X-Games Judge and Pro Skier Jason Arens Goes Deep
Jason Arens is a California native turned Pacific Northwest local and a professional freeskier with deep roots in the industry. He has a passion for the sport that few maintain after making the jump from the competition circuit. An accomplished athlete who skis for Surface Skis, Jason also serves as the Marketing Director for Windells Camp on Mt. Hood, a year-round action sports camp for ages 9 to 99 that operates a dedicated summer training program in Welches, Oregon.
This past season, Jason was the Head Judge for the Dew Tour and the X-Games in Norway, and has previously served as Head Judge for the Aspen X-Games. Next season he’s likely to be the Head Judge for all three X-Games events. We sat down with Jason to chat about his personal and professional perspective on the sport.
Q: When and where did you first start skiing?
A: I first started skiing in South Lake Tahoe, Sierra Tahoe, at about two or three years old. I lived there until 2011, intermittent with traveling between 2006-2011, actually a lot of traveling. Then I moved to Truckee for two years. That’s where I met Eric, founder of Snowledge, when I was working at Woodward’s their opening year at Boreal, where I was a summer coach, and in the winter, I stayed on to do some trampoline coaching. Now I work at Windells here in Oregon, since about 2008.
Q: Where’s home base?
A: Portland, Oregon, but I travel a lot during the season.
Q: What is your favorite mountain to ski at?
A: During the winter, either Mammoth Mountain or Boreal in California, but for summer shredding, definitely Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood! Timberline spring riding is the greatest–it’s warm, you get to ski in the sun, and it’s a great place.
Q: How would you describe your ski style?
Q: Who or what has influenced your style?
A: I think the biggest influence on my skiing style over the years involves a few different responses. Originally, there were a ton of pro skiers who drove me to want to ski a certain way, then I actually transitioned to watching snowboard videos, as I had a lot of friends who were really into snowboarding and I found some inspiration there, but then I got immersed in my own little ski posse and things really took off from there.
Q: Who’s your favorite skier to watch?
A: Khai Krepela
Q: Care to share about your most epic fail, most memorable ski experience, or both?
A: So many great and memorable ski experiences, but I guess I have decent fail that I could speak to, that a lot of people saw, thanks to social media. In 2016 I was head judge at the X Games in Aspen. We went up to Aspen Mountain, where I was skiing with all the judges, and towards the end of the day I got too rowdy with one other judge, and I did small drop off the chair with a little too much air, and went way too big and a vicious tomahawk ensued. Of course, it was posted online for all to see. That year, the only conversations I had outside of judging was, “how are you alive, that was pretty gnarly!”
Q: Which artists are we likely to see on your music playlist while you ski?
A: When I ski I typically ski with friends, so I don’t always listen to music. When I ride alone, I do listen, and almost 100% of the time I am listening to different rap artists, like Notorious BIG, Wu-Tang Clan.
Q: What are some of your other passions besides skiing?
A: I really like photography, and being outdoors in general. I recently just got a dog, a pug mix, he needed a new home and his name is Dude. He hangs out with me all day long, and comes into the office with me every day.
Q: What is it like to be a head judge for the X-Games?
A: At first, it was a little intimidating, I kind of had felt that I lucked into the position, the one event series I had been watching since I first got into skiing, and the only televised ski event that I could find for freeskiing. I felt incredibly honored to be included, and after one season of being a judge, and then moving into the position as head judge, I felt I had a big responsibility to bring my best and do everything I could to stay as true and accurate to the sport I had grown up with, which has done so much for me in my life.
The crazy thing with skiing is what gets a mainstream public push…freeskiing only comes on TV a few times a year, and pretty much whatever is on TV, that’s what the general public thinks the sport is all about.
If the public perception of the sport were to become negative, then it wouldn’t be best represented in the sport that a ton of people have really become interested in, so I have stayed centered around the considering the public perception and trying to show through my efforts that it’s something really cool, something totally original. It’s a fragile line and balance, with all of the things progressing.
Q: How has the Snowledge app improved your experience on or off the mountain?
A: The Snowledge app has been an awesome way to accurately track just how hard you’re charging on any given day at the resort. Plus, the speed tracker gives constant incentive to beat out personal records.
Q: What are you most looking forward to next season?
A: I am excited to be judging again next year, which will be an Olympic year, so a lot of momentum will be happening. I’m looking forward to judging the high-level events, knowing that this next season a lot of athletes and results will really be impactful for those who have their eyes set on the Olympics.
Q: What would you say to the current and next generation of passionate freeskiers who want to stay connected to the sport as they transition out of being on the competitive circuit?
A: Throughout school, I knew that I really liked skiing and that I wanted to stay involved, so I set my sights on being able to stay connected in the industry as I was getting older. Luckily, I have been able to transition my passion for freeskiing into jobs in the industry.
Q: For those coming up in the sport, what would you say they should keep in mind as they train and get out there more?
A: I would say, as corny as it sounds, be yourself and be creative. There is so much out there that pushes a cookie cutter image–especially when it comes to mainstream media–which is genuinely not true to the real sport of freeskiing. Definitely stay creative. There is still room for originality and I believe this sport is still growing.