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|Utah-native Ted Ligety won a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics.|
We don't usually cover ski racing over here on ESPN Freeskiing, but every once in a while, a ski racer like Jon Olsson or Julia Mancuso crosses into the freeskiing realm. Next up on that list? U.S. Ski Team member and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety. Ligety, a Park City, Utah, native, recently returned from his first film trip to Alaska with Warren Miller Entertainment, where he skied big-mountain lines with Chugach Powder Guides while filming for Warren Miller's next movie, "Flow State," out this fall. We spoke to Ligety, 27, about his advice for halfpipe and slopestyle skiers heading into their Olympic debut in 2014.
How was Alaska?
There's a lot more to Alaska than meets the eye. I learned a lot in a short period of time. I'd been heli skiing before, but this was my first time filming and my first time skiing really big lines. It wasn't something I was used to, but it was a very cool process. Phil Meier from Switzerland was there, as well as Marcus Caston. It was good to have them along to teach me the ways of big mountain skiing and to show me what was a good, safe line and what was a gnarly, stupid line that you'd get hurt on.
So are you considering a transition into big-mountain skiing now?
I'm sticking with ski racing for now, but I've always wanted to branch out into that area. I have the skills to do it but I need to learn some more skills to be at a high level, which is something I want to do in the future. I think Daron Rahlves is a good example of that transition. When I'm done ski racing, hopefully my body and my motivation will still be at the right level for that.
You've been an outspoken opponent to FIS's recent change in regulations regarding ski length for racers. Tell me about that.
FIS decided that ski racing is not safe and had an unacceptable amount of injuries. So they did a test over three days using racers that aren't elite and they came up with this hypothesis that skis are getting too short -- for giant slalom, they said skis had to be 10 centimeters longer. They had zero input from athletes and once the athletes found out about it, it was already passed and it was too late to change anything. I wrote a blog about it. FIS has been trying to ban social media that criticizes the rule change, but they're finding out that's not how things work in the 21st century.
Given a recent FIS decision to use crossover judges for freeskiing and snowboarding at the 2014 Olympics, what would you say to the freeskiers preparing for their first Olympics in regards to dealing with FIS?
The biggest thing: You need to be proactive as far as what FIS wants to do with your sport. Have a solid front on the athletic side, not necessarily an athlete union, but a good stance on the athletes' point of view. Ski racing is an old sport but we've never had that. We've been pushed off to the side and the old guys make all the decisions. The Olympics is a huge opportunity for slope and pipe but it's also going to bring on the formalization of the sport, which some might view as negative. It's important that they know where they want to go and have firm representation and are willing to go to battle as far as judging or Olympic qualifications. FIS has to abide by what the athletes say if they're organized and have a smart, intelligent front.
And you think that'll work to get the message across?
The blogs I've written have shown how much dissent there is. If FIS realizes there's dissent against decisions, they'll back off. They realize for the future of the sport, they need to have some agreement with the popular consensus. So as long as you're vocal but also smart and figure out the best way to approach it, that'll go a long ways.