X Games star Alex Hall’s Real Ski gold crowns another successful season

Park City skier Alex Hall takes off with a jump. Hall’s 2020-21 season featured a gold medal in real skiing at the Winter X Games and a bronze medal at the world championships.
Courtesy photo

PARK CITY, Utah – In a video full of the gnarliest urban skiing imaginable, Alex Hall’s favorite shot was saved to last.

The video shows Hall skiing backwards before hitting a snow ramp and twisting and twisting in the air. He lands on the front of his skis, curved and parallel to the contour of the decline of the mountain. Hall uses his momentum to throw himself into a smooth motion again to add another flip and 360 degree spin before reaching the ground again.

“It was this idea, this idea of ​​jumping, I’ve been thinking a few years now for a ride in the powder,” Hall said. “It ended up working, which is really, really cool.”

Hall spent three months working on a video submission for the Winter X Games’ Real Ski event, where skiers film the best 90 seconds of skiing they can muster before the judges vote for the winner. The Real Ski experience was a big start for Hall, who is known more for his ski racing than for assembling complex video parts. Hall traded in the well-groomed slopestyle courses for the rougher city environments of the Real Ski videos.

Hall ended up winning the gold medal in this event and became the first skier to win a gold medal in four disciplines, winning all four in just three years. In 2019, Hall won gold in slopestyle in Aspen and big air in Norway and took first place in knuckle huck in Norway in 2020 ahead of his gold in Real Ski this year. Between that, his bronze medal at the world championships and another big air bronze at the X Games, it has been a busy year for Hall.

The Real Ski video was arguably the defining moment of Hall’s 2020-21 ski season. At first glance, three months seems like more than enough to shoot a quality ski video.

But the truth is, it takes a lot of work for just a minute and a half of skiing streak. While some may see a two-second clip of Hall hovering over a fence, for example, Hall remembers the overnight shoveling effort to build the jump in the first place.

“Real skis are so hard especially because a lot of the skis that we do in cities are really hard because it involves so much behind the scenes that I think people don’t really realize when they just watch the video. Hall said. “We never had more than three, four or five inches to work around town, which was really tough, especially on some of the bigger features we hit.

“We would have shoveled all night to build this unique place and then hit it in the morning just hoping we weren’t getting kicked out by people who didn’t like us doing what we were doing. “

French filmmaker Etienne Merel has overseen “20 or Something” ski videos before, but the amount of effort it takes for a Real Ski video makes it a whole different beast. Something as simple as finding snow has become difficult. They were looking through all the road cameras in Utah for snow. Plus, Merel might only have one chance to film a shot, which makes it even more difficult.

“It’s so much work,” Merel said. “It’s a lot of pressure from both sides, I think. I would say the difficulty is the physical and mental battle.

Working with a single skier instead of a group was also a new experience for Merel. Lucky for him, he’s been working with Hall since 2014, so they knew each other pretty well. Merel and Hall were together all day, everyday for two months, which meant they had to work well together.

“You have to be good friends or you can lose your mind,” Merel said. “If you are mad at the other person, you have no one to talk to. You have to be good friends to do this kind of project.

Merel admitted that while the other videos were really good, he knew deep down that ESPN would ship a gold to France.

“I will say Alex was a cut above the rest,” Merel said. “I was a little surprised, but not that much. “

Looking ahead to next season, a competition is looming for many runners: the Olympic Winter Games. Freeskiing is still a somewhat new event to the Games, 2022 being only the third year of slopestyle will be an Olympic event with the big air making its skiing debut.

But the Olympic Games also occupy a delicate place in the world of skiing. For some, it is the most important event due to its larger scale and increased media presence. Others see competitions like the X Games and the World Cup as flagship events in the sport. Hall is in the latter camp.

American Alex Hall skis on a rail during the qualifying round of the men’s freeski slopestyle competition at the 2021 World Snowboard and Freeski Championships at the Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. Hall qualified for the final with the best score of 92.25.
Photo by Mark Clavin / US Ski & Snowboard

“Obviously the Olympics are a huge deal just because they happen every four years, and it’s at that huge international level and scale with all of these TVs, cameras and media, which makes it really cool in that sense, especially for our sport which we can kind of showcase our sport in such an international way, ”said Hall. “But personally, I think the X Games are the pinnacle of our sport in terms of competition and performance.”

There is nothing special about preparing Hall for Olympic qualification because that is exactly what he wants. Hall’s approach is to simply ski as much as possible before going and feel as comfortable as possible when it comes to setting up the best trail possible.

“Mentally it’s always tough, like, you’ve got to be really in the zone,” Hall said. “I think for me the best I do is sort of in the zone, but I’m having fun and I’m just here to enjoy the moment and not take it too seriously, not put too much pressure on myself and kind of be a little looser which can help me enjoy it more and compete better.

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