The Pro Files: Polish Freeski Open

What does it take to become a professional skier? We’re following UK freeskier Ross Welch to find out.

Ross WelchOnce again a nice ten hour drive set the scene for another competition. This time we were heading to Zakopane, Poland for the Polish Freeski Open. We travelled with Joe Hides (GB Slopestyle athlete) and Bartek Sibiga (Polish freeskier). On our arrival we went to check out the big air kicker and rail setup for the event ahead. The kicker looked somewhat ‘sketchy’ to say the least with a very short landing but after practice and feedback from the riders the even organisers were brilliant at changing what they could to make the event safer and better.

First day of the event saw the Big Air qualifications followed by the Rail Jam qualis and finally the night session. An action packed day meant everyone had to be on point, despite the ever gusty wind! We would all take our turns on the kicker waiting for the opportune moment to drop in. My first run consisted of a cork 7 tail grab to truck driver, just landing on the back of the knuckle, managing to absorb the impact and ride out. I knew that with this poor landing in mind my next run would count all the more.

The standard of riders was high, however a lot of falls and injuries meant i was going to play it safe and attempt the same trick again. This time i took all the speed i could, just as the wind stopped blowing, leading to me over shooting and over rotating. Not what i had in mind. Some riders decided not to take their second run which meant I ended up in 23rd overall.

I later qualified in 7th for the Rail Jam final and the night session went off in front of the Zakopane crowd!

On day two the finals of the Big Air were cancelled due to even worse weather but i give the organisers huge credit as they kept us and the crowd entertained by finding more prizes other things like ‘best off the knuckle trick’.

Finally the Rail Jam finals. This was great fun and despite aching from the previous day’s events, we were able to use the snowmobile to save walking back up the hill!

My run for rails went front slide on the down rail, 180 transfer to lip 270 out and high safety to switch on the Red Bull wall ride.

On course in the Rail Jam finals

On course in the Rail Jam finals

I ended up in 14th overall which i was happy about despite anticipating more points for creativity and unique lines.

All in all a great event, and I look forward to going back next year. Congratulations to Bartek for winning the polish championships which was incorporated into the event.

I would also like to take the time to thank my sponsors for their contributions this season, if it wasn’t for their support I wouldn’t have been able to cover as much ground as I have!

Ross Welch

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