EMMA PATTERSON - INTERVIEW
Emma Patterson emerged onto our radar when she won the 2019 ISFA FWQ North American Championship in Kirkwood, after dominating events in Revelstoke, Crested Butte, Taos Ski Valley and Kirkwood.
Her next stop was of course the Freeride World Tour, the pinnacle of competitive freeride skiing and a dream of hers since she began jumping of rocks with skis strapped to her feet at the age of four. Now at just 23 years of age and with a season competing on the FWT under her belt, we caught up with Emma to review what was both a tumultuous season for her – as well as everyone else on the tour in light of Covid-19.
Emma pointing em straight on the FWT. Pic cred: Freeride World Tour
LB: Hey Emma, thanks for taking the time to speak with us – although if you’re anything like us with all the lockdown craziness happening – time inside is not in short supply!
Absolutely! Glad to talk with you all. It’s a good time to stay connected… from a distance of course. :)
LB: So where in the world are you right now?
I’m currently with my family in my hometown of Taos, New Mexico. I was lucky enough to get back from Europe before things got too crazy, but I’ve been in self-quarantine now for two weeks. We live on farm here, so we’ve been preparing to plant as soon as the weather warms up.
I’m also a competitive ultramarathon runner, so running in circles around our property has been key to maintaining a sort of sanity. Even with all of my spring races being cancelled and ski season coming to an abrupt halt I think it’s super important to keep moving, even if it’s only 15 minutes of stretching on my living room floor.
Reading and music have been some key activities too, all while daydreaming of creamy powder days!
LB: It must be a shock to have gone from constant travel throughout the season to such a sudden standstill! How did you find all the international FWT travel?
Absolutely! It’s been tough going from scrambling all over the world for two months with a big crew of people to a complete stand-still in 24 hours. I’ve travelled a ton prior to the tour, but it was completely different travelling for it. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do it with, though. This season was nothing less than radical, despite it being so short.
LB: It was your first year on the FWT – coming off the back of a stellar qualifying year – what did you expect going into the world tour?
Honestly, I was simply happy to have made it as far as I did. I was afraid going into Hakuba, Japan (the first stop) that my skiing wouldn’t be up to par with everyone. I definitely perform better when I don’t have any expectations of myself, so I decided I would go ski a line I was really excited for. The one expectation I had for the season was to just be me: ski the way I ski, ski what I want to ski, and smile the entire time.
LB: How did those expectations compare to the real deal?
Expectations were exceeded, by a lot. I did exactly what I wanted to do: I looked at each face and found the areas that looked most exciting to me. Choosing different lines down those faces was a dream come true. Unfortunately, I got unlucky in three of four of my runs. This season I fell approximately three times… all during my comp runs. Funny, right? I really wouldn’t have changed a thing. My lines were insanely fun, and I really did smile the entire time apart from a few moments of bumming post-crash(es).
Emma inspecting one of her favourite faces in Kicking Horse, BC. Pic cred: Jeremy Bernard/FWT
LB: You’d previously told us, despite the crashes, that you wouldn’t change a thing in hindsight and we love that ‘go big or go home’ attitude. Your tomahawk at the first stop in Hakuba is one for the books, talk us through that.
Hakuba was the first stop, and my first time ever visually inspecting a face. During inspection day, I planned a very chill run with three small hits. I was planning on skiing it fast and showing my racer background. I had my line the night before, slept on it, and woke up on comp day with that plan and on a mission to complete it.
I rode up on the gondola by myself that morning and played some of my favourite music. Headspace plays a huge role in performance for me, so my morning chill time is quite important. That morning was magical. First light was a cool yellow, lighting up all of Hakuba Valley and its majestic peaks. The first snowboarder dropped, and he entered the zone we called “the horseshoe.” I turned to my dad and said “that looks insanely fun. I’m doing that.” He pulled out my binoculars, I looked at my entrance and exit for approximately two minutes, and began my hike to the start gate.
