Chill Factor - - The Road Gap -

David Spiers is the cur­rent Chair­man of the SSA Na­tional Freestyle Com­mit­tee. He has been heav­ily in­volved in mogul ski­ing as an Olympic mogul coach at Salt Lake City in 2002, the Aus­tralian De­vel­op­ment mogul coach from 1997-2002, and the Mt. Hotham Freestyle Pro­gram Di­rec­tor. He knows a thing or two about cal­cu­lated risk. For Dave, the Hotham Road Gap was far from spon­ta­neous; it was planned and mea­sured.

CF: Has your pas­sion al­ways been freestyle ski­ing?

DS: Yes, def­i­nitely, moguls had al­ways cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion. Later in life, I have found a real pas­sion for the longer runs as the body de­te­ri­o­rates.

What was the freestyle cul­ture like when you were com­pet­ing? How have you seen the sport change?

I think the event size and the cour­ses them­selves have changed dra­mat­i­cally. Mogul jumps and land­ings in the 1980s and 90s were mine­fields. You could ei­ther land in the right spot or land in a hole. Now we ac­tu­ally cal­cu­late and mea­sure the aver­age land­ing slope over a chopped pre­pared land­ing, which en­ables ath­letes to jump highly tech­ni­cal tricks that they never would have been able to ex­e­cute on those older style cour­ses. So that is prob­a­bly the big­gest change. And tech­ni­cally, the fo­cus on skill de­vel­op­ment has been dra­matic too. Good skiers with alpine back­grounds back in the day, like Nel­son Carmichael and Edgar Grosp­iron were amaz­ing skiers, but you have a look at where the world’s best are now, at a tech­ni­cal level, it re­ally has been re­fined.

What gave you the idea to hit the Hotham road jump?

Well I was at Hotham when Richie (Big­gins) jumped the road, which was in­cred­i­ble re­ally. Richie had the idea to get a snow­cat and build that jump. He de­cided to build it in an area where they couldn’t get the cat close to the road be­cause it just would have fallen onto the road. So he had to deal with not only a ver­ti­cal drop but also the ex­tra ten me­tres in dis­tance from where the jump was built to the road. And it was huge. Huge, huge, huge! I was one of many that day that saw him get carted up to the top of the sum­mit and come in at high speed. Then he just hit it right on. It was a fan­tas­tic jump, and a great me­mory for us.

Who built your jump?

Well, I did. I had been work­ing on it for a few weeks. I had the Lift Com­pany, the Po­lice and Vic Roads all in­volved. I had the road closed. We had to watch the weather, and I liked that spot near the bridge be­cause it had a much lower ver­ti­cal drop, and I wanted to treat it like a stunt. I built that jump with the cat, we salted that whole in-run be­cause with the sun, it was catch­ing di­rect sun­light. Also, we had an aerial World Cup coach to do some speed tests on it prior to jump­ing it. I had three ath­letes that I was coach­ing for Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tions at the time and I also wanted to ex­pose them to that jump. They were mi­nors, so ob­vi­ously the re­spon­si­bil­ity of get­ting the speed right and the take-off point right was on me and wasn’t just some­thing that you could “wing”. So the weather cleared, we man­aged to build a re­turn track from the top of Hill Val­ley, put a huge road right in the mid­dle of a land­ing dur­ing the week and it was pretty vis­i­ble what we were do­ing so we at­tracted quite a crowd.

Did the fa­mous black and white photo on the wall at Zirky’s Bar give you any in­spi­ra­tion?

Oh yeah. Peter is one of my favourite peo­ple in the in­dus­try by a mile and one of my favourite things to do is to have long chats with him at the start of the sea­son to hear his sto­ries. You see the his­toric pho­tos of road jumps which are clas­sic. But I think Richie’s was cer­tainly the one that caught my imag­i­na­tion.

What would you say if one of your kids wanted to do the jump?

I would han­dle it the same way I han­dled it then. I would make an as­sess­ment on whether I think that their skills and strengths are up to it and of course ab­so­lutely man­age the in-run speed, speed tests and a com­mit­ment to not slam­ming on the an­chors. As long as you hit the land­ing, even if you make mis­takes, you are go­ing to be flip­ping down a land­ing and not hit­ting road.

You have to have the right skill sets. The prepa­ra­tion we did for that jump was ex­ten­sive. No one would have hit it had we not pre­pared it the way we did.

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