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.

360 Degrees on Teton Pass

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."

-Muhammad Ali

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.

Snowbird FWQ Finals

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.

Ramp & Tramp Camp

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!


When Enough is Tough

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.