noun: a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal)
If I had to describe this past winter in one word, progression would cover all of the bases. This season I feel that I've made the most progress with my skiing since I learned how to carve a ski. I will give a lot of credit to Mountain Athlete for giving me the confidence in my strength, my stamina and my durability, but mostly for giving me the confidence mentally.
I started this season without huge expectations, just excitement to travel, ski and meet new friends. When Jess Baker asked me in January what my goals were for the season it took me a few weeks of thinking before I could articulate more than, "I don't know, just to ski and stuff." I finally pinpointed that I wanted to make it into finals in a 4-star FWQ event (which then turned into wanting to place top 10 after a few competitions), build confidence in airing larger features, charge harder on crud and (at the very least) attempt a 360. Mostly, I just wanted to feel progress, that my efforts weren't for nothing, and that I had the ability to improve on a skill I've been practicing for 19 years.
"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - A desire, a dream, a vision.
They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."
As the season pushed on I began to feel more confident. I was hiking faster, skiing longer runs, dropping bigger cliffs with less hesitation and even attempting a few 180's. I started to trust my strength and realize that I was more capable and skilled than I had believed.
Competition season began and before I knew it was almost over. I had learned so much so quickly my expectations continued to grow, which quickly got me discouraged. After being first cut after day 1 in Moonlight Basin and Crested Butte my confidence was plummeting. Going into Snowbird, I had more desire to do well than I have in anything before. I felt focused and determined, I had my game face on. I knew I had to push myself, bigger airs, faster speeds and no hesitation.
I can't tell you what was different, but something clicked and I felt more myself, more confident and more aware. I dropped bigger airs than I ever had in competition before and skied faster than I had all season. Overall I felt the confidence click (even if I did have a mild encounter with some shrubbery at the top of the finals day venue).
It was exciting to end the season on a good note, but almost equally as hard for it to be over. I'd had a taste and I just wanted to dig back in for more, keep the progress rolling, push further. With my confidence in my pocket I headed back to Jackson with my eyes wide for more.
Luckily it continued to snow and we were able to spend a few more days playing in the snow. We decided to build a kicker, it was now or never for my 360 goal.
I tried to carry the confidence over from competition and shook off my nerves pointing my skis toward the jump. I heard Hadley yell, "WHIP IT," and don't remember much else until I realized I was back on the ground, standing upright, full speed ahead. I yelled back up the Hadley, "Did I do it!?" and before she could respond I knew the answer based off of her screams. Check, goals complete.
So yeah, this season in one word, p r o g r e s s.
The last three weeks have been a complete blur of adrenaline, excitement and laughs. Last spring I had the hint of an idea that I might want to try competing in some freeskiing competitions; so I started training at Mountain Athlete with the intentions to give it a shot. It was time to test my abilities, push my limits and meet some new friends who enjoyed skiing as much as I did.
The first weekend of March, with 6 months of intense strength and agility training under my belt and a solid 4 months of focused skiing, I piled into my car at 4am with three other female skiers and headed to Taos, New Mexico to "pop my competition cherry." I can't say I didn't feel nervous because it felt like my first day of kindergarden. How exactly do you inspect a venue? When should I go to the start? Where is the start? What is going to score well? I had so many questions and insecurities.
Lucky for me, I had friend and Freeskiing World Tour veteran Hadley Hammer at my side to help answer questions and smooth out any bumps in the road. My nerves settled and I could feel the excitement build. As I stood at the top of the venue, I tried not to have big expectations and just take it as another day of skiing; granted I wasn't going to stop and giggle with my friends half way down, but in reality I was going to ski what looked the most fun to me, as fast and hard as I could.
The starter asked if I was ready and with a big smile, I confidently answered, "Definitely!" and dropped into my line. From there I honestly blacked out, my body took control and did what it knows best, just skied. I came to once in the finish and greeted with hugs and high fives from new and old friends. My first realization once I caught my breath was how sore my cheeks were, I had been smiling the whole time, loving every second of it.
I was back in the competition game. I ski raced from when I was 10 until I was 21, I loved the rush of a competition, the anxious feeling at the start and the adrenaline you felt in the finish. I loved being around other people that felt the exact same way and that weren't only your competitors but you're biggest support. I felt it all coming back, but it was different, it was better. In freeskiing, your competitors truly are your support, they want you to do well just as much as they want to do well, the true definition of friendly competition.
Taos went well, for my first competition, I was pumped to have made it through day one and had a solid run on day two, unfortunately it wasn't enough to make it to the finals on Kachina Peak, but none the less I was pleased. It was a good learning experience, a stepping stone if you will. Learning that conservative is sometimes okay, but pushing your limits is almost always a necessity in the game of freeskiing.
