We chatted up pro skiers 25-year-old Caroline Gleich and native New Englander 25-year-old Jen Hudak (in town this week to host the Boston Ski & Sports Club's annual "Blizzard" ski season kickoff event,) both featured in two of the year's major ski flicks — Warren Miller's Like There's No Tomorrow and the Ski Channel's documentary Winter, respectively. The girls ski-schooled us on what to do in case of an avalanche (um, run?), how to take a hit, and general slope style badassery. Trust us, these chicks have got some serious steez.
JEN HUDAK | HALFPIPE AND FREESKIER + FIVE-TIME X-GAME MEDALIST
HIGH FLYING Jen Hudak, who appears in the Ski Channel’s doc Winter, says she’s “always lived a little more on the fearless side of things” — and has the bruises to prove it.
YOU MOVED TO UTAH AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, BUT YOU GREW UP SKIING OUT EAST, SINCE YOU'RE FROM CONNECTICUT, RIGHT? WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOUNTAIN OUT HERE? The one I skied at the most was Okemo. You know, I was a little skier early on, and they have really great mogul skiing at Okemo, and had a really good half pipe — probably, at that time, the best half pipe on the East C,oast. It was really just a great place for me to train and start getting involved in a new sport, like half-pipe skiing was at the time.
IS MOGUL STYLE SKIING A TOUGH TYPE OF SKIING TO GET INTO? Yeah, it can be intimidating, but when I got into it, it was just me and my friends and we were trying to see how crazy we could get on our skis. I've always lived a little more on the fearless side of things and liked to do crazy stuff. But I think now it's actually kind of easier to get into, because parks are so well-maintained and built — there's smaller jumps you can start on, and work your way up to larger jumps. At the time that I was starting, there weren't really any teams or programs for that sport. It was hard to find a coach and have that support. But at this point there's a ton of programs. The East Coast does a really good job with teams that you can join and coaches that you can work with to ease your way into it, and learn how to do the crazy stuff.
DID YOU HAVE ANY REALLY MAJOR WIPEOUTS WHEN YOU WERE FIRST STARTING OUT? You know, I definitely took a lot of hits but at that time — well, I still pride myself on this — but I could take a hit. But yeah, actually, a lot of girls in the industry have these giant hematomas on our hips. Mine is from a half pipe in 2003, in Switzerland. It was super icy, and I crashed and hit my hip into the ground. My whole side was bruised and swollen, and I still have, like, scar tissue in my hip from that almost 10 years ago now. But that was kind of my biggest one then. But I tended to bounce when I was younger, and not break. I don't bounce as well now.
THERE'S A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF RISK INVOLVED WITH YOUR CAREER AND THE SPORT IN GENERAL. WHEN YOU'RE GOING INTO A TRICK, DO YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THAT YOU MIGHT NOT MAKE IT OUT OF IT? I think all of us accept that injuries are a part of what we do. And it's a very intense sport, and we've known people to pass away, and people that have been paralyzed and suffered traumatic brain injuries, and it's a heavy thing when you start thinking about it. But we all set goals for ourselves, and have tricks that we want to do, and take all the precautions that we can in preparing for tricks. We're not reckless, and even our wildest tricks have smaller things that you can do before you're doing that wildest trick, so everything's a progression. You start small and you work your way up. You acknowledge the risk but then you just make sure that you've taken all the precautions and that you're trained and ready for it, and at that point you can't think about it. It'll make your worst fears come true.. . . But I think it makes us appreciate what we do even more because it is so risky.
DO YOU GO TO THE X GAMES EVERY YEAR? I do. I go to the X Games every year, and it's my favorite event of the year, for sure.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT? I mean, everything at X Games is kind of over the top, and there's so much pressure and excitement and just chaos around you all of the time, and the first few years I was there, I got really distracted by it. It was hard for me to figure out how to stay calm and pace myself in such a high-energy environment. The first time I medaled was really, really exciting, and then the first time that I won the X Games was absolutely incredible. It was something that I dreamed of for a long time, and then it finally happened, and I was able to look back at all my hard work and know that it paid off.
HAVE YOU EVER SNOWBOARDED, OR ARE YOU STRICTLY A SKIER? I have snowboarded. I'm not very good at snowboarding. It's a totally different sport. It feels weird to be stuck in one body position. You can change your body position all the time on skis, and that's what makes it work. So on the snowboard . . . it's funny. It's weird.
PLUS, I FEEL LIKE WIPING OUT ON A SNOWBOARD HURTS A LOT MORE. That's where I get into trouble on a snowboard. I don't know how to make adjustments or correct anything, because I'm stuck to this board . . . and generally it ends up bad.
IS THERE ANY MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVEN'T SKIED AND WOULD STILL LOVE TO GET TO? I would love to get to Alaska at some point. I think the mountains are really incredible up there and there's just so much virgin snow all around you. Yeah, that's a place I've never been that I would absolutely love to go. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR BEST ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO'S NEW TO THE SPORT? I would first recommend that they try both skiing and snowboarding before deciding to do one or the other. Just rent some equipment and try, because I think everyone's different. My best friend growing up tried to be a skier for years, and struggled with it, and the day she put a snowboard on her feet — she just took off and had a great time. So, yeah, don't get too fixated on doing one discipline; try them both and see what you like better. And know that it's definitely something that has a learning curve, and you're going to fall the first couple times you go out. After you give it time, I think it's going to be really, really incredible and such a fun way to enjoy the winter. Because without it, I think, "God, how could winter be enjoyable?"