Martin Lentz’s career leaps forward
Martin Lentz, a 20-year-old Park City native, is making big strides in the world of big-mountain skiing.
Only two years ago Lentz, who now attends Quest University in British Columbia, Canada, during the offseason, was competing in junior-level events across North America. This winter, he’ll explore the mountains of Europe as part of the Swatch Freeride World Tour, the top big-mountain tour in the world.
Big-mountain skiing involves skiing in areas with trees, cliffs and steep descents. Competitors can ski wherever they want in a designated area, hitting whichever natural features they feel best showcase their skills. Judges then score the athletes in areas like style, control and technique.
Lentz’s progression through the sport has taken him through several different levels of events in the past two winters.
"In the juniors, they have events where you can hone your skills and accumulate points," he said. "Last year, I was on a qualifier tour. It’s similar to competitive surfing where they have star rankings for the events — there are three-star, four-star and then the World Tour is the five-star championship tour. Last year, I was doing three- and four-star events just here in North America."
Due to his success in the qualifying tour, Lentz earned a spot on the World Tour.
"They take the top three male skiers from North America and the top three male skiers from Europe onto the tour the next season," he said. "I finished second overall in North America last year and earned myself a spot."
The other two North American skiers to earn spots are also 20 years old, which Lentz said signifies a youth movement in big-mountain skiing.
"It was all of our first years doing the adult qualifier tour," he said. "We’d all come from the juniors, which really shows that there’s a wave of kids who have come up and trained in these junior leagues and are getting to the age where we can go compete against the adults. Last year’s world champion on the tour was a 21-year-old who goes to the University of Utah — George Rodney — and was in his first year on the tour."
Lentz said the youth movement in the sport is due to coaching programs that have only been around for a few years.
"We’ve grown up in these programs where we’ve been coached on how to pick a line and how to ski it well for four or five years now," he said. "Now we’re competing against adults who just do it for fun and have never been coached on it."
When he was younger, Lentz competed in alpine ski races. He said those experiences gave him the style he uses to try to separate himself from his competitors.
"I grew up on the Park City Ski Team, so I grew up ski racing and doing that kind of thing," he said. "That’s probably my biggest strength — speed and technique and combining that with really fluid airs and really fluid line choice.
"You see it a lot in these tours where people will find a really gnarly feature, but it takes them a while to get there and it’s kind of sketchy and doesn’t flow well. I’m really into a line that is fun to ski and where you’re going to get from the top to the bottom quickly."
By qualifying for the World Tour, Lentz is guaranteed three competitions. He’ll head to Andorra in mid-January and then to Chamonix, France. From there, he’ll compete in Fieberbrunn, Austria. After that, Lentz’s results will dictate whether or not he’ll ski in the remaining two competitions.
"They do a top-14 cut," he said. "The top 14 go on to a stop in Haines, Alaska — the only North American stop on the tour this year. Then they do another small cut after that and the top 12 go on to the championships, which are in Verbier, Switzerland."
Lentz said he wants to make his first year on the World Tour a good one and compete in every event.
"My main goal for the season is to qualify and go to Alaska," he said. "I think I’m fully capable of that. I really think I can win an event, so I’d like to do that."
But, Lentz added, he’ll make sure he enjoys everything that goes along with the World Tour, especially the trips to some of the best mountains in Europe.
"I’m just excited to go ski those mountains and have this kind of experience," he said. "It’s going to be unbelievable traveling Europe and skiing in all these places. Any one of those destinations would be a dream trip for me. To link them all up in five stops in a winter would be incredible."
Much like last winter in North America, Europe is currently experiencing drastically low snow totals. Lentz said he hopes none of the events are canceled due to lack of snowpack.
"That’s definitely always a worry and something we’ve dealt with in the past with big-mountain competitions," he said. "You never know, though. Even right now, they don’t have any snow over there, but it’s still two-and-a-half weeks out. Things can change."
For more information on the Swatch Freeride World Tour, or to check results for each event, visit http://www.freerideworldtour.com .
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