Photo: Sofia Sjöberg
Here at Freeze we’re made up of skiers, snowboarders, surfers, cyclists, aspiring escape artists; we’re daydreamers like you, we’re fans of the oldest form of entertainment – outside. Jacob Wester would appear to embody all of the above and indeed everything that Freeze stands for and was founded on.
An X games medallist, who alongside fellow countryman Jon Olsson can notably be credited with the progression of the “double cork” in mainstream competition. Over a career that has already spanned 13 years he has firmly cemented himself as one of freeskiing’s greatest. That said; his enthusiasm for the sport of skiing and culture that goes alongside is as poignant as ever and in conversation it is infectious, his humbleness despite his achievements is quite frankly astonishing in comparison to some of his contemporaries.
Along with his girlfriend Sofia, the pair seem to live an existence that the majority of us can only dream of; spending their winter season touring and skiing Chamonix and its surrounding back country, their summers surfing in Bali and the time in-between camping around Scandinavia in their van – “The Score Mobile”.
Where in the world are you right now?
Right now I am in a house with 10-15 young freestyle skiers in central Sweden at a little resort called Kläppen. Sofia and I were passing through Stockholm on our way from Chamonix to the Arctic Circle - we have been traveling up there for the past few years for Ski touring, building jumps and general midnight sun activities! However, it turns out it’s still like midwinter up there, there’s been a tonne of snow and the roads are closed so we decided to stop by here on our way. I’m good friends with Kim Boberg who set up this event - Kimbosessions - I always like coming here and hanging out.
With you being based in Cham for the majority of the winter, do you find it difficult transitioning back to riding park?
Urrrm, not really. It would be if this was a conventional park event with huge jumps and icy hard landings but it’s late spring here. We’re using the last of the snow so its super soft and it’s super sunny. It’s a very safe park for me haha… It’s a real nice event and a chance for friends and film crews to get together with no competition.
Photo: Sofia Sjöberg
A couple of months back you brought out Maydazed which was really awesome! Firstly, it was beautifully shot, secondly you must be tough as nails to get in the North Atlantic at that time of year and thirdly the multi-sport element was rad. Can we expect to see more of that kind of content?
Well thank you very much! YES! I hope so, that’s kind of what we are setting out to do this spring. That Maydazed edit actually came in to existence by accident, last year I spent about a month up in the Arctic circle with my girlfriend and some other friends. We weren’t really filming for anything special and thought we got skunked with the snow and surf. We certainly didn’t think we had enough for an edit. All that footage was just sitting on a hard-drive until January. I skied into a rock in Chamonix…. again and busted my heel as a result I had to spend three weeks on a couch and had nothing to do so I decided to look through that footage and something came together. You have to go with what nature gives you, we were skiing the first few days but the weather came in and with the weather came a storm. We were on the coast of the north Atlantic so why not go surf? Why sit in the car for like 5 days waiting on the sun?
When does winter finish for you? From what I understand, during summer surfing pretty much takes over for you.
Yeah, that pattern has pretty much been established! I usually enjoy the months between January till around the end of May for skiing; of course I could always go to the southern hemisphere for back to back winters but I like having a pretty substantial break. You need to take some time to ensure you stay physically strong in other parts of your body than just your legs.
Photo: Sofia Sjöberg
Do you find that the two sports complement each other? Not just physically but mentally? Is it good for you to get out of places like Cham with such gnarly terrain? It must be pretty taxing mentally?
I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to expose him or herself to life threatening situations on a daily basis, I definitely need the time off from skiing. When you’re in a place like Chamonix there is no real barrier that separates you from skiing one of the most extreme runs on the planet, you take a lift! You get kind of jaded, or you get used to it rather, and stop thinking about how serious it all really is or can be. A few months is enough, you need a break from it. I don’t think I could live there, I’d start climbing haha and I’d just go from one extreme season to the next. Surfing for me is just fun and nothing too serious, I’m not going to get that hurt surfing any of the waves that I’m catching.
In recent years you have had a slight change in direction from freestyle competition scene to the backcountry or big mountain side of skiing. There is obviously a technique difference, was it a challenge to learn the craft of being in and reading the mountains?
