[Q&A] Catching up with X Games gold medalist Alex Ferriera

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[Q&A] Catching up with X Games gold medalist Alex Ferriera

Alex Ferreira is perpetually stoked. And for good reason: The 26-year-old from Aspen, Colorado, is at the top of his game. Over the last few years, he’s claimed an X Games gold medal (in front of a hometown crowd at Buttermilk Mountain) and an Olympic silver medal in halfpipe skiing, procuring some of the cleanest, most high-amplitude runs in the history of the sport. He’s also conjured a sponsorship from Columbia and is a mainstay on the U.S. Ski Team freestyle roster, leading the team’s efforts in the daunting halfpipe.

In 2020, a year full of more downs than ups, even skiing’s best athletes were forced to take time away from the ski hill. While Ferreira quarantined at home in Aspen—skiing on pause and competition travel this winter uncertain—he continued to keep his focus sharp and his attitude positive. So, to better understand how he’s maintained that unwavering mindset and to hear how this year has really affected him, FREESKIER spoke to Ferreira over the phone. Keep reading for the full conversation that touches on filming in the backcountry, his hilarious, upcoming project “Hot Doggin’ Hans,” mental health and high-octane training.

What were you up to when the world shut down last year?

It was all very fast and crazy. We skied March 13th and 14th at Aspen (at Buttermilk) was all good spring park skiing when everything shut down. I was in Aspen the whole time. From that moment on I was like: Okay, I’ll just get my [backcountry] gear setup and, thank God, I had a snowmobile!

You ended up hitting the backcountry?

Yeah, I did a bunch of filming for Torin [Yater-Wallce] and Jossi [Wells] movie, “Deviate.” That was really cool, something I’ve never really done, filming in the backcountry. We had a good time doing that.

What was that filming process like for you, considering it’s something you’ve never really done before?

The biggest difference, as far as skiing goes, is that it’s… not easy. You can’t just go to the bottom and take a lift out. First, you gotta drive your snowmobile to the trailhead; once you’re there, you ride from the trailhead to the zone, which takes however long. When you get to the zone, you have to build this jump—that takes a bunch of manpower—and then you have to double each other up on the snowmobile to get to the top of the jump; then you have to do the trick and (hopefully) land it—but instead you usually tomahawk five or ten times. It’s just this whole process. It’s amazing to see it through and I value it much more because you see how much hard work and and integrity goes into it.

Looking ahead to this season, do you plan on doing a little more filming? Do you plan to keep your focus on halfpipe skiing and competitions?

I’m gonna roll with the punches. If the contest season ends up being turned on… that’s where my heart and my mind will lie. I’m going to go absolutely all in. If the contests get cancelled, I’m not very good at sitting around, so I’m going to go film with the boys and try and get as many shots as we possibly can.

Throughout this lockdown, how did you spend your time during the spring and summer?

Since the lockdown, all the gyms were closed and we were just phasing out of skiing, so I just got on my road bike and started riding. There was a little bit of mountain biking, lots of Pickleball, anything that was outside and enjoyable with friends. Paddleboarding, so we could keep a safe distance.

Were there any sort of habits you developed during this quarantine that you’re going to continue using in your life now?

Yeah, there are definitely some emotional and physical habits that I’m going to take away from this quieter time. First off, I got to learn about my family; I didn’t really know who my mom and sister were. Then, for physical habits, I developed this great morning routine; hanging out, stretching, reading, actually fixing up the house (like cleaning the garage for once). Just really taking a breath, looking around and thinking how to make it better, trying to optimize.

Have you have you been out on snow that yet this year?

I’ve been very fortunate, [Aspen] Highlands opened early for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. I’m an alumni of the club and I’m on the board [of advisors], so I got some early riding in and it was beautiful. It was really sunny slushy and nice. I’ve been nothing but fortunate and grateful and I’ve been skiing quite a bit. Currently, I’m in Copper, Colorado, at a training camp with U.S. Ski Team.

How is life like beyond the mountain in your hometown of Aspen? How did you see the community come together through all of this craziness?

The community has been very strict with the rules, but that’s to keep everyone safe. But I’ve seen a lot of people outside, whether it’s skinning, mountain biking, road biking… I saw just a tremendous amount of people out there enjoying it.

