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Specialist Carry :: Freeskier (Olympic Special)

Specialist Carry :: Freeskier (Olympic Special)

by , April 22, 2014
In February of this year, Team Norway skidded  onto an ice-scraped landing strip in Sochi, Russia with high hopes and one of the best freeskiing teams in the world. A team assembled only two years preceding the Olympics and a team handpicked by a young coach, soon becoming a hero to the Norwegian public – Christopher Frankum. 
 A pro freeskiier in his own right, very few people know as much as Christopher does about travelling with ski gear and what it takes to be a professional in an uber-transient career. We dropped him a line soon after his Olympic campaign and he recently got back to us to drop the insights…

You’ve just come back from Sochi and the Winter Olympics, how did the team fare?

With the best team performance on the men’s side throughout the season I think the team did great and we had a great experience entering into the Olympic Games. For our one and only girl on the team, Tiril, it didn’t work out with a severe knee injury she had tried to get back from though. That was too bad, since she was the favourite candidate for a gold medal, but both the team around her and herself had done everything they could to fix it. I’m sure she’ll be back for several Olympics in the future.

What was the highlight?

The highlight was the competition day without a doubt. Seeing three of our four guys advancing to finals with great skiing, His Royal Highness of Norway, Crown Prince Haakon jumping for joy after the qualifiers, and last but not least the athletes’ joy over having such a good time skiing the amazing course of Sochi.

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The lowlight?

I struggled a bit with allergy during the games, but other than that there wasn’t really any lowlights.

Any cool / weird / awesome stories from the village? Any dirt? You don’t have to name names…

Not much dirt from the village really… It was funny to see how all the countries were dressed up though. It was kind of a dress-up party with a bunch of different national suits for the Olympics. Every nation having their own pin and trading these for other countries’ pins. The Jamaican bobsled team was an attractive pin to collect for many of the athletes. A bit similar “game” which kids play with baseball cards kind of – trading!

Who was the biggest character in your team and why?

In the time before the games, on the “road to Sochi”, our girl Tiril was the biggest character in Norwegian press and a lot of attention was focused on her. This is because she was clearly the favourite for gold, but also because of her story of being injured in December and almost like a miracle she managed to get on her skis again a couple of weeks before the games. The pain was too severe though, and she had to pull out after two days of official practice in Sochi. In the day of competition and after it, Andreas Håtveit became a bigger profile for the Norwegian people with being maybe the happiest 4th place athlete of the Olympics. It was the last competition of his career, and he was just happy with his performance and for experiencing the Olympics in a good way.

You’ve been applauded for putting together one of the best teams in freeskiing in only two years. What’s been the secret to your and the team’s success?

Freeskiing is a sport which has been developed by the athletes from the late 1990s and has become an Olympic discipline within Freestyle in no time. This has been a crucial thing to take into consideration when putting together a program towards the Olympics and preparing the athletes. The athletes are self made, and the majority of our team have never been coached, so the management has maybe been the most important. We have tried to take all individual needs into consideration when planning a training camp, or how to get from one place to another. This hasn’t always been easy, but I think by letting the athletes understand that we take their opinion into consideration every time we make a decision for the whole team, this makes us believe in each other and helps us to work towards a common objective.

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What makes a great freeskier?

A great freeskier is a skier who loves to ski. Every damn day as we say. Whether it’s sunny or terrible weather a great freeskier finds a way to enjoy himself or herself on skis. It’s about inner motivation and the will to learn more, to progress every day, every metre of the slope. Other aspects such as being fit and gymnastics are also important measures in becoming a great freeskier, but this kind of develops itself when you ski and try to progress a lot. Sometimes you have to try a trick a hundred times or more, and the skier who does so will become great. Striving for greatness, as the no. 1 basketball player LeBron James says.

Any guiding philosophies you live by?

I think that “Transformational management” is a good way to guide people. Make them understand that the thing you ask them to do will benefit them in the future. Either for the short term goal, or the harder one, the long term goal.

How many freeskiing athletes did you take to Sochi? 

One girl, four boys/men for slopestyle and one guy for halfpipe. The maximum a country is allowed to bring is four of each gender and the quota is earned from an 18-month World Cup period.

That must equate to truckloads of ski equipment. Are there strategies for travelling to such an important event? Like do you ship multiple sets of skis ahead of time for each Olympian? Or do you carry-on?

We actually traveled to Sochi as we travel to every other contest in the world. One “Douchebag” with two to three pairs of skis and other equipment and one normal bag with clothes. No magic! We brought a service team though that was in charge of all the preparing of the equipment. All their tech equipment was shipped in advance with cargo.

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What key challenges do you face? Are there customs issues or size/length limitations?

No really big issues. We were met by a set of helpers who guided us around the airports and accreditation center. We had to go through a couple of security checks with all the equipment and other bags though. A top level security staff was established for the games and we were in good hands.

What would make travelling with all this gear easier?

You can say we need as much space as possible with as light travel gear as possible. It’s transits and carrying the luggage that are the key issues. I think we have a pretty good setup today as we try to communicate our needs with MyDouchebag, and they work towards making the best freeskiing equipment possible.