Comp one in the bag, a 13 hour drive back to Jackson and I was ready to jump back in the car 48 hours later for another 12 hours to Alberta, Canada. One of the most alluring parts of these competitions has been getting to ski in new states, new countries and on new mountains. Canada was gorgeous, the mountains looked like adventures for days.
"Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”
Each competition has been a learning experience, experience being the key word. I find myself more comfortable and more knowing each time I look up at a venue and decide which way I'm going to descend it. It's an addicting fire that I'm fueling every time I compete, I want to push the limits, push my limits, and being patient and maintaining focus is the hardest part. I'm so thankful for being able to be part of this sport and excited to explore more new mountains.
A big thank you to Rob at Mountain Athlete for giving me the mental and physical strength necessary, Jess Baker for sharing her experience and teaching me to push my limits, Hadley Hammer for being the best role model and friend, Tess Wood for being a newb with me, John Pew for making me look legit, and my family for their encouragement.
A few weeks ago we were sent on a mission to document as many big sidecountry lines as we could at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Here is the story and our final edit (courtesy of Hadley Hammer). [youtube=http://youtu.be/K91IT_pkGBA]
BIG LINES IN THE JACKSON SIDECOUNTRY, 2.5.13 By Monica Purington Coach approached the team on Monday, the night before our typical Tuesday training with Jess Baker (Exxum Mountain Guide, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Guide and fellow Mountain Athlete) and asked us to think about three classic Jackson Hole side country lines we thought we could complete in one day.
We started throwing out ideas of some of the bigger lines: Space Walk, Pucker Face, Break Neck, Gothic, Broken Branch, The Whom, Once is Enough, Twice is Nice. We voiced concerns and potential hazards on some of the lines, discussed which we could complete the fastest and the current snow pack and stability concerns. After all the discussion we had come to a decision. Our goal was to ski Pucker-to-Break Neck-to-Broken Branch, weather and conditions dependent of course.
Tuesday morning came quick; Forrest, Hadley, Tess and I met Jess at 8:30 to catch the early tram and get a head start on our day. The mountain was in a cloud of grey and we knew that we would have to make some quick decisions and adjustments to our plans. As we headed up the tram we made observations of the wind and visibility and our excitement started to fade; maybe we wouldn’t get to ski any of these lines today.
Once at the top we regrouped inside Corbet’s Cabin with big decisions to make. Should we go up Cody and scratch Pucker off the list, or is it too windy? Do we ski Zero G or Spacewalk to Four Pines? Our biggest concerns were wind loading and overall conditions were potentially crusty. If we skied Pucker where did that leave us in regards to our next line; we had a bad taste in our mouth about Break Neck and it’s ominous hanging snowfields. We finally decided we’d take our chances with the potentially crusty snow in Zero G and have the ability to head to Four Pines after.
With Jess dropping in first, she ski cut the top of the shoot making sure the wind slab wouldn’t slide; things looked stable and we began to ski it one at a time. We had low expectations of snow conditions and were quickly pleasantly surprised by the smear-able cream cheese in Zero G. Each of us reached the bottom with big smiles on our faces and headed to the Four Pine hike.
With our adrenaline pumping we scurried up the Four Pines hike and decided it was on to Broken Branch. Getting to the top of Broken Branch it was evident that we were working with a clean slate. No one had skied it since the last storm and we were the “test monkeys,” as Jess would put it. We removed our skis and carefully down climbed into the shoot, knowing that we were going to have to be very cautious.
Again, Jess went first ski cutting the top of the shoot and one by one we made our way down to the top of the crux area. The snow seemed to be stable with just some normal sloughing, so we continued one by one skiing the main shoot. Broken Branch, which none of us had previously skied, was gorgeous. Opening up into a wider shoot all of us were able to open it up and make some big high speed turns. The snow was definitely variable with some sunbaked areas, but staying on the north side we got some light fresh turns.
Success, we had navigated two lines already and energy levels were high. Returning back into the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundaries we had some decisions to make. What now? Pucker was in the back of all of our minds but we weren’t sure of what the weather was like at the higher elevations. We decided not to stop for a re-fuel break but rather quickly eat on the tram dock and head back up to the top.
The sun was breaking, the winds were dying and although it was warming up quickly we decided to head up Cody Peak. We wanted Pucker, but knew we had Four Shadows or No Shadows as a back up. Our legs felt heavy, but our excitement carried us up Cardiac Ridge to the top of Pucker. We did some cornice tests to check stability and decided that although it was warming, the wind at the top of the ridge was keeping the snow cool enough that it hadn’t been greatly affected yet. We were going to ski it.
