The Freeride World Tour (FWT) stands alone as the world’s only five-stop, ultimate big mountain challenge, where athletes compete on some of the most challenging peaks and terrain in the world. Its uniqueness sets it apart from many other professional sports, and its individuality has curated a small, close knit community of skiers and snowboarders with one goal: to see their names at the top of the Tour’s prestigious roster.
Grifen Moller’s dream was quickly realized after the winter of 2016/2017, when he qualified for the FWT after a winter of dedication and hard work. Although this had been the 20-year-old skier's aspiration for years, Moller's freeride career didn’t begin on a big mountain team, or even with a big mountain directed mindset. Moller started out skiing bumps and participating in junior mogul competitions. He credits a lot of his decision to switch to big mountain to mogul skiing.
“I remember learning backflips and wanting to do them in competitions” Moller says. “But I wasn’t allowed to, and I would do it anyways and get yelled at.”
Seeking a little more freedom, he joined Team Summit’s Big Mountain program based out of Arapahoe Basin, Colo. A-Basin is known for its incredibly steep and rigorous terrain—especially its Pallavicini lift—with what Moller described as having “moguls the size of mountains, tight trees, and technical airs into mandatory landings.” Growing up skiing between these massive moguls and with coaches that helped him along the way are what Moller credits to his skiing abilities and style today.
Grifen Moller's 2017/2018 season edit.
It’s a style that has obviously been shaped by years of skiing challenging terrain and having been a part of a team that has produced a plethora of incredibly talented skiers, including FWT alumni Ian Borgeson and George Rodney. It’s also a style that’s defined by mindfulness.
Moller’s skiing is smooth, powerful, and incredibly fun to watch. But he’s also smart, and most of his skiing on the Tour is articulate and calculated. He finds success in skiing lines that might have gone unnoticed, hitting airs with technical entries, and a baseline requirement of speed, stability, and strength. All of these attributes are part of the reason why his consistent skiing landed him a 12th place spot on the 2018 Freeride World Tour, and a guaranteed spot for FWT19.
Just like any new endeavor, transitioning from the qualifiers to the tour itself was still an adjustment for Moller. One of the biggest differences between the North American Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ) and the FWT is the inspection process. During the qualifiers, athletes are able to ski on and inspect the venue in order to decide what airs they’ll hit, and what line they’ll ultimately ski.
This type of course inspection erases some of the calculated guesswork of the FWT, where inspection is strictly visual, and the terrain is exceptionally more difficult. Moller identified the FWT’s mandatory visual inspection as one of his largest challenges last year, and he credits it in helping him “really better understand where [he is] as a skier,” both technically and mentally.
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“I feel like in North American [FWQ events], you can stand atop the venue, or your air, and you can talk yourself into skiing something," Moller says. "[this process] is a lot harder to do on the Tour.”
Although last year was a bigger shift for Moller as a rookie, he’ll be returning this year with more experience and a refreshed mindset. He spent his offseason working as an electrician’s apprentice, which gave him the flexibility and time he needed to train for this upcoming winter. Moller is also an avid cross country mountain biker, rock climber, and spends a lot of time in the gym, a trifecta of cross training activities that he claims to have helped him significantly with his skiing. Moller says that he is lucky to have grown up in Edwards, Colorado, as his lifestyle outside of skiing has been drastically shaped by the outdoors and all the opportunities he’s been able to access because of them.
Moller has also been setting some goals for himself while coaching for Team Summit every weekend, coming full-circle before his departure in early January.
“I’ve always been a pretty goal oriented person,” he says. “This year it’s to re-qualify [for FWT20], and I’d really like to get a podium result. Consistency is also key for me, and that’ll be a focus too.” He’s excited, feels prepared, and regarding what he would go back and tell himself at this time last year, he says, “I would tell myself to push it a little more. You can always do more than you think you can, so while you’re here, go for it."
Follow Moller's Instagram account this year for a behind the scenes look at the FWT19.
The first stop of FWT19 is scheduled to take place this weekend in Hakuba, Japan, with a competition weather window that runs from January 19-26th. You can watch the event teaser as well as highlights from the Freeride World Qualifier 3* event on the FWT website. Keep up-to-date with all of the FWT19 action on SKImag.com's FWT page, as well as SKI Magazine's Facebook and Twitter channels. The event will live stream on FWT's YouTube channel.