Martin Row­ley

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Martin Row­ley grew up in the 1970s in Thredbo Vil­lage where his dad Dave had a build­ing busi­ness. Not sur­pris­ingly, he skied from an early age and de­vel­oped into a highly skilled all-round skier. Martin raced in his mid-teens be­fore switch­ing to freestyle and mogul ski­ing, which lead to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer com­pet­ing on the World Cup cir­cuit rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia for nearly ten years.

Af­ter he re­tired from com­pe­ti­tion, Martin spent a few years coach­ing, be­fore set­tling on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula set­ting up a build­ing com­pany.

How­ever, the moun­tains and coach­ing have drawn him back and four years ago Martin and his wife Vanessa es­tab­lished Mount Hotham Free Ski.

It is a pro­gres­sive pro­gram where the aim is for par­tic­i­pants to gain “the abil­ity to be­come an all-rounded, highly ex­pe­ri­enced skier gain­ing skills in big moun­tain, slopestyle, moguls, ski cross, and big air.

CF: What was your mo­ti­va­tion for get­ting Mount Hotham Free Ski up and run­ning?

I’d stepped back from the in­dus­try but I was still ski­ing at both Hotham and over­seas each year. We spent more time on the snow as our son Tris­tan’s in­ter­est in the sport grew. Around four years ago Vanessa and I were look­ing at our lives, and where we could re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. That’s when we de­cided the time had come to move onto a new era.

Like most Aus­tralian re­sorts, Hotham seems to have a big fo­cus on rac­ing. Was it a chal­lenge to get the re­sort to sup­port your plans for MHFS?

We’ve been very for­tu­nate to have Hotham sup­port our con­cept from day one. In par­tic­u­lar Belinda Trem­bath, Hotham’s gen­eral man­ager, un­der­stands that the youth in win­ter sports to­day are grav­i­tat­ing to­wards freestyle/freeski. It’s no big se­cret that Aus­tralia ex­cels in freestyle ski­ing on an in­ter­na­tional level, and even more re­cently the newer sports of slopestyle and half­pipe..

How does MHFS work? Is it in­de­pen­dent of the Hotham Snows­ports school?

Yes, and it is a non-for profit or­gan­i­sa­tion. We op­er­ate un­der the rules and guide­lines set out by state law for such en­ti­ties and we run in­de­pen­dently from the Hotham Snows­ports pro­gram. Our role in the re­sort is to pro­vide pro­fes­sional pro­grams, run by the top-level coaches from the Hotham Snows­ports team, un­der my guid­ance.

It sounds like a pro­gram all re­sorts should have.

I think that any­thing great in life comes from a solid foun­da­tion. The base age level of our pro­grams is seven but the greater num­bers that form MHFS are around the ages of ten to 11. All ath­letes, must have the abil­ity to carve a good GS turn. To ski off piste in all ter­rain and snow con­di­tions. To jump to with bal­ance and con­sis­tency. Ski with flu­id­ity on chang­ing ter­rain. Ski moguls with rhythm and short turn tech­nique, and also un­der­stand the com­pet­i­tive arena. Th­ese skills are taught within a team en­vi­ron­ment while hav­ing fun, which cre­ates a plat­form, mov­ing to­wards their cho­sen dis­ci­pline around the age of 14. Ski­ing his­tory has shown that some of the best cham­pi­ons, no mat­ter what ski­ing dis­ci­pline, have been great freeskiers.

Hotham has some of the best and steep­est in-bounds ter­rain in Aus­tralia. How im­por­tant is it to get the ath­letes out on the nat­u­ral ter­rain?

Very im­por­tant. Hotham has nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring fea­tures, gul­lies, bowls, cliff lines and great tree ski­ing. We also have some of the most eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble ex­treme off piste ter­rain from re­sort lift­ing. The kids are lucky to have this at their doorstep, and it’s a great as­set to our pro­grams.

Is MHFS your fo­cus now? It must be nice for your “job” to be back in the moun­tains. It’s like you’ve come full cir­cle.

Yeah, I feel like I’ve come home, lov­ing ev­ery mo­ment. I’m truly in­spired by the team. I am for­tu­nate to have worked with some of our ath­letes for a few years now. To be a part of their fam­i­lies. To watch their growth and learn­ing process is a lot of fun. There is alot of work in the back­ground to make MHFS so suc­cess­ful in such a short pe­riod of time too. We have a small but in­creas­ing com­mit­tee that re­ally are cre­ative, imag­i­na­tive, and tire­less.

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