Pipe Dreams

Just a Kid from Aspen Highlands: A Q&A With Freeskier Alex Ferreira

Looking back on our interview from 2016 after this native took second place at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix and is now headed to his first Olympic Games.

By Tess Weaver Strokes February 1, 2016 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2016 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Alex ferreira 001 wvvyre

Image: Ryan Dearth

Aspen Sojourner: Congratulations on your third-place finish at Dew Tour Breckenridge in December, your first Dew Tour podium. How did you overcome the stormy conditions that night?

Alex Ferreira: Usually when it’s snowing, the pipe is slow and the amplitude is low, which is tough for me. At 140 pounds, I’m one of the smaller, lighter guys, so I’m fighting for every inch of speed I can. My wax tech put some unbelievable stuff on my skis that night, and I had a great run.

A.S.: When did you realize you could make skiing a career?

A.F.: I’ve dreamed of it since I was little. My first really big win was at the Gatorade Free Flow Tour when I was 16. I thought, I can totally do this. I started believing in myself a little more.

A.S.: Growing up in Aspen undoubtedly helped.

A.F.: I’m very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. The coaches not only taught me the fundamentals of skiing, but, off the hill, they taught me how to be a quality person—to respect everyone and respect the mountains. Both Torin [Yater-Wallace] and I had a ton of scholarships, which helped us achieve what we wanted to.

A.S.: What other advantages did growing up in a ski town give you?

A.F.: A lot of the other competitors are from cities, where they grew up driving two hours to ski. I grew up at the base of Highlands. Whether I was going to ski powder, moguls, jumps, or halfpipe, I was just five minutes away. Aspen High School worked with me so I could take online classes and attend regular school. I would get out of class early and take the lift up Highlands with AVSC or walk across the Tiehack bridge and ski Buttermilk.

A.S.: Are you still involved with the club?

A.F.: I’m a guest coach, and I can use the facilities—the gym, the trampoline. I speak at some events. At the recent Ajax Cup, I talked about why AVSC is so important and how a donation can change a kid’s life. I also speak at the high school about how to balance school and skiing.

A.S.: How do you balance the two?

A.F.: When I first started skiing, my parents stressed the importance of school, and I took it seriously. The past two falls I’ve attended Westminster College in Utah [an education partner of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association] and taken online summer school. It’s an eight-year program to get a bachelor’s degree.

A.S.: Walk us through a typical day for you.

A.F.: I wake up, eat, and go skiing with the guys [Yater-Wallace, Mikey Wechsler, and Nile Thompson, among others]. Then, hopefully, a quick gym session, steam shower, checking e-mails, hanging out, maybe go out for a beer, and bed.

A.S.: Where do you usually ski locally?

A.F.: We really like going to Ajax just to go skiing. We go to Buttermilk for the pipe and Snowmass for the park. And Highlands is a blast. I’m in the pipe two or three days a week. I don’t like to train every day. Just making turns makes you a better skier.

A.S.: How much of the sport is a mental game?

A.F.: Especially in an individual sport like skiing, I’d say it’s almost 80 percent. It’s a contest between you and yourself, and whether you can land your best run. I always visualize my run. At the top, I tell myself I’ve done this a million times and to be cool, calm, and collected and go do what I came here to do.

A.S.: Any precompetition rituals?

A.F.: I have my blue pole in my right hand and give a knucks to all of my coaches and my wax tech, and then give my main coach, Elana Chase, a little head butt.

A.S.: Your thoughts on your recent X Games performance?

A.F.: I put down one of the best runs of my life. It was the first time I’ve done four doubles in one run. I was disappointed not to make the podium, but life goes on. I’m still happy about my result.

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