Last week I talked to Swedish freeride skiing champion, Reine Barkered about what lies behind performing in a high risk environment. His job is to thrive in challenging conditions.  Freeride skiing is an extreme sport where you have to choose you way down a steep, backcountry mountain face – meaning it is not prepared in any way, besides being secured against avalanches by trained mountain guides. The rider is judged on criteria such as the choice of line and how it is ridden. Good flow, control and use of features such as cliffs and couloirs are rewarded.

Riding the mountain, you are often in situations where you cannot see what’s next. You are not allowed on the mountain before the contest, so you can just inspect it from a distance and use binoculars, photos and footage to plan the « line » you want to ski down the mountain.

In many ways this is comparable to living life. We cannot go into the future, we can only try to envision it and plan based on that. We can chose an easy line – but that often means less rewards – or we can choose a more challenging one, taking a little more risk and having to put all our skills into play in order to go for bigger rewards, satisfaction or self actualization.

While freeride skiing at world class level looks crazy to most spectators, the recipe for success in such an environment includes a lot of scoping and planning – before the action itself. In order to be able keep optimal flow (meaning not pull the brakes unnecessarily – and definitely not stop or crash) you have to have solutions for a few different scenarios to be able to change your plan on the day if changing conditions turns your plan A into a bad choice (such as visibility and changes in snow conditions).

So before going all in freeriders will have made good plan A and B and maybe even C or more, calculating risk and taking their skills into account.

In this episode of Athlete Story Reine Barkered shares his method and stories about what allows him to blast down a 45 degree mountain face at speeds reaching 100km an hour, dropping cliffs ten times his own height – seemingly effortless.

We also get around his advice for young athletes who want to pursue a sports career and some of the toughest parts of an otherwise fun and adventurous lifestyle.

My notes from this interview

On how to find flow in challenging conditions:

make plans A, B, C

keeping options open

risk assessment

risk-reward balance

nurture your relationships

On how to build be valuable as an athlete (to f.x. a sponsor):

develop your skills

be respectable

communicate, communicate

remember the why

On planning for the future:

identify what makes you happy

avoid being toolocked in on a plan

weighing the constraints

being true to your values

In tough times:

coping with destablization

identifying the root of the problem

be honest to yourself

recognize patterns

Watch the full interview with freeride ski champion Reine Barkered above to get the story around these tips on how to thrive in challenging conditions.