Martin Lentz shows off his gold medal and season-title plaque at his home in Park City. Christopher Reeves/Park Record
Martin Lentz shows off his gold medal and season-title plaque at his home in Park City. Christopher Reeves/Park Record

Growing up in Park City, Martin Lentz was naturally drawn toward the world of skiing from a very young age.

From the age of two, he'd been on skis, eventually earning his way onto the Summit Ski Team and then the Park City Ski Team.

But, at some point, the restrictions of typical alpine ski racing became uninteresting to Lentz, leading him to try his hand at a different sort of skiing big mountain skiing.

"It's basically competitive off-piste skiing," he said. "They pick a spot on a mountain where there are a bunch of cliffs and trees and a lot of things to jump off of. There's a start gate at the top and a finish at the bottom. You can ski wherever you want, do whatever you want."

Judges score competitors on a number of different categories, Lentz explained.

"You're judged on your line and then how well you ski it," he said. "They break that down into categories like your technique and control and your style. There's no time component. They have fluidity that's what they call it. They want to see that you're moving down the mountain and keeping it all flowing. They don't want you to stop or traverse across to somewhere else. They want it all to flow."

Lentz's style was enough to catapult him to a fantastic season, which concluded this past weekend at Snowbird. The 18-year-old Park City High School senior competed in the male 15-18 age category at the International Free-Skiing Association's (IFSA) North American Championships, taking first place by .1 points over Xander Guldman from Sugar Bowl (75.73 to 75.63).

The result also secured the overall season title for Lentz, who was happy just to be competing at all last weekend.

"Five weeks ago, I crashed and dislocated my shoulder and got a pretty bad concussion," he said. "I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to ski this weekend. That was huge for me to even be up there and skiing. And then to win was just unreal."

For the senior, who is still considering various college options, ending his 15-18 competition career with a title was a dream come true.

"It was a goal of mine at the beginning of the year, but I didn't know if I could get there," he said. "It was pretty surreal to accomplish a goal like that. I know a lot of the past winners and they've gone on to become incredible skiers and incredible people that I've met. To be at that level is kind of crazy."

Though Lentz's competition future is a little hazy at the moment (he'd like to compete on the adult tour), he knows he'll keep skiing no matter what. After all, it's in his blood, ever since he could barely walk.

"Living this close to the Canyons, I remember going up there and I'd go ski with my mom for half an hour and then we'd go get hot cocoa and ride the gondola back down," he said. "That was always a solid day. It's always been a part of my life and, as I've grown up, I just can't imagine not skiing."

He hopes his big-mountain expertise opens up other doors in the skiing industry outside of the competition aspect.

"I'd like to get into filming, ski movies, that kind of stuff," he said. "I don't think the competition is the biggest part of it. I don't want to turn into some competition freak where that's all I think about."

Whether in the competition venue or outside it, Lentz is excited for the future of big mountain skiing. Though he admits it comes with a certain amount of risk he lists off a broken foot, broken ankle, broken wrist and a concussion as injuries that are "nothing too serious yet" he thinks it can continue to grow.

"It's growing a ton in popularity," he said. "When I first started doing it [at age 14], it was very small and not many people knew about it. But it's a good option for kids who are growing up and don't want to be stuck in the ski racing world or the [terrain] park world. There's another avenue there and I think it will continue to grow."