What are you looking forward to most this season?

I’m looking forward to X Games. I want to defend my title. I’m also very much look forward to “pow surf” laps and some snowmobiling powder.

You’re making this hilarious “Hot Doggin’ Hans” edit. Can you tell me how this awesome project came to life?

Basically, we just wanted to make people laugh. 2020 has been a harsh year and the idea is to get people to laugh out loud. My best friend Kyler Sciarrone brought the idea to me like four or five years ago. He kept saying we should do something like “Uncle Drew” but in the skiing scene. So, we funded it ourselves and did two days of shooting. The makeup took like three or four hours to put on every morning and we just had a blast [making it]. I’m wearing a belly suit with a pillow in it. When [the costume] was first on, people had no idea it was me.

Will there be anything different to your approach to skiing this year? How has this year changed your perspective on skiing?

I have this whole new perspective on skiing where I’m lucky enough to do it. Before [all of this], it was just natural for it always to be there. When the lifts actually stopped turning because of this pandemic, I realized skiing was no longer a “right,” it’s a privilege. I’m just grateful to be skiing every day and I hope to bring that positive energy to the hill. I feel very lucky to be out in the mountains, just so fortunate to be out skiing and, especially, skiing with my friends and teammates right now in Copper. The positivity is high and the camaraderie is high.

Speaking of training camp, are there any new tricks or moves you’re aiming to perfect this year?

There’s there’s always something new to be working on; if there’s not, you’re in the wrong place! Right now, the move that everyone’s trying to do in the halfpipe is a Double Cork 1620. I don’t know if it’ll be ready for X Games, but I’ll do my best. If not, I’m looking to do both-way dub 14s in the same run.

In your mind, what sets a halfpipe run apart from the rest?

Cleanliness—that’s one of the big things that I’m always really harsh on myself [about]. Also, amplitude—amplitude is King. Back to the Simon Dumont days, Candide [Thovex], just… boom, boosting! That’s what it’s all about. The degree of difficulty nowadays is basically asking [athletes] to spin all four ways. If you have that Melting Pot, you should be good to go.

What kit are you going to be rocking this year from Columbia?

For the contest seasons, I’m rocking the Men’s Park Run Anorak jacket and the Men’s Kickturn pants, both in a Nimbus gray. It’s a monochromatic kit—and it’s my favorite kit I’ve ever worn. I’ve gotten so many compliments, especially from my teammates, and that’s when you know something looks great. The fit is it a little more relaxed; I’m wearing the extra-large pants and a large jacket. That extra space just gives you a little more style. And, as far as the technology goes, the the Omni-Heat within the jacket is spectacular: It’s lightweight and it keeps you warm.

What’s it like working with Columbia? Do you ever get to provide input on the designs?

Working with Colombia has been nothing but a positive experience. I’m so grateful to be a part of the team. [Last year,] I actually flew to Portland to the headquarters with Cassie Sharpe. We sat in on the product design meetings and they were asking for our input—then they pretty much made those changes happen, which was really awesome. It’s just it’s nice to know that you have a voice in such a big corporation.

Lastly, along with physical training, we know you take your mental health really seriously… Do you have any words of wisdom about staying optimistic and visualizing success in skiing?

There’s just so much uncertainty in our world right now and one of the only things that you can do, or that you can control, is yourself, your personal entity. You can’t get stuck on the little things, like contests being cancelled; some things are completely out of my control. The one thing that I can do is be prepared.

Usually, in the mornings, I’ll do a 10-minute meditation focusing on gratitude, reflecting on three things that are going really well my life. Then, I’ll do a 30-minute stretch with some foam rolling followed by 30 minutes of reading; I’m currently reading Sapeiens by Yual Noah Harari.—it’s a brief history of mankind. After that, I’ll focus on self-affirmation for 10 minutes which is, basically, just self talk, saying things like: “You are a great skier. You’re going to do well this year.” Stuff like that. Then, an hour session in the sauna usually visualizing my runs various and go to the gym for an hour. Finally, I’ll go skiing for two hours. I’m just trying to do everything possible to achieve the goal of winning an Olympic medal—an Olympic gold medal.