Pucker had been skied twice since the last storm, leaving two tracks on its face barely visible from being wind blown. We decided to ski close to the previous tracks with the mindset that it would be the most stable there. Again, with Jess dropping first, we skied it one at a time. You could see our smiles from top to bottom of the run, our adrenaline was bursting. Ski Patrol came over Jess’s guide radio, “There’s people on Pucker!” quickly followed by a, “Well done Jess,” when we had all successfully skied it. The Mountain Athlete Freeski team had left their signatures on Pucker Face, being the only visible tracks.
With three big lines in the bag we wanted more, we were hungry for more adrenaline. Break Neck was next on the hit list and with low intentions we traversed towards it. Break Neck is tough to navigate, steep and consists of hanging snowfields; all things that are severely dangerous. Checking the snow conditions and checking in with ourselves, we decided we had to finish the day with this last line. Hadley and Forrest skied these lines with ease, taking the bottom air to their feet finishing the day with just as much energy as when we started.
Coach Shaul sent us on a mission to complete three big lines, through lots of discussion, decision making and encouragement, we completed four.
As I rinse the chlorine from my bathing suit and launder and fold my base layers from a week in the big city (i.e. Park City) I can't help but feel so grateful.
Mountain Athlete sent me and 8 of my fellow freeski teammates to The Olympic Training Center for Aerials, in Park City, UT, this past week to participate in three days of trampolining and ramping our way to air confidence, inverted confidence and the occasional side ways confidence.
Here is what our days looked like:
9:30 Bundled in down coats, layers, hats and socks we started on the trampolines, perfecting our front flips, back flips, 360's, misty's and flat spins. (Fun fact: jumping for 5 minutes is equivalent to running a mile!)
11:00 Time to "suit up." Layering wet suit on top of bathing suits we relived our ski racing days of ski boots and tight clothing (wet suits, 1960 ski boots and élan race skis, and the least amount of steeze possible). With the wind whipping and nipping at us on top of the ramp we all threw ourselves into the pool slapping our backs, heads and sides in attempts to perfect our skills. By the end of the morning pool sessions we all felt like we'd been standing at the top of Rendezvous Bowl on the windiest of days in our underwear, frozen to the core and ready for fuel.
1:30-3:30 The afternoon was more of the same, starting back on the tramps and then on to the ramps to practice our perfected tramp skills.
Coming from a gymnastics background, I figured, given the right situation, inverting on my skis should be no problem. Ask me to do a back tuck in any situation, I will, without hesitation, do it. Unfortunately, I was wrong. While it probably should have been quite easy, I made it difficult by mentally lacking confidence. As much as I told myself, "piece of cake," somewhere in my head a voice said, "I don't know about this."
I stood at the top of the ramp, pointed my skis down, jumped and whipped my head back.. "DIVE," was the call I heard yelled from my coach, Tony, time after time. Perhaps it was the weight of the water sodden boots on my feet that I couldn't kick and rotate over, but that seems like an excuse. Frustration started to invade me, I whipped harder, I tried to simulate what I did on the trampolines, but I wasn't making progress.
I ended up having success on one jump, why I couldn't do it again, I believe it really was all mental. These 3 days of training taught me a lot about air awareness, confidence in airing and overall body awareness, but mostly it taught me the need for more mental control. Confidence, I need to know I'm capable and just do it, instead of thinking of the 'what ifs.' Rob has molded me into a capable, strong athlete and I need to put my durability to the test instead of being cautious, scared and a mental head case.
These lessons, more than anything, I hope will help me this season.
Here is a little video recap courtesy of Tickle Productionz (Tess Wood), clearly we didn't have any fun at all!
The words 'I quit,' 'I give up,' or 'I can't' aren't in my vocabulary unless we are talking about math problems, but pushing your limits doesn't always work out in your favor. With a strong following in Cross Fit, Olympic lifting and other similar exercise regimens, there's alot of talk of over use injuries, injuries from improper technique and over lifting. I find myself nervous of injury in my weekly exercise routine, as an injury can be accidental, a freak occasion or over aggression. I personally think it's good to make it hurt a little. Sure, I mean mentally hurt, grueling pain where you'd rather just lay down, but never pain where your limping out of the gym (unless you have an immediate build up of lactic acid and you instantly get muscle soreness). Mentally tough athletes need to step back when something starts to hurt, change your movement, modify your movement and if you're still in pain it's time to give your injury a rest.
It takes alot for me to say, I really can't do this because I'm hurting my body. I don't want to 'give up' and not finish a work out, I don't want to rest, I want to push through the pain! But do I want to be sitting inside this winter while the snow build up? Not a chance in hell. It's very mental to separate quitting from knowing when enough is enough, and honestly saying enough is really tough, but sometimes necessary.