Knowing When to Turn Back

Posted on in Adventure + Travel, Featured, Health + Lifestyle, Nature + Outdoors, Sports + Training by Jaclyn Paaso

The winter of 2015 has not been my best season as far as competition results go. It's been a tough year where I've spent a majority of my time trying to get the feeling back or to be able to "flip the gnar" switch as my friends like to say. I can't call it a bad season because I've still been able to do what I love with most of my body in tact. I've also still managed to qualify for the 2016 season of the Freeride World Tour so obviously it could of been a lot worse.

This was the first season in a while that I didn't win a stop on the FWT and or podium at all. For a competitive person like myself it's tough to not feel at least one moment of success during the season. This year I had to look a little harder for what did go right. Maybe the top section of my run, or my technique, speed etc... I guess being able to be happy with parts of my skiing made it possible to keep fighting on the tour this winter.

In Alaska I had an unfortunate crash that caused what I hope is a minor injury to my knees. Even when I look at the pictures below I consider myself pretty lucky that my knees are not feeling worse than they do. It was a rough crash and everyone thought my knees were the least of my problems. I apparently tumbled over or into some rocks as well. Fortunately I didn't feel the rocks so I either just missed them or hit them with my pack.

Capture d’écran 2015-03-24 à 04.22.29

P. David Carlier

Capture d’écran 2015-03-24 à 04.22.02

P. David Carlier

 

At first I thought I was done for the season. It would of been the first time in a while that I would of had a season ending injury. It was hard to accept even though a good part of the season was behind me. There was still one more contest. The finals in Verbier, Switzerland. I had not qualified because I lost a few spots in the ranking after crashing in Alaska. I was hoping that I would be granted a wild card if it looked like I would be able to ski. First the Dr. said no, then he said yes. Alright I thought, now I just need to get into the contest. Verbier is the biggest contest of the year if you are a competitive freerider like myself. It's also one of the few contests that I have failed to stand on top of the podium. It means a lot to me to win this event. That's why the following events where pretty tough for me.

While picking lines for the contest I knew I had to watch my knees. It hadn't even been a week since my crash and they were still sore. I definitely couldn't crash. I knew that meant my chances of picking a winning line were slim because I had to keep it simple to reduce my risk of crashing. Maybe I could at least squeak out one podium this season I thought. I was that last girl to run in the comp and when I was in the start gate the organizer radioed up to me informing me that all four of the girls that attempted a similar line had crashed hard on a cliff that he knew I was heading towards. Usually I have a back up plan, but that day I didn't. I thought I was already picking the easy back up plan. I decided I'd head towards the cliff and make the decision for myself. Maybe the others where trying to send it too big, I thought. I can probably just take it easy and I'll be fine.

I left the start gate and to my surprise my knees felt okay after my first few turns and even after the first little cliff in my line. I made my way to the mandatory air in question. Looking to find an easy way to sneak through it. I got to the top of the cliff and realized it was much bigger than previous seasons, due to the low snowpack. It was not bigger than anything I had ever jumped before. In fact it was not that big and very much with in my comfort zone. However the landing looked flatter and harder than I was hoping. If my knees weren't in question I would of jumped it no problem and I would of been confident that I could hold on even if others hadn't. That wasn't the case though, I knew one crash could take my knees from bad to much much worse. I just couldn't justify the risk, even if this was the biggest event of the season. A chance to win was definitely not worth more than preserving my body. I didn't need that season or the seasons to come to be ended by this one stupid cliff. So, I stopped. I tried side stepping up the mountain. It hurt too much with my right knee to do that so I took my skis off and hiked back up to a safe spot that I could ski out of.

My contest was over, my hopes of winning or even just podium on the FWT this season crushed. I hadn't made it through the finish line in the last two comps. I had no idea what others would think. Am I a wimp for backing off? Should I of just gone for it? When I ran into the organizers, guides, fellow competitors, friends etc.. I was a bit surprised of their reactions. Those that knew me and my situation were so happy that I chose to turn back. They knew it was a hard decision for me but they all respected my decision and really liked the message I sent to spectators and younger competitors. It meant a lot to hear this from everyone. I admit it didn't completely take the sting of defeat away but it definitely helped reassure myself that I made the right decision when I turned back. At the end of the day it's not just about winning it's about making it to the next day, week, month, etc...


Jaclyn Paaso

After many years as a competitive mogul skier, with one title as Jr. World Combined Champion, Jaclyn decided to take a break from mogul skiing. Jaclyn moved out to Lake Tahoe, California where she became a freestyle coach for the Alpine Meadows Freestyle Team and then the Squaw Valley ski team.


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