Hedvig Wessel | In Conversation With The Norwegian Freeride Skier
A big chat with Oslo's Hedvig Wessel about switching from moguls to the Freeride World Tour, her training regime, her plans for the future and much more
Pictured (above): Hedvig Wessel. Image credit: Jeremy Bernard
This interview with Hedvig Wessel was conducted in 2020.
From World Cup mogul competitor to Freeride World Tour athlete, I asked Hedvig Wessel how she keeps her body and mind in peak condition both on and off the slopes.
You skied World Cup moguls for seven years and are a two-time mogul Olympian, how did your background help you transition to the Freeride World Tour?
My mogul background helped me a lot going over to freeride. I’ve been skiing a lot for the past ten years including seven years in the World Cup and I think having the balance from there and also the tricks has helped.
“I’ve been doing hundreds of backflips and front flips and I feel I have pretty good air control”
I’ve been doing hundreds of backflips and front flips and I feel I have pretty good air control so I think they are the main benefits I bring from moguls. The other thing is coming from a national team and a training programme with great coaches, where we always analysed and thought about what we did well each day and what we could improve on.
When I ski I always have this training at the back of my mind which helps me to push myself every day like it’s a training day. I also try to do as much strength and endurance training as I can. Being on a national team and having an Olympic background and training programme has helped me to be a professional and taught me discipline.
How do you manage the impact of moguls on your body?
A lot of training. I normally did one to three workouts a day when I trained nationally and that was everything from stability to core, legs (obviously a lot of biking and jumping), skiing of course and trampolining for air technique.
“It was good to analyse the risks and see where I could push and where I should hold back”
The variety of training that I did every day for so many years meant that my body got strong, and I didn’t get any big injuries from moguls. It was good to analyse the risks and see where I could push and where I should hold back. I was always going back and forth between really pushing myself and going back to ski at a safe level where I can gain confidence.
What’s important for post-competition recovery on the Freeride World Tour?
I think it’s important to relax both in mind and body. Normally I like to go for a run, followed by a lot of stretching and just to be out on the mountain skiing, maybe not doing the crazy stuff but for me, stretching and running and biking is what I do the most after competing or after a day out skiing.
You’re a big fan of yoga, what benefits do you think it brings to your skiing and wellbeing?
Yoga is a big part of my wellbeing and my performance for skiing. First of all, I need the yoga to disconnect. To try to be with myself and not think about everything I have to do.
Every morning I start with yoga before I turn on my phone and before I eat breakfast. It’s the first thing I do to put me in a good positions where I remind myself of my goals and try to be present.
The stretching element of yoga is also great, and it’s important for me to be flexible so that is a benefit. Yoga also helps me to connect to my focus and mental stability.
When I’m on the mountain or before a competition I can quite quickly get into my focus and not be distracted by others or the weather. I can get into a spot where I just focus on what I need to do.
How do you look after your mental health under all the pressure?
What I try to do is analyse every day and think about what I did well and what I could have done better. I feel the pressure on myself because I want to do well but it’s more of an excited feeling. I don’t really feel any pressure from outside because I just focus on myself.
I look at every competition and every run or training session or day on the mountain as a learning process for myself, and I remind myself why I want to compete or ski. When I do that and remind myself of my goals and why this is important to me, it’s really easy to feel happy and also get strength from the little things. I try to remind myself that the journey itself is what’s fun.
What safety advice would you give to aspiring freeriders?
I would recommend skiing with someone who is better than you because then you will improve quicker. You will push yourself but it’s important to remember your limits.
“It’s ok to have a bad day and just want to cruise on the piste or in the park”
For me, one aspect of safety is the snow and avalanche danger. Here it’s important to do all the research and know how you should ski considering the condition of the snow. It’s important to be mindful of how you feel and your abilities on that particular day.
Don’t feel pushed or pressured, it is ok to say “no” or go a different way and it’s ok to have a bad day and just want to cruise on the piste or in the park. It’s important to be connected to yourself and to do what inspires you and not be pushed by others because you feel they are cooler or better – but really look at what inspires you.
What’s your opinion of the Freeride World Tour announcing equal pay for women?
It’s good that it’s equal, but I don’t really pay too much attention to that. The prize money is a bonus but for me that’s not the focus so I don’t really care but I think that it’s good that it’s equal. At the same time, if a guy comes in fourth or fifth place out of 20 or 30 and a girl can crash every run and be paid more, I think that’s unfair.
Have you taken any steps to reduce your carbon footprint?
I always try to reduce as much as possible. I travel light. In our sport and this industry and job, I have to travel and try to do other good things on the side. I eat vegan almost all the time and I make sure I recycle all my waste thoroughly. I also reduced my payment from the Tour to reduce the carbon footprint with the support of Alpina.
What has been your favourite moment on skis?
One of my favourite moments was VerbierXtreme 2018 after the Olympics when I got the Wildcard to Verbier. I remember when I got to the top in the helicopter and I was just looking around and I actually started crying because it was so beautiful.
“I was just looking around and I actually started crying because it was so beautiful”
There were so many emotions and I was so excited and scared and it was a really powerful moment for me. I skied Bec de Rosses for the first time which was incredible and started my career as a freerider, that was a pretty cool experience.
How would you encourage more people into freeriding?
I would say just get out there and ski with your friends. Again, my advice would be to always ski with people who are better than you and try to push yourself every day. Freeride is the best thing in the world and I would definitely advise people to try it in a safe way. Ski with people you trust and ski on a level you feel comfortable and safe at.
“Freeride is the best thing in the world”
What have you been up to during lockdown?
I was in Verbier for two weeks after the lockdown. I did some easy ski touring and a lot of yoga and started doing my fitness training on the balcony doing pushups, situps and all that kind of stuff.
I then went to Sweden with my boyfriend and travelled in my car and we were pretty isolated, just the two of us in the house and we were climbing a lot in Sweden. The rules were quite loose there but we tried to stay isolated and we were really happy and excited that we could go out to climb.
Now I’m at my summer house in Norway on a small island outside of Oslo and I’m trying to use every day as best as I can and get back into fitness and start to work and plan for next year. I’m studying business administration full time online now of course. I usually study in Switzerland but now I’m in Norway and I can do it from here.
How do you think the pandemic will affect the snowsports industry?
I think people might travel less for a few years and maybe stay in our own countries. Will there be spectators? Maybe not, especially for the first few years. I think sports in general will be very different but for me, it’s too soon to say. I’m scared but excited to see how we will begin, and change, and try to adapt, and make the best out of it and stay positive. I hope we will be able to ski and compete in the future.
What’s your plan for next season?
I plan to compete on the Freeride World Tour although we don’t know exactly how it will run. My plan B will be travelling and filming around Norway, we’ll see.
A new film by Canadian Director Katie Burrell gives an honest insight into the world of elite competition and the challenges Hedvig and her former champion coach, Lorraine Huber, face on the circuit. Find out more here.
To see more work by Sophie Mead, pay a visit to her website.
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