Rather than racing against the clock, you’re racing against competitors. And, more than one at a time. It’s dangerous, it’s unpredictable, it’s wicked fast, and it’s called ski-cross. It’s a sport chock full of some of the toughest men and women around, many who have competed in other types of skiing (alpine or other) and were looking to be more challenged in a sport.
Starting in January and going into March, Ski-cross events will continue for ladies and men in Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Canada, and Spain. So, why become a fan of Ski-cross? Well, for one, ski-cross courses have both artificial and naturally occurring terrain features. The talented folks who build the courses treat it like an art which makes for variables for the athletes. At the larger World Cup events, the courses typically have big jumps, rollers, bank turns, and small jumps.
In addition to the challenging terrain, ski-cross stands out as a sport because it is a multi-racer competition. Four to six racers speed down-hill next to each other with a goal of getting to the finish line first. When we said that this sport was dangerous, we meant it.
Jan 14-15 2017 – Watles, Italty (Ladies & Mens)
Jan 21-22 2017 – Megève, France (Ladies & Mens)
Feb 3-5 2017 – Feldberg, Germany (Ladies & Mens)
Feb 10-12 2017 – Idre Fjall, Sweden (Ladies & Mens)
Feb 24-25 2017 – Sunny Valley, Russia (Ladies & Mens)
March 5, 2017 – Blue Mountain, Canada (World Cup)
March 18, 2017 – Sierra Nevada, Spain (World Ski Championships)
So what is it like to be a Pro Ski-cross athlete? Meet Pam Thorburn. Ex-British Alpine Champion, Pam Thorburn made the switch over to Ski-Cross and has never looked back. Having battled some major injuries over the years, Pam has only gotten stronger and more of a threat to her Ski-X competitors. She has trained hard and she’s back and ready to race in this year’s FIS Word-cup races around the world.
Natalie: Pam, it is so great to talk to you and see you are back-in-action. How does it feel to be heading into this year’s FIS World Cup Races?
Pam: It’s been such a long road, I’m so happy that I’ve made it back to this point.
Natalie: You’ve been plagued with some serious injuries over the last few seasons. What have you done differently to prepare physically and mentally for racing this season?
Pam: I’m trying to be a little bit smarter this time around, taking my time to get my confidence and good feelings back in training instead of just throwing myself straight back in with all risk. I felt a lot of pressure before to go all out 100% of the time, I have taken the pressure off myself now and that feels better.
Natalie: Ok, it sounds like you’re ready! And, as Babe Ruth used to say, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up”. So, of the line-up of competitions coming up in January-March, which courses will be the most challenging? Or is it more about who you’ll be competing against?
Pam: The toughest ones are always the ones we haven’t seen before, I mean the courses are always different but you know the flow of a hill if you have skied/raced there before. This year we have a few new World Cup stops in Canada and Russia.
Natalie: Silly question, but do you get nervous before you compete? How do you mentally prepare as you step up to the starting line?
Pam: I do get nervous, and I do get scared. For me it’s about channeling those feelings to fire myself up. It’s hard to keep that focus sometimes…but it works.
Natalie: Having known you for over 5 years, I know the mental and physical resilience that you have. What should your competitors look out for this year with you? Based on your training, are you coming back with more strength? Speed?
Pam: It’s a secret! Haha. I mean yes for sure I’m back with more strength but I have an even bigger desire now, that’s going to make a difference for me.
Natalie: I like what I am hearing! So, many people wonder why you made the change from Alpine skiing to Ski-cross. Can you tell us about that?
Pam: I had a big heartbreak in Alpine Skiing back in 2010 when I made the Olympic Qualification standard but didn’t get to go to the Games. I saw Ski Cross that year and thought it was awesome, I had to try it.
Natalie: Do you feel like you will ever get bored of Ski-cross? How many more years would you like to compete?
Pam: Ski Cross could never get boring, there are just too many changeable factors. Also this year there are some new race ideas so the sport is still changing. With regards to how long I will compete for, that all depends on how my body holds up. I would race until I was 80 if I could!
