success in any freeskiing competition. If it is possible, I like to try and get to the competition a few days early to thoroughly look over each venue. When it is not possible to ski the venue, a digital camera and binoculars are essential. I like taking many different shots of the venue to check depth, steepness and magnitude of the features on the mountain. One of the most important aspects of inspection is picking very defined landmarks. This will help you find your features and coordinate your landings. Do not use objects that can be moved such as bamboo poles, rope lines and people because you can find yourself very confused if the mark is moved. I like to close my eyes and visualize skiing into each feature as I'm inspecting the venue. If you are inspecting from the bottom of the run, it is key to visualize how that feature is going to look from the top when you are skiing it.
Line - Line score is going to make all the difference in winning the competition. The key to picking a great line is flow. You need to figure out if your line is going to look like a Slalom, GS, Super G, or Downhill course based on how the features line up. You do not want to be making downhill turns and slalom turns in the same run. In IFSA competitions it is important to try to hit every main feature on the venue. Skiing around features is not going to get you points—or get you laid. You want to pick the line that you can ski the fastest and is within your ability. It's also very helpful to get local knowledge on the wining lines from past years. This will give you a good indication on what the winning line is going to be. The most important aspect of choosing a line is to choose a line that you can rip! (There is always plan "B"..........find the "BFF" and send it! This is always a 50/50. If executed, you will win the comp. If not, you will most likely win the Sick Bird. Regardless, you WILL get laid!)
Warm Up - The warm up is key to making sure that your body can perform at its peak level. If you do not warm up, it is the equivalent of sitting on the couch and then going to a full sprint. Without warming up, you risk getting tired quickly and injuring yourself. For my warm up, I usually go on a small hike or run. If the start does not have enough room for this, I like to jump in place to get my blood flowing and my legs pumped up. Next, I do a series of stretches to loosen all of my muscles. I have found that this warm up helps to calm my nerves and concentrate before my run.
The starting gate - At the starting gate, I try to clear my mind and not worry about a single thing. When I leave the gate, my goal is to have skied the line mentally multiple times. This helps to work out all of the small details and problems in my line. If I can visualization myself ripping the line, I will have already skied it multiple times before I leave the gate.
In the starting gate the only thing I concentrate on is my breathing. I inhale for 5 seconds, hold it for 2, then exhale for 5 seconds. I make sure to try and repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes before I leave the gate. This exercise helps lower my heart rate, clear my mind, and fill my body with oxygen before the run.
Lastly, don't forget tunes. Music is key. It helps me block out all the craziness around me. It lets me concentrate and get fired up. I pick different intensities of music for different venues and runs. If I need to get really pumped up, I tend to pick more hardcore music like DMX, Metallica or Disturbed. If I need to mellow out before my run because I'm over amping, I will pick something more chill like Jack Johnson, Morcheeba or some reggae.
The key to doing well in competitions is to not veer from what you normally do every day. If you wake up in the morning and drink 10 cups of coffee then smoke a pack of cigarettes on your way to the hill, you should not decide to quit on competition day. This is the same for all the little things that you do every day.
2 pairs of skis
2 pairs of poles
2 pairs of goggle lenses… one for flat light, one for sunny conditions
iPod & headphones
The End Result
Sure enough, my guide to turning on the gnar switch worked. After the first day of qualification, I was in 4th place going into the finals. For the final run I thoroughly inspected my line with binoculars and multiple photos, and I also received local knowledge on features that have been skied before and how to get into those features. At the starting gate I was notified that the snow had significantly changed on the east-facing slope that I was about to ski. The starter counted down in Spanish “cinco, quatro, tres, dos, uno” and I flew out of the gate, hitting my top two features. When I got to the third feature the snow had changed from chalky, wind-hammered snow to sticky sun-baked mashed potatoes. I quickly picked up speed and tried to dock it with one big turn. I cranked on my ski with all my might trying to slow down, but could not manage to dump the speed in the sticky snow, ending up spinning around on my back. Recovering from this disaster I kept my cool and charged towards my last feature, the double drop. Sure enough, it was not anything like it looked in the binoculars or the photos. The rocks were razor sharp and the takeoff was not even close to clean. Luckily I was able to generate enough slough for me to ram my skis over the first set of the rocks, land, then takeoff over the second set of rocks. After that I few past the avalanche debris at the bottom of the run and ramped off a couple of natural features on my way to the finish.
In the end I didn't win the competition, coming in fourth place. What I did succeed at was turning on the gnar switch again and accomplishing Plan B: getting the South American Sick Bird award also known as the Flying Condor and let's just say it is not hard to have a hell of a good time in Las Lenas after a day like that!
Below are some pictures of the competition along with some pictures of the lines that I skied.