Explore Big Sky caught up with Lone Peak High School senior Holden Samuels after he won the IFSA Headwaters Spring Runoff and before he heads to Kappl, Austria, to compete March 21-23 in the 2018 Freeride Junior World Championships.
Explore Big Sky: When and where did you learn to ski and snowboard?
Holden Samuels: I learned to ski in the Big Sky [Resort] ski school, but when I was 8 I switched to snowboarding and was part of the first year of the Moonlight Freeride Team.
EBS: Who has been instrumental in helping you get to the level you’re at today?
H.S.: My first snowboarding coach James D’Angelo was instrumental in helping me learn the fundamentals of snowboarding. From there, Big Sky Freeride coach Cooper Raasch helped me to feel comfortable hitting bigger airs and riding steeper lines. But the most important factor in helping me reach the level I’m at today is my older brother Chase. Following him around on the mountain has pushed me to go bigger, try new tricks, and ride lines that I would never have picked out by myself.
EBS: Can you tell me about a highlight of competing in freeride events?
H.S.: A big highlight is being able to travel to different locations and ride new terrain. Another great part of competitions is being able to ride with some of the best athletes in the world. Finally, coming into the finish corral at the end of a comp run and having all your friends give you props and high fives is an awesome part of competing.
EBS: What are your plans for college?
H.S.: I am going to attend the University of Colorado [Boulder].
EBS: You won your first Junior Freeride World Tour event at Crystal Mountain in Washington since coming back from an ACL tear. Can you tell us more about the recovery phase? Do you feel you are back to 100 percent now?
H.S.: I tore my ACL last July. The recovery was the longest six months of my life, but the thought of being back on the snow kept me motivated the whole time. I did sessions three days a week with Lone Peak Physical Therapy, whose dynamic workouts helped me to recover in record time. I worked as a hard as I could in order to get healthy in time for the World Championships, and now, a week before I leave, I finally feel back to 100 percent.
EBS: How do you train and prepare for competition?
H.S.: I train for competitions by just riding as much as possible. I try to ride all types of terrain in all conditions so that I can be prepared for everything.
EBS: You won your division in the Headwaters Spring Runoff on March 10 and 11. What did you think about your performance on your home turf?
H.S.: It was nice competing on terrain that I’m familiar with, and in classic Big Sky conditions. The competition went really well, and I finally won this event for the first time in my last year of competing here.
EBS: What is your mindset heading into the World Championships? How do you feel about the venue and what are your goals in competing against some of the best riders in the world?
H.S.: I am heading into worlds with the mindset of winning. The venue they have looks amazing, and will allow me to combine some technical riding with “sendy” airs, and hopefully some tricks as well. If I pick the right line and ride like I know I can, I feel that I have a pretty good chance of coming out on top.
EBS: What are you goals for your future as a big mountain snow sports athlete?
HS: I hope to one day win the Freeride World Tour and have my own TV show about snowboarding.