Freeskier Alex Hall could see new heights, maybe even Olympics
Just a few years ago, Hall would have said this life was a distant dream
November 13, 2017
Alex Hall is taking it easy. The 19-year-old freeskier and part-time Park City resident is sleeping in these days and waking up in his parents' home in Zurich, Switzerland. He said it's good to be there now after spending months away from friends and family to train with the U.S. Freeskiing team. A few weeks ago he was in Stubai, Austria, competing at a World Cup event. In two weeks he will go back.
But for a few days, his calendar is as clean as a fresh powder day.
Just a few years ago, Hall would have said this life was a distant dream. He had never even had a skiing coach, and had only been seriously competing in freeskiing events for about a year.
All that changed in 2014 when, at the age of 16, he accepted an invitation to join the U.S. Ski and Snowboard training academy in Park City and enrolled in the Winter Sports School. He started competing in larger events and making more edits (freestyle ski videos).
This year, he is a dark horse for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
That's because, since coming to the States, he has been making waves in the skiing scene. For example, his 2015-2016 season edit was lauded by skiing media for its bold tricks. Essentially, the video splits time between Hall hitting ramps with his friends in the Wasatch backcountry, and sending serious park jumps in Verbier, Switzerland, on a shoot with one of his sponsors, Faction Skis.
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His technique is smooth and stylish, and he shows a broad range, but one of the edit's most arresting shots is compelling because of its simplicity. Hall hits a park ramp at high speed, skips the intended landing area in favor of a natural slope farther down the mountain. The slope of the ski run descends as he falls, extending his air time almost like a true ski jump. The result is a six-second, slow-motion flight.
"I'd been looking at this jump the whole shoot and never knew if I really wanted to hit it," Hall said in a call from his home outside Zurich. "It was a little park jump but there was a landing really far away — it was probably 150 feet away — and I was just wondering if I could make that landing."
To get enough speed, Hall had to ski nearly the entire ski run in a straight line leading up to the jump.
"It was, for sure, scary," he said. "Mainly just because of how fast I'm going into it."
Hall again showed his affinity for big air when he became the first person to complete a switch triple cork 1800, a world record he set at the One Hit Wonder competition at Thredbo Resort in Australia. The trick breaks down like this: "Switch" means he entered the trick skiing backward, "triple" denotes three distinct flips, cork means he was spinning off-axis (not a straight front or backflip), and 1800 means he spun laterally five times.
"There wasn't a ton of preparation leading into that," he said. "It was in the back of my mind, but I hadn't tried it anywhere else."
Hall said he warmed up with smaller versions of the trick, feeling out the circumstances.
"But it was a really big jump, so I felt like I had enough air to do that trick," he said. "So I gave it a go and landed it first try. I got pretty lucky."
Hall said he was spinning so quickly he doesn't remember being in the air, and his only memories of the trick itself are landing it and the fear he felt while initiating for the 30-yard jump.
"For me, beforehand was really scary," he said. "I kind of knew what I had to do. I had a vision for it but I wasn't sure it was going to work. All I remember is coming out of the very end of it and landing on my feet."
While edits don't likely add to Hall's appeal in the eyes of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team, Hall said events like the One Hit Wonder probably do, even though it's technically a big air event and Hall primarily competes in slopestyle.
But his 2016 competitive season was more influential. He won the Mammoth Mountain stop of the U.S. Revolution Tour, earning a silver medal in slopestyle, then taking fourth in halfpipe at the Youth Olympic Games in Park City.
In the 2017 freestyle World Cup, Hall finished fifth out of the Americans, with Colby Stevenson, Nicholas Goepper, Gus Kenworthy and McRae Williams above him. He finished 20th overall.
To make the Olympics, Hall would need to work his way into the top four on his team, or somehow earn his coaches' trust enough to be granted a discretionary spot.
Toward that end, Hall said the most important traits are consistency and inspiration.
"You have to have the perfect mix of doing tricks you're consistent at and taking risks," he said.
The qualifying process for the Olympics begins in December with the Dew Tour at Breckenridge, Colorado, where Hall's ability to throw big, unexpected tricks could come in handy as he gears up for the biggest season of his life.
He has already been invited to the X-Games, and is looking forward to another season with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's freeskiing team. But for now, Hall will wake up slowly in his Zurich home and take the bus downtown to skateboard with his friends, and bask in his free time.
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