Six months after the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the electric atmosphere of the Games is all but completely forgotten for most. Yet in the depths of the web, here we all are, still constantly offering new opinions or verbally sparring over how freeskiing's introduction to the world stage will mold our future. For some, freeskiing appears to have simply developed deeper fissures between competitive and creative endeavors. Others fear style and creativity are dying at the hands of a regimented, aerialist approach to competition. In the grey area, Dylan Ferguson maintains a position as one of the world's best aerial skiers, while simultaneously emerging as a slopestyle skier that has cultivated one of the most unique and innovative styles the sport has seen. With roots in two drastically different ski cultures, Ferguson's perspective on our sport and its future is perhaps the most comprehensible and insightful opinion freeskiing could ask for.
Introduction and interview by Hank Stowers
Words by Dylan Ferguson
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Hank: How's it going?
Dylan: Not to bad, just got off work man, you?
Hank: Good man, you wanna just jump into it?
Dylan: For sure!
Hank: What are you up to this summer?
Dylan: Right now I'm living in Portland, Doing an internship with Columbia Sportswear, Just living here for the summer. I'm moving back to Park City in the end of August and start up school in the fall at Westminster.
Hank: How was West Coast Sessions?
Dylan: Pretty sweet, that's one of the events I really look forward to, I'm not really a competitive skier but when it comes to West Coast Sessions, it's a good week. A bunch of good skiers just having fun, that's what skiing should be about.
Hank: How'd you get your start in aerials?
Dylan: I grew up on a mountain in New Hampshire, Waterloo Valley, and did the freestyle program there on the weekends, so I skied moguls, aerials, ski ballet, a bit of everything. I was getting better at aerials and thought I would just kind of go with it. Right out of high school I moved to Park City and joined their ski team to train with them.
Hank: Did you start skiing park when you were in New Hampshire or when you moved to park city?
Dylan: New Hampshire, we had a solid crew of park skiers when I was there. Mike Clark, Andrew Hathaway, Willis Brown, Henrick Lampert. I travelled around with those guys, to the U.S. Open and whatnot, and I would peace out for a week here and there for aerials contests.
Hank: In the future, do you see yourself moving towards being a professional park skier or staying where you're at?
Dylan: I don't think I'm moving to the competitive aspect of park, It's gotten to such a point that if you don't have left and right triples, you're sorta out of the game, I don't really want to be chucking any more triples, I've done a lot of those in my time with aerials. I'm definitely looking to just ski, and hopefully bring some of my aerials style into the backcountry; just sort of be creative. I do have this background of ballet skiing, it's a weird style that I would like to incorporate into slopestyle. I don't want to be too competitive about it, more just something to do. I'm going to be a skier for the rest of my life, so I want to do something super fun with it.
Hank: Why do you think that park skiers are just starting to throw triples, or doubles for women, when aerialists have been for years?
Dylan: I think that it's just the natural progression of those sports. Obviously aerials didn't just start out with people hucking triples. It started with single flips and slowly moved up. Every year people figure out more and more about the sport, and have to do it the "right" way. If you are 12 years old and don't have both dub 10's then you're sorta out. That's the standard these days. Over time it becomes more of the norm to be doing these things, now that triples are coming into play, kids know that they have to be able to do a triple to win a contest. With aerials, I feel like we physically maxed out the sport due to physics and what your body can actually handle on impact. I do a jump that's a triple flip with 5 twists, that's sort of the highest level aerials trick you can do. They don't allow quads in contest; people do them on water ramps or just one time (on snow) for fun. I don't think that people are going to be throwing quads in freesking, and if they do it will be considered a very dangerous aspect of the sport that people will try to avoid.
Hank: The 3 flips with 5 twists is a hurricane right?
Dylan: A variation. My teammate Speedy invented that trick. He was a pretty rad dude and a huge inspiration for me. He could come out and bust the hurricane trick anytime, hopefully a lot of other people will start to. Only a few people have ever done that trick, maybe 10 people at this point. Being one of them is pretty cool.
Hank: Do you think that park skiing is progressing towards an aerialist approach to jumping?
