Sam Allen - Freeride and Respite
Catching him off the back of an injury we managed to interrogate free skier and freeride world tour hopeful Sam Allen.
Born in the West Midlands in the UK, he grew up tearing dry slopes for training to compete across Europe and North America. We catch up with Sam to get an insight into the world of free skiing and his aims for a chance in the spotlight.
Q: Talk to us a little about your lifestyle?:
“I pretty much just try to ski as much as possible because it’s the best way I know to have fun. I’m always working on every aspect of skiing; from cranking slalom turns on groomers to moguls, park and obviously freeriding.
I think the well-rounded skiers are capable of getting the most out of skiing as a sport and it helps that I enjoy all aspects. I like to keep a good balance!
I’m always trying to stay connected and be a good friend, which can be difficult on the road, but I try my best. I like to meet new people and party (which goes hand in hand with skiing of course) and I'm definitely a bit of an optimist. That definitely bites me back sometimes...
I’d also say I’m a bit of an entrepreneur. I have endless ideas that I've tried to put into action, some of which have worked well... others haven't.”
Q: You’re a self-confessed ski bum, tell us what it’s really like to be living the dream?:
“I would say it’s a challenge, but an incredibly fun one at that!
You've gotta be willing to sacrifice a lot of relationships, particularly ones with girls you might like. Oh and money… Unless you are incredibly lucky.
The thing is you swap the idea of having the things you want and money to go away on holidays for the much better idea of having more time making the most of your life.
Life feels a lot more like a holiday because you’re being paid less to do what you love instead of getting paid more to be able to get away and do what you love only once or twice a year. It’s a double edged sword but I’d choose this way of life over and over again.”
Q: How did you get into freeskiing?:
“It actually began when I found my way into racing when I was about 11/12 years old on Ackers Dryslope – you know the horrible brush carpet stuff! Was around 30 minutes from home so was fairly accessible for me.
I fell in love with it and I started to train slalom twice a week until I was about 14 or 15.
By the time I hit 18 it had engulfed me and I had decided, yeah - I was going to make a career out of skiing. I had raced Slalom, GS, Super G and Downhill all over Europe and America. Europe with the British ski academy and then America with Carrabasset Valley Academy in Maine otherwise known as CVA (where stars such as Bode Miller, Seth Westcott, Jeremy Jones all came out of). Bode Miller was my biggest Idol growing up, I loved his relaxed outlook on life and competition and that’s why I wanted to go there and all I wanted to be was a British version of Bode.
I’ve competed in the British Alpine Championships, US Nationals, Europa Cup Ski Cross's and 3 or 4 World Junior Championships for the British team in Ski Cross. The Brits – our national freestyle championships in slopestyle and ski cross, the British Moguls championships, and now 4 freeride world qualifiers. I still have a few other competitions I want to tick off…
The real aim is to get to the freeride world tour. I feel like it's an achievable goal. I just need one good season - good weather and some good luck and it will all fall into place. It’s a real aim for me as a true brit has never done it before.
A very small part of me has wanted to get back into ski cross later on, after I've achieved my freeride goals. Simply to represent Britain in an Olympics. But first there would have to be some funding/coaching and that comes from British Ski and Snowboard – our Governing body for UK snow sports. It’s an aim but not the real focus at the moment.
Q: Talk to us a little about this season?:
"Despite all the amazing snow we've had in Europe, I’ve had a really rough season. The worst yet by far.
I drove into Switzerland early this season in my 1984 Volkswagen campervan named Doris (see “The Adventures of Doris” on YouTube). She previously belonged to “The Bunch” legend and incredible friend, Maximillian Smith.
I had spent all spring and autumn working with my mate Lukas in Southern Sweden. I was almost at the end of my 37 hour journey down to Zermatt when my van overheated to the extent where it actually caught on fire in Nyon just outside Geneva!
After spending all my time and money on it, this was a big hit and a fairly dramatic experience... like losing a loved one! 3 fire trucks, lots of police and a closed road to Nyon (a small city). Was quite the experience.
And as if that wasn’t enough I busted my knee.
I came of a cliff not feeling 100% about it. I had stomped the same cliff exactly a year before but this time the landing was super bombed out and so I was unsure about the landing. You get that in competitions when a lot of people have been over the same spot, the earlier on you can hit it the better.
I landed backseat in someone's bomb hole, my knee twisted when my ski failed to come off. Season over.
I went to the radiology centre a week later and it turned out that my ACL and lCL had both fully torn, as well as my meniscus. I've had the operation and will be walking after 9 weeks on crutches. I can’t tell you how excited I am for that. Simply walking is such a freedom we all take for granted let alone skiing, it’s made me appreciate the sport even more.
I'm doing regular physio and will be working hard over the summer to get strong again. Hopefully I can come into next season stronger than I started this one that’s for sure.
You kinda lose your hands too, mostly because you constantly need them for your crutches.
It’s easy to make a cuppa tea but then how the hell do I get it to the couch?!
There's a mental battle also. You need to get over the fact that your missing this season as quickly as possible. It’s happened now and all you can do is get over it and work on being as fit mentally and physically for next season.
Suddenly I've had time for other things. Right now I'm teaching myself German and all sorts about the human body, and specifically how I can help my own. History, space, positivity, mentality, the environment - all sorts. It turns out I'm a very curious person, and there’s more to life than skiing. Although before the accident I would have said otherwise… “Skiing is Life!”
I'm trying everything at the moment to ensure it all heals perfectly from supplements, physio and electroshock therapy all the way to fasting like all other mammals would when their down. You should try to let your body detox so you can heal effectively. There’s a lot you can do when you really look into the Human Body.
Q: Advice for hitting cliffs and drops?
"Have a good look at it first, and know the landing is steep enough.
Think about what the snows like. Is it slightly sticky or super deep? Do you need your feet together or shoulder width apart?
Be centred on the landing, don't go over the handlebars and don’t backslap.
Be strong, land with you back straight and always keep your hands in front.
Thinking about a line is a skill. Sometimes it might be obvious what line suits you when you first see the face, and if it is you should go for that.
But most of the time it’s not. It’s super easy to be indecisive about it, but you have to commit to it in the end. And I mean really commit to it, so you best make up your mind and get ‘er done!
On the steeps you really are risking life and limb, so make sure you trust that cliff and more importantly the landing below it.
Learn from my mistakes! Try not to tear your ACL sending it unsure! You'll make you own mistakes, it’s just part of the sport. But make sure you learn from each and every one of them."