Hometown fundraiser highlight of season
Crested Butte professional ski patroller, window washer, and snowboarder Susan Mol completed the 2010 Freeride World Tour (FWT) circuit with a fourth-place finish at the Nissan Xtreme by Swatch in Verbier, Switzerland on March 20 and closed the season in second place in the overall standings.
It’s Mol’s second tour of duty on the Freeride circuit. She won the overall crown last year and came into the 2010 season with a town-load of stoke behind her as an event at the Brick Oven helped raise additional funds for her travels.
“The fundraiser at the Brick was the coolest way to start the tour, with a little homegrown support,” says Mol.
She opened the 2010 season on fire, winning the first stop held on the “Pentes de l’Hôtel” face at the Brévent ski area in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc January 30 and then followed up with a win at a FWT qualifier event the Stimorol Engadinsnow 2010 in St. Moritz, Switzerland the following weekend.
Mol struggled in her next event finishing in seventh place on the second stop of the tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria February 11-18, dropping her into second place in the overall points standing.
After a brief respite from the tour schedule spent back here in Crested Butte, Mol returned to action, taking third place at the Tram Face event at Squaw Valley on March 1.
While a return to the podium was nice, Mol was feeling the down side of competition life.
“The worst part is the feeling of inadequacy when your performance is poor,” says Mol. “It’s hard to be told you suck, indirectly, by a panel of judges. It’s hard to remember that many parts of this industry are superficial and operate like a business. The highs are high but no one sees the lows of an athlete. They are there, too, but you’re not supposed to share that part.”
Nevertheless, Mol remained positive, thanks in large part to her co-competitors.
“We share the emotional side of things—the events, being females on a male-dominated tour, the ups and downs, the parties, the boys,” says Mol. “It’s an international family and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”
Sitting in second place overall, Mol came into the final stop in Verbier well aware of what it would take to repeat as overall champion.
“I did the math,” says Mol. “The only way I could hold the world championship title was to win so I figured that should be the focus. And have a good time, of course.”
The venue in Verbier was the infamous Bec des Rosses, a 600-meter long diamond-shaped pitch that offers a variety of hair-raising descents.
To put it into perspective, Didier Defago, 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist, skied the Bec des Rosses prior to the event.
Here’s a guy who hurdles down icy slopes reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour with regularity. But on the Bec des Rosses his technique was noticeably more guarded.
Granted he was on racing skis but still, his technique was a bit guarded.
Mol had been there before, riding the same venue last year, and found sugary snow that barely held onto the face of the pitch this time around.
“The riding wasn’t too bad but the sloughing was in high quantity,” explains Mol, “moving fast and exposing lots of rocks. It also makes for a very dramatic show, cascading over all the cliffs while you ride.”
Mol had her line picked out but changed her mind at midnight, the night before the competition.
“It was the total other side of the face from where I went last year and best of all it funneled me into this couloir with a mandatory cliff drop to exit,” says Mol. “I thought it looked cool and I needed to be forced to go there so I wouldn’t chicken out of jumping a cliff.”
Mol threw in a couple more airs on her run and stomped it from her perspective, fully expecting another step up to the podium.
Unfortunately, as is often the case in judged events, the judges felt otherwise and Mol finished the day in fourth place.
Despite missing out on one last paycheck, Mol left the comp psyched with her effort.
“While winning a little cash would have been really helpful I’m satisfied that I pushed my personal limits and fear level,” says Mol.
With a couple of podium finishes to her name over the season, Mol closed the 2010 in second place overall and plans on returning for more of the same next year.
“I’m in and the time is now. It will only get more and more difficult to get on the tour as time goes on, so I’m gonna ride this train for now,” says Mol. “The plan is to wash enough windows to move to Europe for a few months.”