By Rob Shaul
This summer, several members of our FreeSki team were picked up by major sponsors. Those picked up include …
- Arcteryx picked up Casey and Forrest Jillson for it’s Grassroots Team.
- Marmot and Vokl picked up Monica Purington.
- The North Face picked up Kaki Orr.
- Flylow and Dalbello picked up Hannah Follender.
- Blizzard landed Crystal Wright
- DPS has Liza Sarychev
The commitment I expect of our FreeSki team is demanding – especially in the “look at me,” GoPro-driven, bro-brah world of freesking.
To be on the team, athletes had to start training here, 4 days a week, beginning in mid-June. This week they finished their 20th week of training, and still have 3 hard weeks to go before the resort opens and they can escape the gym.
If a team member misses a week without explanation, or in any other way doesn’t meet his or her commitment to Mountain Athlete, they lose their spot on the team. Just last week, this happened.
There’s a link between the commitment to the gym, and the sponsorships. The commitment to train is a clear demonstration by an athlete who is serious about his or her sport, and career. It starts in the gym, but everything gets better.
Soon new team members are completing ski resumes, contacting sponsors, updating websites, planning ski trips. They are hustling 2 and 3 jobs to make money in the summer so they can fully commit to competing in the winter.
Self improvement and maturation extends beyond sport. Deadend personal relationships are stopped. Unsustainable financial situations addressed. Non-skiing professional careers advanced.
Sponsors take notice. We’re at a point now where sports marketing directors contact me looking for talent. Just because you’re a good athlete doesn’t mean you’ll be a good sponsored athlete. Much of the FreeSki culture is really delayed adolescence – and all sponsors have horror stories about immature athletes.
These sports marketing directors know the crucible of the gym culls the douche bags. When I recommend a skier, they understand this athlete is fit, committed to the sport, professional and dependable. Flash-in-the-pan athletes don’t make it here.
This happens for military athletes, LE athletes, Fire Rescue athletes and the mountain professionals we work with also. For the soldier, officer, fireman or mountain guide, his or her most important piece of equipment is his body. Get fit, train for your job, and it follows that the soldier will also study, and improve tactics, the officer – train and improve marksmanship, the firefighter – train and improve fire suppression and communication, and the mountain guide – train and improve in avalanche safety and wilderness medicine. All this builds and builds, and rapid career advancement ensues.
There’s something else at work too. Competitive FreeSkiing is an individual sport, and not only do our team members compete with each other for podiums, but also for sponsors.
Shared adversity forges strong bonds. Team members push each other in the gym and on the ski hill, but they pull each other along too. Trips are planned together, sponsor contacts shared and team members recommended. An individual success becomes a shared success.
What happens is athletes no longer want to train at Mountain Athlete because it’s Mountain Athlete. They want to train here so they can train alongside our athletes. They want to be around a group of skiers who are serious, and professional, and really, really good. They want to be immersed in the culture.
This happens at military units, police departments, and firehouses, too. Certain units, certain stations are known to be the best, and have the best people. Athletes in those fields strive to work at these places for the culture of excellence.