Edwards snowboarder Blake Moller wins Freeride World Tour overall season title
Tour concluded at the end of March in Verbier, Switzerland
VAIL — Last year, Blake Moller knocked on the door. In 2022, he stomped it in.
After a dazzling rookie Freeride World Tour campaign that saw the 21-year-old Edwards product slip to second overall after possessing the golden leader’s bib up until the Verbier final — “I just didn’t show up as well,” he stated about his 2021 third-place finish — Moller took second at the 2022 season’s final stop on March 26 at the legendary Bec de Rosses course to win the overall world title.
“It felt cool to get redemption,” Moller said.
After experiencing “the gnarliest, scariest moment on my snowboard in a long time” during a fall above the infamous Hazelcliffe on his first run down the Wildseeloder in Austria the week prior, Moller snatched back his confidence with a stellar second run to win the penultimate competition.
“That was super exciting and motivating,” he said about heading to the best-of-two-runs format final in Switzerland in poll position. “Some people say it’s more pressure, but I think it’s more exciting than anything. Everybody wants to be in your position so you might as well capitalize on where you’re at.”
Instead of quaking over a potentially déjà vu choke, Moller anticipated his opportunity with eagerness.
“I knew I could do it and I knew I could give it another crack and make it happen and feel good about it,” he said.
The finish line of the Bec de Rosses slope where he reached the pinnacle of his craft was also where it all started.
At the 22nd edition of Xtreme Verbier in 2018, Grifen Moller strapped in atop the distinguished face of rocks and boulders while his little brother, Blake, watched from below.
“Wow! I really want to snowboard that mountain,” Blake remembers saying to himself.
Up to that point, the Battle Mountain High School graduate who moved to Edwards as a 5-year-old had competed solely in slopestyle and halfpipe competitions, honing his park skills with buddies at Copper Mountain under the tutelage of Jim Smith and Tommy Bennett.
“I’d say the reason why I’m where I am today is because of everything they taught me and all the halfpipe riding I did — that just makes you such a good snowboarder,” he said.
Moller fondly recalled memories of Smith and Bennett eschewing endless hikes up and down the pipe for powder days hitting logs in the woods.
Of course, standing on top of 58-degree gullies with a single, improvised run to determine the medal stand is a little bit different than a manicured Olympic halfpipe. It was this very spontaneous artistic freedom that Moller fell in love with that day four years ago.
“Like I said, competing (in slopestyle/halfpipe) was so intense — I was really inspired by everything that was going on and how laid back everyone was,” he said, contrasting big mountain freeriding to park competitions. “No doubt, the mountain and riding are intense, but apart from that, there are no coaches, nobody telling you what to do. It’s really free and amazing in that sense.”
He cut his teeth on steeps following his brothers and dad around Beaver Creek and Vail; he’s still the only snowboarder in the family.
“I would just follow Grifen and have no other option than to hit everything he was hitting because if not, then he would make fun of me,” he laughed. “I think that that’s why I got into the big mountain stuff. Growing up, following both of my brothers and my dad around, it was always just high-speed skiing and they would always want to find good snow.”
The “different vibe between skiers and snowboarders” impacted his riding style.
“I think I’m somewhere in the middle,” Moller said of his place along the continuum. “That can like be still super snowboarder-esque but like a more speed or look at it a little more fall-line kind of thing. And Grifen taught me all of that, for sure.”
It has also allowed him to approach his preparation for the unique FWT competitions, void of practice runs. Riders must study maps, previous videos and reports from forerunners to determine potential lines and tricks they will take in their single shot. Moller, who claims he formulates his run in 30 minutes, enjoys gleaning takes from both snowboarder and skier camps, locking their collective binoculars up onto the next day’s face from the mountain’s base.
“There’s only so many hits that go at a certain venue that work. Skiers look at things a little bit differently and snowboarders can handle that, too,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trusting your ability.”
Instead of locking himself in a room with high-def photos and YouTube videos of previous years’ runs, Moller prefers a more laid-back, tangible approach.
“I can’t sit there for hours — I just have to go snowboard, because that’s what I do,” he said. “You see a feature, you’re like, ‘Cool, that goes,’ and then you go hit it.”
In between 2022 FWT events, the Salomon athlete has spent considerable time at the company’s headquarters in Annecy, France, working with Brendon Hupp to produce a film profiling five of the brand’s hottest young stars.
“It was super fun to get a fresh breath of air after each competition,” Moller sighed of his side-hustle.
The film, set to debut in the fall, has brought him across Europe and given him a structured schedule the athlete has appreciated during his first “normal, non-COVID, FWT season.”
“It was cool to have a designated plan. It kept me on my toes,” he said.
The difference between shooting a Warren Miller-type film and competing in FWT is akin to the distinction between performing on Broadway and starring in Hollywood. They’re both acting, but the polarity is obvious.
“It’s pretty hard, especially with one run. When you’re filming it’s different. You can … try again, basically,” he said. “The FWT is so different — unlike anything we do in our industry. That’s why it’s special to me. It’s so on-the-spot and unpredictable.”
It’s a thrill Moller has been hooked on ever since that 2018 afternoon. Returning to the same place to strike gold was extra special.
“It was cool that I got to end it on a win and riding the Bec de Rosses,” Moller said, his usual care-free, exuberant tone sentimentalizing ever so slightly. “Glad it worked out the way it did.”
Continuing to climb
Some would say, at this point, the 21-year-old Salt Lake City resident has it made. Moller’s incentive-driven Salomon contract is enough for him to make a living doing what he loves while spending summers and falls in warmer weather climbing, surfing and skateboarding, the latter hobby being the activity which first brought him to snowboarding.
“Right now I’ve had some things come up that are really amazing,” the grateful athlete joyfully pronounced. “New doors have been opening and it’s so fun. I’m just so happy with where I’m at.”
He doesn’t plan on slowing down, saying of his future, “The way I look at it is that I want to put out good content for as long as I can and until I feel like there’s a new generation and it’s their time to come up.”
Then, he hopes to pay it forward.
“Older pros are totally accepting us and are willing to give up some to help us out, so I think that’s really cool and I’d like to return that favor eventually,” Moller said. “And just keep it fresh and new blood and exciting. I think that’s important in our sport because you can only watch someone snowboard for so long before you know what they’re going to do every single time.”
Blake and Grifen hope to head to the desert to climb “as many towers as we can in a weekend,” while bunking in the back of his truck. “The more climbing, skating and surfing I can do, the more prepared I’ll be in the winter — that’s what I like to think,” he chuckles.
Presently, a more urgent need is occupying his mind: His brother’s bachelor party.
“That’s like my main goal. I have to dial that in,” he sheepishly admits.
In November, he’ll ditch the desert for Brighton with his snowboarding comrades to prepare to defend his crown.
“We’ll warm everything up,” he said about the return from a long, intentional absence from his board.
“And then next thing you know, we’re all just hucking again.”
Go ahead and count them. With his win Sunday in the men’s snowboard slopestyle final, Mark McMorris was able to break his tie with Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals ever won with 22 — and counting.