Hedrick returns to his Winter Park stomping grounds hoping for spot on 2018 Olympic team
Joel Hedrick likes the bumps.
The 20-year-old Fort Collins native is in Winter Park right now, training for the 2017-18 International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup Series, hoping to punch his ticket to the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Hedrick. “That’s the goal of everything. It’s something that I’ve worked for my whole life, and to see that pay off to get to the highest event they hold would be tremendous. It would be amazing to me.”
Hedrick grew up in Fort Collins, but skied Winter Park Resort from a very young age. His parents were both skiers, and his father, Dan, still works at the resort as a ski patroller. He said his family would leave Fort Collins on Friday nights for Winter Park where they stayed in a trailer before heading back down Sunday nights, skiing whenever possible in between.
“I look back on it now and I think it was just crazy that my parents did that every weekend,” said Hedrick. “It was just insane, but I’m so grateful that my parents did that for me. I got so connected to this sport and I feel like it’s done a lot of good things for me. It’s allowed me now to travel the world.”
In his younger days, Hedrick participated in alpine skiing, but preferred freestyle mogul skiing, finding it more fun and challenging. While he knew that he wanted to be a skier, it wasn’t until he was 14 when the realization that he could be the best.
Like most, Hedrick came up doing regional competitions in Colorado, competing against other local skiers and trying to make a name for himself. It wasn’t long until he started to do so. He was named to the U.S. Developmental Ski Team for the 2014-15 season, and began recording his first big finishes.
He finished fourth in dual moguls at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Valmalenco, Italy in 2014. Later that season he went on to win the Val St. Come Nor-Am Cup in Québec, as well as a Nor-Am Cup win in Killington, Vt. At the end of the 2014-15 season, Hedrick was named to the U.S. Pro Ski Team.
“It was definitely overwhelming at first, just knowing that the hard work actually paid off,” he said.
Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Hedrick has tallied five North American Cup wins, took third at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships and finished 3rd overall on the Grand-Prix Tour. Despite the success, Hedrick said he isn’t thrilled with his performances on the world’s biggest stages.
“On the biggest stage I haven’t done as well as I’ve wanted to, but I feel like I’m on track to do a lot of good stuff. Australian Nationals last year there was probably the top ten skiers in the World Cup Circuit there, and I ended up placing second. So that was a huge eye opener for me after my first world cup season. To see that I could be right up there with those guys was awesome.”
At the end of last season Hedrick placed third at the U.S. National Championships in Steamboat, solidifying his place as one of the nation’s best mogul skiers.
He spends his offseason training, and preparing to make his Olympic push during the World Cup Circuit this year. Hedrick said he spends five days a week in the gym strengthening his core and quadriceps. He also travels around to Australia, Canada and Switzerland to train on the slopes.
In December, Hedrick will travel to Ruka, Finland, to compete in the season’s first Olympic qualifier. After that he heads to Thaiwoo, China; Calgary, Canada and Deer Valley, Utah.
“I try my best not to think about it,” said Hedrick, referring to making the Olympic team. “I don’t want to get too wrapped up in results and things like that. But these world cup starts are definitely a good headway into that. So I’m really stoked.”
Today Hedrick lives in Park City, Utah, where he trains with the rest of the U.S. National Ski Team. Though he still considers Winter Park Resort his home mountain, training there occasionally and maintaining a close relationship with the competition center.
In his free time Hedrick enjoys fishing, hunting, mountain biking and anything that allows him to explore the outdoors.
“Winter Park has always backed me through everything, and it’s been a great experience so far,” emphasized Hedrick. “I have the greatest loyalty for the Winter Park Competition Center, which is why I love coming back here, training and seeing all the people.”