Dylan: Kind of. I hear coaches telling their freeski athletes what to do. At West Coast Sessions I was listening to a coach talk to one of his athletes, and telling him to squeeze his core at a certain part of the trick, not let his hips fall behind, etc... That's something you would hear from an aerials coach. The tricks are sort of similar, I think in aerials you're so inverted while you're spinning that you can see the ground the whole time. Some people don't realize that aerialists can see the ground throughout their tricks, and with the slopestyle stuff you are on a different axis. and you aren't necessarily spotting the ground right below you. Every year the way that kids are doing tricks is more like aerials. Like that blunt cork 7 that people are doing a lot is similar to a crappy back full. It's partially becoming that, but park will never fully be like aerials. Park competition definitely has a spin to win mentality though, which is similar to aerials, and I hope that isn't what park skiing becomes. It should be an expression of style, not just flipping and spinning to win comps.
Hank: Is there anything that park skiers could take away from aerialists, or vice versa?
Dylan: There are, yeah. One of my teammates named Kendal Johnson, a kid that got started in aerials, and he's been doing a pretzel double on water ramps-
Hank: I saw that, that was awesome.
Dylan: Yeah, I think that's something that may come into slopestyle pretty soon if people figure out how he does it. It involves a lot of physics to figure out, but it's definitely possible, calling it right now!
Hank: Is it true that some aerialists can't really ski?
Dylan: For sure. When I was growing up it was just a traditional freestyle skiing sport, but young skiers these days aren't really looking at aerials as a cool aspect of freestyle skiing because park and pipe are right on point with doubles and triples.
Hank: Would you say that aerials is still skiing?
Dylan: Yeah, technically. The way I see it is that I want my jumps to be as smooth and flowy as possible, when most (aerialist) don't really know how to ski. They're technically just turning their skis, hitting a jump, landing, and stopping, and I'm trying to make a steezy hop turn or a little ollie on my inrun (laughs), or land with a little swag to it, which a lot of people either don't like or don't try because the judges don't reward you for it. It's gymnastics, landing perfectly with your arms to the side and standing up. It looks so dumb. It's freestyle skiing, style should always be a factor. With aerialists like the chinese team, none of them have a skiing background, they're all gymnasts or trampoline athletes that weren't the best at their gym, and were recruited to do aerials because they understand how to flip and spin. They can kind of learn how to ski along the way. When you travel on the world tour, nobody is going skiing. I think I'm the only person that would even get out on the hill or travel with twin tips. When you think of it that way, aerials isn't really skiing, but it's just another discipline for some people.
Hank: you could make the same argument for park skiing though.
Dylan: Some of those kids doing doubles now get on top of a mountain and are pretty sketchy on the way down. They don't grasp how to control your ski. I think it's good to do some sort of program while you're growing up to understand how to ski first before getting into slopestyle programs that lap a park all day long.
Hank: It seems like the most versatile guys come from bump skiing or racing.
Dylan: Yeah, exactly. You look at someone like Tanner Hall, who has the most diverse background of ripping moguls, and now he's the top dog on the pow scene. You can have style, but you can also rip the mountain, and at the end of the day, that background gives you a mix of both.
Hank: What ski culture do you identify with most personally?
Dylan: Definitely freeskiing. No offense to aerials, but it's such a competitive scene. All my friends that I go freeskiing with make the best days of the year. A lot of aerialists see it as "I've gotta wake up early in the morning and go work out, we've gotta go train, we've gotta go compete".
Hank: What's harder, a dub 10 or a full full?
Dylan: (laughs), uh, for me a full full is way easier, but that just my standard, I've been doing that since I was 14 years old. With Aerials, if you have a strong core, squeeze on the takeoff, and drop your arms in the correct planes or directions, you're gonna full full.
Hank: Do you ever see style ever making its way into aerials? what about switch takeoffs and landings?
Dylan: I don't think switch skiing will ever come into play; the impact on that stuff is practically impossible to land switch. I've done it on park jumps, doing ariel style jumps to switch, but there's a lot less impact. But hopefully style will come more into play now that they've maxed the sport out, because it will get boring to watch someone do the same trick and land the same way every time. There's gotta be some sort of creative part of the sport. They tried to sort of revamp the sport, and they used a new contest format, and it didn't really work out, so hopefully they're gonna figure out some other sort of way to make sure the right people are winning every week.
Hank: How's your kick ass blaster?
Dylan: That's a good one, it's a lay-tuck-full, which is the first triple I ever did on snow. I don't really do that anymore, but I've been known to rip a kick ass blaster.
Hank: Word, thanks man!
Dylan: Thank you!