Aidan Sheahan on the importance of mindfulness in action sports

August 22nd, 2013 by

Aspen, CO based Aidan Sheahan has been turning heads thanks to a unique style that is both creative and smooth. His fluid skiing has earned him film spots with the likes of Vital Films, MSP and Sweetgrass Productions. We caught up with Aidan this week to talk about his summer, a recent letter he wrote concerning the Thompson Divide wilderness and his new project with Vital—highlighting his meditation and mindfulness practices, in addition to some rocking action.

Q&A:

How’s your summer been? What’ve you been up to?

Summer has been nice! I took a class through Colorado Mountain College which is counting towards my degree at CU [University of Colorado at Boulder]. Usually I go back to Boulder for the summer/fall, but this summer I lucked out in finding some transfer courses, so I have been hanging out in Carbondale, going to school here and in Aspen. I’ve been doing all sorts of fun stuff: skating, slacklining, trampolining, running, making music, really anything that uses creative power I find to be really fun. Slacklining is some crazy stuff, it’s fun to try things you’re terrible at. I think the same sort of creativity and style that is portrayed in skiing can be applied to many other activities, as well. I stay pretty busy in the summer just doing all sorts of different and weird things. I also went to Mt Hood for a couple days which was fun, [the same time as Freeskier Week at Windells.]

How are you preparing for the upcoming season? 

Skating/rollerblading is my favorite thing to do in the off season. It’s so similar yet so different since it’s like everything is scaled down. There’s a lot of stuff to learn with all the crazy grinds you can do, but it really expands the way I think about what we can do on skis. I’ve definitely been taking some good wrecks on my skates this summer, but it’s so fun. It’s also fun because the same style you have on skis can transfer over to skates, whether or not you can do all the gnarly tricks. Other than that, I like trail running a little and I hit the gym two or three times a week. It’s nice to make your body stronger. I am so stoked for the season, I can’t wait for cold weather and to get on skis again to gain some new perspectives.

What’re you most looking forward to this season?

I can’t wait to see snow falling in the early season. I’m just excited to see how much style I can conjure in myself on skis, it’s what gets me excited. Definitely some new tricks and variations I’ve been daydreaming about, too.

Looking forward to skiing with anyone in particular?

Torin [Yater-Wallace] is really fun to ski with. Most of the time we’re on the same page, just obsessed with style, down to the most nit-picky things you could imagine. Sometimes, though, he just goes “HAM” on flat light days, throwing dubs which I just laugh at. He is so comfortable and spontaneous on skis, it’s unbelievable. It teaches me to get out of my comfort zone and use the confidence which I know I have, but am sometimes reserved in using. Matt Walker, and pretty much all the Aspen crew, I am excited to ski with.

You recently wrote an open letter to save the wilderness on Thompson Divide. Can you explain a bit of the inspiration behind that?

Basically, the Thompson Divide is about 11 miles from my house. The Divide is a proposed site for oil and gas drilling, primarily fracking. Everyone I hope has some knowledge of the process and the harmful effects that the bi products of fracking have on the environment and humans. Since the Crystal River runs 100 yards from my house, and the watershed would be right next to fracking sites, I decided I was not down with this. It’s also a great backcountry access area for Colorado, and throwing in huge oil trucks barreling down the roads, flares from oil rigs lighting up the night sky… it just wouldn’t be the same place anymore. I’ve always been an advocate for protecting the environment, but when it had the potential to be this close to home I was looking for a way to do something about it.

Thanks to the guys at the Thompson Divide Coalition, we were able to team up and do a little edit to bring about more awareness of it. Right now they are waiting for the leases on the land to expire, and we’ll see if they renew. So many people who live here are opposed to it, so I am confident. As much as I think talking about protecting the environment is great, we also have to take action because I can’t lie and say I drive a car that runs on pixie dust. The reality is that we use the oil that these guys are trying to drill so close to my house, but we have the choice to change our dependency and lifestyles so that we don’t need them anymore. Renewables, biking, buying locally, anything to get more off the grid is where it starts. Nature is so important, it’s crazy how some see money as more valuable. Without trees, fish, water—and I’m talking healthy, not contaminated water—we ourselves won’t be healthy. It’s a pretty simple concept, we just have to help people understand and see how important the relationship to Mother Nature is. I am a very strong believer in this, and I’m looking forward to speaking more on it and, better yet ,taking action for a healthier future.

You star in a Vital Films production called Insight set to come out this fall. Tell us what it’s like filming with Vital, and a little bit about the project.

Filming with Vital is a dream come true. They capture video the exact same way I want my skiing to be. I think style is so important, and they capture video with so much style. It’s just exactly how I envision skiing should be captured, but at the same time, way more than I can even dream of myself. Those guys always go exactly where I am envisioning things to, and then beyond it. It’s a true gift to work with a film company like that, and I am so lucky and so grateful to be able to do so.

Vital Films presents the official Insight trailer

With Insight, we wanted to tell a story, but not in a way that was way too artsy and not edgy enough. In my experience with action sports, the mental side is a huge part. The way you envision tricks and then the steps between that vision and actually throwing it, is a crazy process. The more and more I’ve been involved in it, the more I’ve come to understand how my thoughts affect my skiing. For instance, there’s a part of me that skis to impress people so that I feel accepted. I think a lot of people have that with anything they are good at, but when you start to see how it can make you do things that you really don’t want to (like learn a trick because you think you have to do it to stay up to speed with the level of the sport), that’s when things get dangerous. You’re not doing it for you when that happens. When you become aware and mindful of these thoughts and ideas going on inside your head, you can start to cultivate a way of not skiing for somebody else but just for you, and just doing what you want to do and what’s fun for yourself.

Meditation or mindfulness practice has been a huge part of what I do before I ski, so I can get centered and ski from a place of fun and inspiration and creativity, not bound to what I think other people want me to do. It’s way more practical than people think, it’s not weird crystal wearing craziness, but simply cultivating more creativity and freedom within yourself by becoming aware of external thoughts and motivations. You’ve got to love yourself and your own gifts, that’s the best way to keep it safe and fun. It’s hard to put into words sometimes, but that’s kind of where this movie comes in. It’s shedding light on how important mindfulness is in action sports. It’s all love.

To keep up with Aidan this winter, follow him on Instagram (@aidansheahan) and/or Twitter (@AidanSheahan).

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About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.