I wasn’t super nervous by any means, but I was really excited to go ski that line. Clicking into my skis, putting my GoPro on my helmet, and making sure the right song was playing, I took a deep breath and one more look at the peaks surrounding and the dreamy face I was about to ski. I came out of the start feeling really good, then I hit some nasty snow and got a little nervous. I slowed down for a second, and then remembered the bottom section and told myself to just get there. The snow was beautiful. Flying through it like a dream, I got to the blind section and pointed ‘em.
I saw my landing, and stomped it. I took a deep breath, stoked on what I had done, and went to take a turn… nope. Snow snakes were on the prowl. I was able to keep my arms in to protect my neck, thank goodness. That was definitely the nastiest tommy I’ve ever had. I think crashing was out of my hands, unless I had been a few inches to the left or right of where I was. Really, I wouldn’t change a thing. That was FUN!
This is what Emma calls FUN... it's also a pretty good metaphor for what happened to the 2020 ski season in light of Covid19.
LB: Did you have a favourite venue / mountain / country to compete in on the tour? And moreover, a favourite line you put down?
Every competition was different. Hakuba didn’t have the best snow conditions, but I hadn’t been to Japan yet. Seeing the culture was absolutely one for the books.
Kicking Horse, British Columbia has been one of my favourite mountains since I first competed there on the Freeride World Qualifiers. The best part about being there was shredding hard every day on some of my favourite terrain with some of my favourite people!
Andorra was one of the coolest countries, too. The trails there were absolutely breathtaking (literally – quite steep!!). The snow was far from great during our first four days there, so we got after the trail adventures instead. Some storms hit for our last two days there, and dang we made some fun turns. The competition conditions were all-time. Being a little person and going first in the field wasn’t to my advantage, though. I literally disappeared in all of the snow on one of my landings. It would’ve been awesome had I not been competing!
Fieberbrunn was, too, simply unreal. The Austrian Alps will always have my heart. The venue, Wildseeloder, was hands down the best venue all season. Beautiful snow conditions, steep chutes, and some dang fun airs!
LB: Although we’re sad we won’t be able to watch you send again on the FWT next season, it was awesome to watch you tackle some of the burlier lines and drops and give it your all. What’s next as far as competing goes, is the goal to get back on tour?
I am definitely bummed to have gotten so unlucky as far as crashing goes. I’d like to get back on tour eventually, but right now I’m finishing up my Master’s in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Utah. As far as skiing goes this winter, I’ll be putting together some filming projects and tackling some bigger lines across the states that have been dreams of mine for years! Stay tuned for those!
Something tells us we haven't seen the last of Emma on the FWT. Here she is doing some sluff management down the face in Fieberbrunn. Pic cred: Jeremy Bernard/FWT
LB: Until then, how are you keeping occupied? We’re guessing like everywhere else your home mountain, Taos Ski Valley, has shut up shop as part of lockdown procedures?
Yep, ski season has come to an abrupt stop here in Taos. It’s been extremely tempting to go touring, but I think it’s imperative to keep medical services for those in need right now. I’ve been laying low at home and running a ton on neighbourhood roads and trails.
Honestly, I’ve been reminiscing on this season for two weeks straight… just like we all have!
LB: We’ve been wearing our ski socks around the house to keep the dream alive… Have you got a favourite piece of le bent kit?
Oh yeah! I’ve basically been living in my women’s Le Base 200 bottoms with a sweater and my Le Lucy Trail socks. They’ve been awesome for running, too. I hate taking them off, but I promise I’ve been washing them… just reluctantly. :P
LB: Ha ha! We've been known to sleep in le baselayers from time to time so definitely know the feeling! Thanks for chatting with us and once again congratulations on such an epic season of sending!
Thanks to you guys! I really couldn’t be more stoked to have had such a rad season on Tour, and I can’t wait for what next season will bring. For now, it’s time for reflection. I know we’re all go-getters, but slowing down is healthy and now is the best opportunity for some true R&R. Enjoy it, breath, and bake some banana bread! :)
ABOUT EMMA PATTERSON
Hometown: Taos, New Mexico, USA
Home Resort: Taos Ski Valley, USA
Sponsors: Le Bent, Salomon, Flylow Gear, Douchebags, Taos Ski Valley
Favourite Le Bent gear: Le Lucy Ultra Light Trailrunning Sock
Follow Emma here: Instagram