Natalie: And what would you recommend to others who are looking to get into the sport? Any quick tips or advice you’re willing to share?
Pam: I’d say have fun with it, that’s the most important part. If you’re having fun you will be nice and relaxed, and that’s what you want with all the features on a Ski Cross track. It’s also important to remember like any sport, you are going to fall over, but fall down 5 times, stand up 6!
Natalie: As an athlete, I know it is always important to have supporters other than your Mum and Dad. What brands are supporting you this season? Are there products that you can’t live without in this sport?
Pam: I’m always so grateful when a brand wants to work with me. At the moment I couldn’t live without PurePharma, they have seriously helped my recovery and well-being this last year. I’ve also been quite involved with some campaigns from Head Ski which is really exciting for me, it also means I have the best skis on the market! Through Unify Brand I work with Peak Performance for the best clothing out there. Ellis Brigham take care of all my winter sports needs from goggles to Go Pro’s. Jack Wills involved me in a very cool campaign called the Fittest Brits. I’m a lucky girl!
Natalie: Personally, I love those brands too. Great quality products. And, wow! What a cool thing to be listed as a part of Fittest Brits. Well done! Ok, now for a few fun questions.
Pam: Ok…be nice to me! Haha.
Natalie: How many tattoos do you have?
Pam: I have 6 at the moment, all kind of hidden!
Natalie: What is your favorite food?
Pam: Pizza is life!
Natalie: Favorite social media platform? I personally like your Instagram.
Pam: Thanks Nat! I really like Instagram, I’m very visual, you see some incredible things on there. I think it’s a really nice way of seeing new people and new things.
Natalie: Are you single? Ok…fine. We won’t go there. We’ll leave the readers in suspense.
Pam: Ahh haha. Like I said I’m a lucky girl!
Natalie: Hmm! I see how it is! Haha. Ok, off the course, what would we find you doing besides training?
Pam: One of my favorite things is going to the movies, I’m a big movie buff. I also love to go see live music.
Natalie: What’s your most embarrassing moment as a professional athlete?
Pam: Oh wow, there’s just been so many to choose from. I’m super clumsy so it can get pretty funny. I got my bag caught on the chairlift of my very first World Cup race years ago… I had to go around the top lift station stuck to the lift and they had to reverse the lift to get me off… while all my fellow competitors watched on from the chairs behind.
Natalie: Oh no! That is terrible! Haha. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable you felt! Hopefully, that won’t happen again. Alright, what about favorite musical artist? And, have you seen them live before?
Pam: I really like Twin Atlantic, I’ve seen them 3 times live and each time is better than the last. Not going to lie though… T Swift comes on my iPod a lot, haha.
Natalie: There is nothing wrong with being a fan of T Swift! How about, what animal do you think you identify with? I might be able to guess…
Pam: Some kind of cat for sure! I’d like to say some kind of tiger instead of a pussycat though.
Natalie: I knew it! Haha! Alright, I think I’ve tortured you enough. Any final thoughts before we wrap-up? Do you have a goal in mind for this season?
Pam: I set all sorts of goals for myself each year but my main one for this season is to get back into racing feeling fully confident. It might sound a bit soft but after so many injuries and comebacks, I know I’ll only be fast if I feel good.
Natalie: Well, Pam, it has been an honor and a privilege to talk to you! Thanks for taking the time to share your story here at Rad Season! We’ll be cheering you on and hope to see you on the podium this year!
Pam: Thanks so much for that. It’s been really cool to chat to you guys!
Natalie: Thanks, Pam. Cheers!
For more information on Pam and to track her progress this season, click here.
For up-to-date information and live updates on FIS Freestyle Ski-Cross events world-wide, click here.
Check the vid of Ski Cross at the World Freestyle Championships in Voss, Norway below:Last updated on Jul 14, 2019
Rad's top 10 action sports, adventure events and music festivals in 2019 and 2020