Jen Hudak isn’t atypical for freestyle skiers in that she started skiing mostly in the park and moved out from there. It’s a trend among high-profile park skiing pros like Tanner Hall, Eric Pollard and others. An East Coast native, Hudak grew up skiing at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow,Vermont, and her story isn’t all that much different from the men and women most often credited with pushing the evolution of freestyle skiing. She’s won gold at the X-Games twice and has played an integral role in bringing halfpipe skiing to the upcoming 2014 winter Olympics. But the backcountry has called her name. Jen is featured on the cover of Backcountry’s January Issue in a shot captured by Adam Barker New Year’s Eve 2012 at Alta. We caught her in between trips to chat about the cover, skiing and the future of women in the sport.Backcountry: The shot turned out great, but what was the skiing like that day?
Jen Hudak: That was New Year’s Eve day at Alta with Adam Barker, the photog, and Julian Carr. We were fortunate enough to get early ups that morning, because if we would have had to deal with the crowds at the resort, we wouldn’t have gotten much done. We managed to make it out to some sidecountry off of Alta to find some of the dreamiest Utah powder you can imagine. We worked a small zone for a few hours, but kept our day relatively short. Short but productive.
BCM: You’ve obviously progressed a ton as a skier. How would you like to see skiing itself progress?
JH: I would love to see young skiers focus on the mechanics of good skiing form and allow their skiing to carry them to the next level. In the big-mountain arena you see athletes relying on cajones and wide skis, while in park and pipe the focus seems to all be on the trick, which can be learned on trampolines—the skiing seems to be just the means to get you from trick to trick. I’m not sure that women have a mechanical edge on men, but we’ve had to rely more on our ability to ski than our cajones and ability to muscle through things. So perhaps that is where we’ve had to focus on grace, precision and style. I grew up skiing moguls on the East Coast. I would cruise all over the mountain from moguls to the halfpipe to the trees, but we rarely had powder. So powder skiing was a skill that I had to learn when I moved to Utah in 2004. I’m so thankful for my technical skiing background because it really has given me an edge in that regards.
BCM: What advice do you give to young skiers looking to improve?
JH: I would say that the most important thing is to ski a lot. Ski and watch skiing. Figure out what style of skiing you enjoy, watch athletes that you hope to ski like and think hard about what it is that they do. Subtle things like the position of your torso relative to your lower body, how you hold and move your arms to pole plant, keeping your chest pointed down the fall line—those are the things that will separate the good from the great. And if you can, film your friends and have your friends film you, then watch and decide if you like what you see.
BCM: How would you describe your skiing style, from the turn to the airs and everything in between?
JH: I’m an aggressive skier, more so in halfpipe than in the mountains, but I have carried some of that aggression over. In the air, I’m very controlled and generally focused on style and grabs. In my turns, I’m powerful but graceful.
BCM: Anything you feel like you need to work on?
JH: I need to work on reading lines from below and being better able to calculate distance between features. But this big-mountain world is still fairly new to me. I’ve been competing in halfpipe professionally for the last decade, so the times I’ve gotten to ski and shoot outside of a pipe are constant learning experiences.
BCM: Where’s a good place to get a latte in your hometown?
JH: I live in Salt Lake City, so there are lots of latte options, but my favorite place is the Coffee Garden in the 9th and 9th area.
BCM: What do you think about Miley Cyrus?
JH: I think Miley Cyrus is a crazy genius. I would prefer it if she would keep her tongue in her mouth more often, but I have to commend the girl for creating such a bold, new image. She was forced into being Hannah Montana for many years. People associated her more with the character that she played on television than who she really was as a person. This new Miley is the real Miley, and I think she probably has a very different fan base now because of this transition, but I respect her for being so bold in standing by who she is.
BCM: What are your goals for the New Year?
JH: My goals for the New Year are to walk through open doors of opportunity, to try new things and start the next phase of my life.