Oh yeah for sure, none of that should come too naturally to anyone. Especially for a kid from Stockholm that spent the best part of his youth skiing a 200-meter hill in the city haha. I guess you have to realize your weaknesses early on in order to stay alive…. I was absolutely terrified of big mountains when I started getting into them which was probably around 2009 with Matchstick Productions. Through filming trips with them I got to try heli skiing, sledding and all that. You’ve got to take it slow and learn from your peers, as time goes on you learn more and more. I’ve been on so many trips with them (MSP) and I would always consider myself the rookie in the crew, I’d always be listening intently to everyone else and learning from them. That being said I didn’t realize until recently that I knew a lot more about the basics of big mountain safety than I thought. I have all the knowledge in my head rather than on paper, I haven’t taken any courses other than the basic Avi 1. You have to realize that you don’t know anything in the grand scheme of things and try and ski with people that you know you can trust in a situation if something happens to you.
Photo: Sofia Sjöberg
In that case have the people you enjoy skiing with changed?
Nah, It’s different every day, it depends what you’re riding. If it’s a pow day off the lift in February and you’re riding an epic tree run; then you’re going to ski with all your close friends like you always do. However, when it comes to the big mission days that you mentally prepare for throughout the season that are always there in the back of your head? When those days happen you’re not going to call your friends that you get drunk and ski with. Instead you’re going to put together a small crew of people that you really know you can trust in extreme situations and that are all really strong skiers who you’re not going to worry about.
You said you grew up riding a 200-meter slope in Stockholm. That rings all too true to us here in the UK, certainly for me growing up on a 100 meter dryslope. How does one go from riding a tiny little hill in Stockholm to making a career in the way you have?
The right mind set haha, seriously though! Sweden has got a really strong alpine racing culture and even those little hills that are essentially old garbage piles are enough for a couple of gates and a timer. So I was along with a lot of my friends going to race practice three or four nights out of the week in the winter; then in the summer we’d all go to a camp at one of glaciers in the Alps. Back then I never thought about turning it into a career, I just wanted to ski from top to bottom – there was enough snow to build a jump and hit it 50 times a night every day. I think with the right amount of race practice and right emphasis on ski technique early on anyone can become any sort of skier.
We used to go on weekend trips to the mountains that I’m at right now actually, Sälen. It’s not massive but enough to find your own lines – I always wanted to be a ‘extreme skier’ on the Freeride World Tour or whatever it was called back then. I used to make up my own little comp lines way before I even got a chance to ski a real tree line. You could say that when park skiing took over it threw me on a little bit of a detour from where I am now. You can make any place you ski a challenge with a little imagination.
Photo: Mikko Heimonen
I know I said no brand specific chat but…Rossignol, that’s cool! How did that relationship come about? What happened with Armada?
It all part of my becoming French 101 haha. Armada have been huge for me over the years, they recognized my ability very early on – I signed with them in 2005, I was on their program for almost 13 years. I owe everything to those guys, that’s who first picked me up. The thing is that these days, they’re not the same company. It’s all new staff with new priorities, I would never say they lost their soul or anything but the original group of people that started Armada and that made it so special are no longer there. My relationship with Rossignol and Look came about at the right time for me, they approached me at the same time that the stuff at Armada and Amer sports was going on. They said they were into the direction I was going and wanted to support me which was rad. I’ve always been a fan of them, they’re very old school with a strong heritage.
How is it going work when your hitting powder jumps for example? I know you were used to skiing the Armada JJ which is a true twin powder ski.
The Rossignol Super 7 is actually the perfect ski for 99% of the skiing I’m doing in Cham for example. I want something light that I can tour on but still open up on big faces and the Super 7 is perfect for that. That being said I wouldn’t hit a jump on them in the same way I would have on a JJ. That’s what the Blackops collection from Rossignol is for, it’s like a secret team rider lead development program and those are honestly the best skis I’ve ridden on both jumps and freeride terrain!
Make sure you check out the new Rossignol Blackops collection dropping to Freeze this autumn!
Words: Lewis Mclean