Do you envision a better future of carrying all this stuff around the globe?  Blue sky ideas? Maybe 3D printers that can print your skis when you arrive, so you don’t need to carry the equipment at all?

Haha, 3D printers and luggage would be the best, but then you would have to get used to your new equipment every time. I think maybe a caddy, like in golf, would work out!

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Being that you spend the majority of your time in minus degree weather and snow-bound, what does that icy environment demand from your gear? What’s important design-wise?

It depends on what’s in our bags. But when in training, and on our way to the slopes, we don’t like to have cold boots or have our water frozen. Thermal equipment helps us out. A lot of wear and tear occurs when travelling around the globe. It’s important that our gear gets maintained and that our travel gear is protective.

Are there any features from other carry products (messengers, roller luggage, etc) that would be beneficial to you, that isn’t being utilized in what is currently out there for your specialized gear carry?  For example telescoping handles, 360 rolling wheels, etc.

360 rolling wheels could be really good on ski bags. You know when you have to make turns at the airport and suddenly you use too much space and it doesn’t work out or other people get angry with you. Sometimes longer telescoping handles is nice as well, so that your computer bag doesn’t keep hitting/interfering with how you carry your other bag.

You’ve also traveled the world as a professional athlete and played a role in rad ski films with Peak Performance. So, over all those years of globe hopping what did you learn about the best ways to travel? Any favourite tips or habits for travelling better?

Learn what you need and what you don’t need when packing your bags. You can spare a lot of weight and travel easier, and that’s a lot more pleasant. Other than that, it helps a lot when you are rewarded the gold and platinum cards from airlines… Just getting away from the crowd at the airports and not having to queue up every time helps a lot. So be smart and choose the right reward program getting you to a top card quick!

Any nightmare travel stories? Had any run-ins with hostile customs officers?

Of course, when you travel back and forth to the US and they wonder what you really do, and you say that you are the manager of the Norwegian freeskiing team and they say “Huh? First of all you’re too young to be a manager and second of all you can’t make money out of that”. You have to explain way too much…or when you travel through California to Canada and they laugh at you and don’t believe you are carrying skis. Quite often it helps to drop the “X Games” word… That you’re going to the X Games, or have been there. You’ll get a sudden change of tone and free overweight.

Any trouble with lost luggage or stolen gear?

No stolen gear at the airports really…just delayed ski bags, very often when travelling to the US with connecting flights in Frankfurt, Newark or London.

What’s the best way to survive on the pro circuit?

I think for an athlete it’s important to sometimes realize that you’re kind of in a “bubble” and that it’s your job to perform. Sometimes you just have to get up early even though you can and want to stay in bed because of bad weather and sore legs. It’s hard work that pays off whatever you do. For us around the athletes we just have to try to get some time for ourselves I think…and talk to other managers and socialize, even though it’s almost work 24/7 365 days a year.

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How do you cope with so much travel? What keeps you grounded?

I guess you just get used to it, you find your own ways to get over jetlag and stressful travel. Hotels and the quality of them I think becomes more and more important. Just being able to relax a bit…have some comfort. And always have short term and long term goals with your work. Keep your focus on something else than travelling itself.

Can you give me the essential carry kit when travelling the globe in search of rad powder (bags, accessories etc.)?

The original Douchebag with two sets of skis, 1 x really fat playful skis and 1 x safe skis = skis you can use wherever and whenever in a resort if there’s bad conditions. A Douchebag Hugger backpack for your boots and other stuff to carry on the aircraft in case your skibag gets delayed/lost. The boots are the most important, they are hard to replace with a set of rental boots. And then you need a Douchebag regular bag for your other stuff.

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What do you personally look for in good carry?

Comfort and functionality. I need my laptop, a water bottle and some training gear and it has to be light, comfy and easy to run, cycle or walk with. Then I’m pretty much set!

What bags do you run with daily and why? Pics?

The Douchebag Hugger (the photo with the ski boots in front).

What’s your go-to travel bag?

The Douchebag Hugger as well. It’s kind of an everyday travel or not piece I love to use.

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You’re sponsored by a brand we really dig: Douchebags. Tell us about them? Why have they hit such a nerve with the ski community? 

Douchebags are nailing the specific need of an action sport traveller. Their products reflect the needs of travellers heading for great powder, parks or other experiential activities. For example you can pack what you need of ski equipment, carry it around without getting exhausted, and stay relaxed knowing your gear is protected and good to go when you arrive. The space, weight and comfort are all taken care of in their products.

Are they making the best carry system/carry product for your gear right now?

Yes, without a doubt. I wouldn’t have managed without it.

What single skiing moment has given you the biggest smile?

I think my first real turn in neck deep Japanese powder has got me smiling the biggest smile of my life while skiing so far. I can still feel it and hope to go back as soon as possible!

What’s next for Chris Frankum?

Right now, I’m happy to be spending some time home in Oslo and at the office working with next season’s financing for the team. Other than that I hope to have a little warm Easter vacation soon. I’ve had winter non-stop for quite a while now.

If you weren’t a pro skier, coach, instructor and all-round rad dude, what profession would you be doing now?

I hope I’d be some other type of kind of rad dude having fun, haha.

 

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