Swede Webster fighting nerves and field at Breckenridge
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” If you see Jacob Wester before a competition, don’t be alarmed if he looks a bit, well, under the weather. Most likely, he’s spent the last few days sleeping about as much as Bode Miller and eating no more than a Hollywood actress.
And it’s not that the 21-year-old freeskier isn’t taking care of himself, because if you saw him ” on any other day, of course ” he looks the way someone should who is at the top of a professional sport.
When it comes to competing, though, Wester’s a wreck.
“When it is actually time for a competition, I hate it,” the Swede said. “I get really nervous. I can’t eat or sleep for days before the contest. It’s really stressful.”
Well, if Wester feels like his intestines are in knots before a run, it doesn’t show on the outside or in his results.
The stoic Swede won last year’s slopestyle competition at the North American Open at Breckenridge and has won two of his four events so far this fall.
All in all, it adds up to Wester being one of the top freeskiers to watch when the Winter Dew Tour’s men’s ski slopestyle prelims take off Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Wester said that he always dreamed of making a living in skiing, he just figured that it would have to do with gates and speed rather than jibs and air.
Born and raised in Sweden, Wester began skiing at an early age. His mother, who was an Alpine racer in her day, taught him the ropes. “We’d go up almost every weekend and take family vacations to ski,” Wester said.
He began racing at age 5 and continued to do so until he switched to moguls when he was 12. By accident, he moved over to freeskiing. “I used to do it all the time after regular practice ” I’d go hit a jump or a rail or something like that just for fun,” he said. When he was 13, big air competitions started popping up in Sweden, so Wester decided to sign up.
“I went to a couple of those and did all right, and I realized that this was it, it was what I wanted to do,” he said.
Things took off from there.
“It all happened pretty naturally,” he said. “All of a sudden, I had sponsors and everything.”
Wester burst onto the international scene when he finished fourth in the 2005 U.S. Open Big Air competition. Not only was it his first top finish in an international event, it was his first time even compe ing in one.
“That was a big one for me,” Wester said. “… It was my first year even over here [in the U.S.]” Since then, Wester has risen through the ranks of slopestyle skiers. He competes on an international schedule each winter and also fits in some filming sessions. Last year, he jumped in a helicopter for a backcountry shoot for Matchstick Productions.
“It opened my eyes that there’s so much more to skiing than just the park,” Wester said.
While he enjoyed the filming trips, Wester still prefers competition because of the excitement and the interaction with fans.
Last Friday, Wester was in Breckenrdge for an outing with Oakley, one his main sponsors.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” he said of signing autographs for fans. “That someone would wait in line in the snow for your signature, it’s pretty surreal.”
Though still barely old enough for an adult beverage, Wester already knows that when it’s time for him to leave the sport, he won’t be hanging around past his prime. In fact, he’s already got his exit strategy. Well, sort of.
“I have this thing that if I don’t place in the top-10 in three consecutive comps, I’m going to quit,” West er said with a laugh.
So, beyond the obvious goal of placing in the top 10, Wester has high expectations riding into Thursday’s Dew Tour prelims.
“I’ve been skiing really well, so I’m expecting to do well,” he said. “I want to get to the podium. That would be huge for me.”
No matter how Wester’s week in Breck finishes up, he’ll probably be feeling a lot better once it’s over.
“I’m already a little nervous,” he said almost a week ago. “… Once I’m done with a comp and finished my run, it doesn’t really matter if I finished first or last, just the feeling of being done is nice. It’s obviously better if you win, though.”
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