Chill­fac­tor FreeBOM

Res­ur­rect­ing the hot dog­ger within

Chill Factor - - Chillfactor Recommends - By Watkin McLen­nan All pho­tos: Rob­bie War­den

The girls had their hair out. The boys hadn’t shaved in weeks. The lift line had a pow­der day buzz. Every­body ig­nored the rain on the fore­cast and wore fab­u­lous un-wa­ter­proof out­fits. One hun­dred­plus skiers were ready to charge in an event that cel­e­brated smiles, danc­ing and, above all, freestyle ski­ing.

The event was sim­ple. Bring mu­sic and watch peo­ple ski from A-to-B. The per­son who does it best wins – a proudly sub­jec­tive judg­ing ap­proach. Why bother mak­ing judg­ing any­thing else? Freestyle is in­her­ently non-com­pet­i­tive. Freestyle is about self­ex­pres­sion and there­fore highly per­sonal but, like most things, more fun when shared.

“Freestyle ski­ing” to­day is used to de­scribe mogul and aerial ski­ing. This is mis­lead­ing be­cause th­ese com­pe­ti­tions favour a strict, pre­scribed style. Per­haps rac­ing is the only true freestyle con­test be­cause it is against the clock. This begs the ques­tion then; how did “freestyle” be­come the ti­tle to de­scribe such ridged dis­ci­plines?

“Freestyle” came from a re­sponse to the in­fa­mous hot dog­ging move­ment of the 60s and early 70s. The hot dog­gers broke free of the con­ser­va­tive ski style of the time. The hot dog­ger un­leashed them­selves on the bumps. Moguls were a prod­uct of ski re­sorts’ in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity. The hot dog­gers rel­ished this chal­leng­ing ter­rain. They set them­selves free down the moun­tain. They em­braced ski­ing’s essence – a fun way to get around on snow.

This ap­proach to ski­ing made for grip­ping view­ing and events first called “ex­hi­bi­tions” were held across Amer­ica. In a YouTube video ti­tled Ori­gins of Free­sk­ing, Dick Bar­ry­more ex­plained, “Judges were look­ing for skiers that skied hot… The rules were made as the con­test pro­gressed. A fall was only judged as a fall if the skier came to a com­plete stop. Oth­er­wise it was con­sid­ered a recovery and great re­cov­er­ies scored high.”

The skier and the crowd shared ex­u­ber­ance and joy. The skiers charged off the en­ergy of the crowd and the crowd gasped and cheered at ev­ery turn. Mu­sic was cho­sen care­fully, of­ten by the skier, and a fes­ti­val at­mos­phere was cre­ated. The skier, like a mu­si­cian, led the crowd.

Around 1971, the word freestyle started to be thrown around in re­place of hot dog­ging. But as soon as the sports pop­u­lar­ity took hold, rules and re­al­ity caught up. Pa­tri­cia Karnik, a pi­o­neer­ing hot dog­ger, wrote an ar­ti­cle in Ski­ing Magazine eight years later ti­tled What­ever Hap­pened To Freestyle.

Karnik wrote: “dis­ci­pline had re­placed emo­tion… to­day freestyle is coldly cal­cu­lat­ing. One can’t af­ford to take a chance. We were do­ing noth­ing but tak­ing chances… the crowds be­came merely spec­ta­tors rather than par­tic­i­pants in the re­cip­ro­cal charg­ing process.”

Within eight years of the term be­ing used widely, the true spirit of “freestyle” had been lost. To­day, mogul ski­ing con­sists of some of the world’s best skiers fi­ness­ing crafted mogul cour­ses with pre­cise turns. Dual mogul com­pe­ti­tions are the most crowd-pleas­ing and the ABOM Mogul Chal­lenge has been re­spon­si­ble for some of the most spec­tac­u­lar ski­ing on Mt Buller. Yet, like mogul ski­ing in gen­eral, those that com­pete con­form to a ridged style. It is the op­po­site of what “freestyle” im­plies.

In 2014 I was shar­ing my vi­sion for an ABOM that en­cour­aged flair. An event that broke a few of the re­stric­tions put in place to help judges and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies rather than skiers. Af­ter hear­ing it all be­fore, Patto, Team Buller Rid­ers (TBR) Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, said, “Make your own ABOM” – FreeBOM was born. The phi­los­o­phy was

sim­ple. It is an event that de­mands pas­sion and en­cour­ages in­clu­sion. The event in­vites all skiers from the race­course, park, or groomer to com­pete and join the crowd. The event calls for an an­i­mal spirit rid of self-con­scious ski­ing, stag­nant danc­ing, and Gore-Tex cloth­ing.

The phi­los­o­phy of the event crafted the judg­ing style. Five judges; Joey Cor­co­ran, An­ton Grimus, Reg­gae El­liss, Tony “Harro” Har­ring­ton, and I ei­ther sat at the bot­tom or skied the course. It was im­por­tant that the judges test the course. We needed to know what the bumps were do­ing and who was putting out the best vibes on the chair­lift.

Joey got to the bot­tom of one run, “C’mon Reg­gae, take a lap, it’s ski­ing so well.” Reg­gae looked up at the bumps. They sat as is­lands amongst the grass.

Mean­while, Steve Win­na­cott from The North Face blasted down like a 16-year-old on his gui­tar with the dis­tor­tion turned right up – a few hic­cups didn’t mat­ter, he showed flow and feel­ing. If Steve hadn’t spon­sored the event he prob­a­bly would have won the whole thing. The FreeBOM award is the top prize. It is awarded to the skier that em­bod­ies the spirit of FreeBOM most. The hot dog­ger, the orig­i­nal freestyle skier, in­spires the FreeBOM spirit. At the spirit’s core are self-ex­pres­sion, in­no­va­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. Last year James Phillips, a TBR mogul coach, won the FreeBOM award and a pair of Dal­bello boots fit­ted at The Boot Lab. Every­body needs a bit of ego on the slopes, the moun­tains are big and you don’t want to get lost. Phillip’s ego rum­bled through the bowl. He skied with more re­gard for the crowd at the bot­tom than for his body. Those that cheered sipped bub­bly and Phillips fed off the charged at­mos­phere. Ski­ing was the drug and every­body in Bull Run bowl par­tied like it was mid­night at Kooroora.

This year I in­vited ev­ery­one who has skied a day in their life, ev­ery­one who has found bliss in the view from a chair­lift, and ev­ery­one who has wo­ken up with a sore back but gone out ski­ing any­way. I in­vite those that are jaded and think ski­ing in Aus­tralia is a waste of time. I even in­vite snow­board­ers, be­cause you get freestyle bet­ter than most skiers. I in­vite you all to join the crowd on Satur­day, Au­gust 20, in Bull Run bowl, Mt Buller for the Freestyle Ski­ing Fes­ti­val – FreeBOM.

Phillips’s ego rum­bled through

the bowl. He skied with more re­gard for the crowd at the bot­tom than for his body.

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