Your typical tele skier is content to perform the standard shop-floor flex test on new skis, leaning into the tail, pulling back on the tip, and using words like "soft and "stiff to describe their findings. Not Alan Moats. Moats, father of freeskiing phenom Charlotte (his younger daughter, Tara, 11, is an age-group cross-country skiing champ) has been known to grab a ski by its nose, twist it, and proclaim: "There's a lot of wrist in the tip; this ski will work on complex surfaces.
It's that sort of cerebral approach, coupled with impressive on-hill skills (Moats is a former U.S. Telemark Ski Team member), that has garnered the 56-year-old freeheeler a growing reputation among the Northeast's tele elite. "He's verbal and intense, says Peter Kavouksorian, owner of Mountain Travelers ski shop in Rutland, Vermont, who's skied with Moats for a couple decades. "He thinks more about skiing than anybody I know, which becomes apparent in gnarly terrain: His understanding of skiing dynamics is remarkable.
Understanding those dynamics helped Moats master his home hill, Mad River Glen. You might have seen him there, his gray ponytail flapping in the wind behind a pair of Viking-wide shoulders. MRG's terrain demands a full repertoire of styles. "It's wide open, he says. "There are millions of answers: different foot spreads, tele, parallel—everything works.
Still, once Moats's tips are pointed into the fall line, analysis takes a backseat. "When it comes to actually being there, the analytical side gets put in a bag and put away. Every day I ski, I'm just exploring, discovering new ways to feel the flow.
Moats feels the flow over 70 days each year, occasionally getting the opportunity to chase his oldest daughter on exotic shoots. When he's not skiing, he's working as president of MRG's board of trustees, which can be factious. According to MRG marketing director Eric Friedman, "All the Mad River hippies like him. And, as Moats puts it, "I come from a dysfunctional family. I'm used to this.
Stats: Alan Moats
Born: June 25, 1948
Vitals: 6'1, 195 pounds
Hometown: Haverhill, New Hampshire
Lives: Haverhill, New Hampshire
First Turns: The back hills of Haverhill, age 18 months
On having a daughter who endangers herself for a living: "I wouldn't say I worry or am overly concerned. But you do sort of hope that everything turns out OK.