Truckee freeskier Jason Dobbs claims hes not a very competitive person. Regardless, at the North American and World Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood in late March/early April, Dobbs went from 16th to 11th to 8th place, where he finished.One of the many local rippers who call Squaw Valley home (he even works there as a coach for the Squaw Freestyle/Freeride Team), Jason is a part of the next generation of big-mountain skiers who are making a name for themselves in the valley and throughout the world.Jason recently sat down with action editor Paul Raymore to talk about freeskiing, competitions, and his plans to purchase multiple leisure estates.[In order to see first-hand what a day in the life of a freeskier is like, photographer Ryan Salm headed out to Squaw Valley on a sunny April day to follow Jason around. The images you see on these pages chronicle that day. For more photos, check out http://www.sierrasun.com/section/action.%5D
action: How long have you been skiing?Dobbs: Ive been skiing since I was two years old, which was 24 years ago… But my dad used to carry me, which is probably not recommended with babies today. I dont know if it was in 1979, but I think that helped me get the sensation.action: You grew up in Colorado?Dobbs: I grew up in Colorado from age 6, but I was born and learned to ski in the French Alps. But I really came to love skiing when I could ski regularly in Colorado.action: So how did your ski career begin? Were you racing as a kid?Dobbs: I wouldnt say that I had a ski career besides enjoying it and doing it as much as possible until 2003. Before that I was pretty much strictly a freeskier. I did participate in some racing clinics when I was a kid, but I wasnt on a race team. I raced until I was about 12 and then realized I just enjoyed freeskiing more, so I did that. I did have a lot of friends on local freestyle teams and found myself skiing a lot of moguls and took some courses and was able to compete as an independent. But again, by college, I was back into freeskiing and just going out with friends.action: What happened in 2003 that made you decide to enter a freeskiing competition?Dobbs: It was my second season in Vail and I knew a few people who had done some big-mountain competitions and were pushing me to try them. I ended up competing in my first event in Snowmass and had a blast doing it, and immediately became hooked on the whole atmosphere. And I was already thinking about moving to more of a big-mountain mecca, which Vail is not its a great mountain, but not for big-mountain… though it is a large mountain. So I thought about coming to Squaw as well as Jackson, Whistler and the Little Cottonwood area, and ultimately came to Squaw and looked forward to competing more.And since Ive lived here for three years Ive competed in about three events per season.
action: Freeskiing competitions were already getting big by the time you started, but it seems like they have become even more popular with competitors and spectators since 2003, and it always seems like skiers from Squaw Valley have been involved. Whats it like skiing there and coaching on the Freestyle/Freeride Team there as well?Dobbs: They call it Squallywood for a reason. Its definitely a mecca for pros, and its also just a great place for ripping skiers who have no intent of becoming professional. And at a place like Squaw it does seem like the big-mountain scene is blowing up and it has received further acclaim since Ive been involved with it. The level of skiing is being progressed and its harder to enter the competitions every season because theres just more demand for it, plus were seeing new events spring up. On the other hand, theres not a lot of money in it. There are a few key sponsors out there supporting it, but its really not exposed to the general public. So it still has some work to do if you compare it to park skiing or racing.action: Is that partly because it not as great a spectator sport since the spectators are usually so far away from the action? Whereas with park & pipe comps, you can be right there.Dobbs: For me, [freeskiing] is the best spectator sport there is. In my first few events I was just totally hooked I enjoyed participating in them, but I also enjoyed being done with my run and just watching people. Even though theyre competing against me, if somebody throws down a great run you respect it and appreciate it. Theres an amount of creativity there and you get to see how everybody looks at the mountain in a different way. So for those reasons, and because its a sport I love passionately, I think its the best spectator sport out there.action: How are these events judged and how does that affect your performance?Dobbs: They are judged on five categories the degree of difficulty of your line choice, style/fluidity, technique, aggressiveness and control and each of the five categories can be scored up to 10 points, so the best score, which is unheard of, would be 50. The line choice is the most important category because the other four can fluctuate no more than two points higher than it… So thats what athletes spend the most time focusing on. Its like Abe Lincoln said: If he had 10 hours to chop down a tree, hed spend eight hours sharpening his ax.You can choose a level eight line and possibly have it score well, but there are only a few impossibly consistent Frenchmen out there who can do that. Most of us are human, so I find its a lot better to choose a level six line that I know I can grease every time and flash it and maybe incorporate some freestyle off the features, so my other scores will be sixes and sevens and eights.
action: So what is a good score?Dobbs: Theres often a score over 40. But a score like that will usually win any competition. I believe the record is around 42. Generally the competitions are two- or three-day events and your scores are cumulative, and generally, the venues become more difficult and the line scores also increase as the competition progresses. So if you can score 30 to 35 consistently youre going to be on the podium for almost any event.action: Tell me about your recent results at the North American and World Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood in late March/early April.Dobbs: It was a three-day event for me because I had to qualify, and I just skied strong and consistently. Ive always said that there are a few people who ski consistently every time, and then there are a handful of others and Id like to think Im in this group who if they come out and ski well, can finish anywhere. And unfortunately Ive been inconsistent in doing that in the past, but I managed to pull it together for three days at Kirkwood and climbed from 16th to 11th to 8th where I finished.I just had a blast skiing the Cirque they gave us 26 inches of fresh on top of 700 already on the year. So I just had fun with it and stayed on my skies and managed high scores.action: Is it more fun to ski these competitions with fresh snow?Dobbs: Yeah, skiing is always more fun with fresh snow.And the level of competition for the spectators at an event like Kirkwood was pretty unprecedented.action: So your recent results bumped you up in the overall standings right?Dobbs: Yeah, I finished in 12th place overall on the Freeskiing World Tour.action: Does that get you anything?Dobbs: It means I can probably purchase a few leisure estates with full-time servants to kick back in while the money rolls in (he says laughing).It means Ill be prequalified for all the events next year. And while there are a few tours, the World Tour is the most prestigious because it involves two events here plus two in Europe. And Ill be focusing on those events. This year I didnt focus on the tour, but instead just went to certain events [some of which were not on the tour]. So next year Im planning to just ski the four World Tour events and Im hoping to make a trip to Europe in the spring.action: How is teaching the next generation of freeskiers on the Freestyle Team?Dobbs: Its a blast. Ill quote myself in saying that Its the best job that Ill ever have. And if I die and thats not the case, well, Ive had another kick-ass job. Coaching freestyle is amazing because Im out there doing what I love everyday, and I get to pass my passion on to young kids and see their enthusiasm and see them improve themselves both as skiers and as people.action: Anything else you want to say?Dobbs: I want to give a shout out to Toby. [Dobbs roommate Tobias Lee recently died in an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry in Washington State.] Ill keep taking turns for him, and I hope to win the Sickbird Award at Kirkwood. [The Sickbird Award] is extremely prestigious it doesnt have the same cash value as first place, but it has, I would argue, more honor that comes with it. And Toby won the Sickbird at Kirkwood for outstanding skiing this year, and we just found out it will now be called the Tobias Botkin Lee Memorial Sickbird Award. So I want a Toby belt buckle.
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