We all have our rituals. Whether it’s putting on our boots in a certain way, a couple taps of the poles before dropping in, or something as simple as the go-to breakfast before a big day—routine can put the most anxious into a relative state of Zen. As the Freeride World Tour gets set to kick off, we thought we’d hit up this year’s competitors to see what they’re thinking before the gates open. The stakes may be different, but we can all relate to a certain degree.
“I can’t really say I’m a guy for any pre-start rituals. Usually I just focus on keeping my toes warm as they are always cold, no matter what I do (I even have boot heaters). I also spend a lot of time constantly thinking about the variables in my line which stress me out a lot, obviously. One thing I might do before I drop in is just clicking my poles together, nothing special.” —Logan Pehota, ski, Canada
“On the way up to the start gate I usually listen to music and I try to visualize my line over and over again. When I am at the top, I always try not to think about my run anymore so I keep listening to music and I enjoy the moment. Just right before the start I don’t think about anything and I just drop in.” —Benedikt Mayr, ski, Germany
“On the way up the face I try to hike very slowly and try to feel and read the snow to get as much information as possible. I look at the weather, feel the wind and look as much as possible at my line from different angles. That gives me confidence. I prepare my equipment, look at the drop in, and watch the other riders to see how they ride. I then make my last decisions about my line. One minute before dropping, I try to get lots of oxygen in my lungs so I breathe deep and slow. I try to bring my heartbeat down (most of the time it works, but not in Verbier). I mentally push myself into the right level of aggressiveness that I need on that day for that and that particular run. 10sec, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, drop in! The flow starts after riding for three seconds. Finally, I can ride! Yeah! This is what I want to do. Now I feel good.” —Stefan Häusl, ski, Austria
“I’m very, very nervous and I feel really uncomfortable at the start gate but as soon as I drop in, everything is blown away and I’m fully concentrated. I go through my run about 100 times to make sure I know each rock, my take offs, and the direction of my take offs. The better I´m prepared, the less I’m surprised during my run. The less I’m surprised during my run, the better I will perform. A few minutes before I activate my muscles, I try to get to stimulate my legs and my body. The last words I tell myself are: stomp it, stomp it, have fun and enjoy yourself and you will succeed!” —Eva Walkner, ski, Austria
“First I do some yoga and meditation, relaxing my mind and centering myself.
I look around the mountains and I keep my focus on my breath. Once I have my skis on, it’s a matter of keeping calm and remembering my power and to have fun. I have a quote that my sister told me once and that I always repeat: Strong as a Jedi, gentle as an elf.” —Evelina Nilsson, ski, Sweden
“What I usually do before I drop in is first make sure all my gear is set. I like to get in my skis at least three people prior to when I go, that way I have a little buffer for any last minute emergencies. I check the top part of my line and use mental imagery to go through my run and I think about all the features I need to keep an eye out for on the way down. During all of this I take a LOT of deep breaths to try to calm myself before I drop in.” —Jaclyn Paaso, ski, USA
(translated) “I spot my run as much as I can from the start. I try to find a quiet lookout from where I can take a few minutes for myself in order to memorize my run in detail and to have a little stress pee. After my relaxing time, I go to the starting gate to cheer the riders who start before me. It helps me to get motivated! Finally, I check my gear one last time. When it’s my turn, I try to stay zen and to tell myself go for it, just like at home, have fun! Then it’s 3..2…1.. DROP IN!”—Camille Armand, snowboard, France
(translated) “When I reach the top, I take my time to recover my breath, to drink and to eat a banana to get a little boost. Then I listen to a song that takes me away and that gives me good vibes. I even dance sometimes! At that specific moment I remember why I quit dancing to start snowboarding! Five minutes prior to drop in, I run all over the place to warm up and to raise my heart rate. Once I am at the gate, I switch off the music, I breathe deeply, I clap my hands or the hands of the closest person so I really feel the present moment and when I hear DROP, I zone out and go.” —Marion Haerty, snowboard, France
(translated) “In the past, I just wanted to vomit when I was at the starting gate. I really do not react well when I am under pressure. So now I sing out loud in order to set me free from the stress and to relive the lump in my throat. This winter I decided to wait until the last minute to choose my line. As a result, I was thinking right, left, right or left, right, left? It was a real puzzle. In the end, I chose the most attractive-looking lines.” —Anne-Flore Marxer, snowboard, Switzerland