This year we are trying something new. We have four Terrain Park Coordinators who are responsible for designing, setting up, and maintaining the terrain park along with the Freestyle Cadets. We divided the season into four and gave each coordinator a quarter of the season to design their own signature park. We drew straws and James Holak got the first quarter, followed by Will Smyth, Tommy Smyth, and Mitchel Kasper. As part of getting a chance to design the terrain park we decided to sit down with each coordinator for an interview which we will share with our community.
The terrain park at Chester Bowl has always had a DYI feel to it. In the early 2000’s, when we first started teaching kids during Freestyle Fridays, the groomer would push a big pile of snow at the crest of the hill on Strawberry Run and we would shape a cheese wedge jump that would launch skiers and snowboarders way down the hill onto a flat landing. It was very reminiscent of the ski jumps that still loomed overhead at the time. Gradually, we added more features like a homemade funbox, topped with cutting boards donated from Old Chicago and built from metal that was found behind a garage in the park. As we learned how to weld better the park grew into what we have today and the kids grew up along with the park.
James Holak is one of those kids who has grown up along side of our terrain park. But he hasn’t always been the skier that we know today. Not too long ago he was your average little skier kid in an oversized jacket, bombing down the hill scaring everyone who was watching from inside the chalet. Then it happened. James, along with the rest of his crew, got really, really good at skiing seemingly overnight. Those of us who were working on the hill witnessed a transformation from a little kid to a super creative, entertaining, and talented skier with a unique style resembling that of a skateboarder. Combining their love of filming, editing, and skiing, James and his friends have defined what it means to be a freestyle skier at Chester Bowl.
After a night spent digging in his signature terrain park, James sat down with Sam Luoma for an interview which is transcribed below. James is young man of few words so we feel lucky to get insight from one of the most influential skiers who call Chester Bowl their home mountain.
Sam: How old are you, what school do you go to, and how long have you been part of Chester Bowl?
James: I am 18, I go to East High School. I have probably been skiing here for 12 years, I would say.
Sam: Besides skiing, what do you do?
James: I play lacrosse, I make videos, skateboard but I have not skateboarded in a long time. Swim in the summer.
Sam: Pretty much outside stuff?
Sam: What things influence your skiing?
James: Videos I watch of skiing. Seeing other parks. Skateboarding. I try to make my skiing look like skateboarding or snowboarding.
Sam: You film and edit a lot of skiing. In what ways has filming influenced your skiing?
James: When I am skiing I try to make it look good and imagine that I am being filmed. I try to make the features I am riding worth it so I try to have the best feature, the best tricks, and the best style as I can so it looks better.
Sam: Do you have any favorite skiing, snowboarding, and skateboard videos?
James: Interpretation by the Bunch, Eat the Guts by HG Skis, Mayday by Video Grass, and the new GX1000 video.
Sam: One of the big things that I noticed with your skiing is that it reminded me of skateboarding. Not many people were skiing like that 5 years ago. How would you describe your style of skiing?
James: I watched a lot of urban videos and saw what they were doing and sparked what I wanted to emulate. Mostly snowboarding though.
Sam: A lot of the kids here who grew up watching you and the rest of the crew now have a similar style. How do you feel about being a role model?
James: It makes me happy to see people, not necessarily copy what I am doing but put their own spin on it and make it their thing.
Sam: How did your style shape what you wanted to do with your terrain park design?
James: I try to setup every feature so that it could be my favorite feature or something that would look good while filming. I also try to make the features link together so I can film a line.
Sam: Who do you mostly ski/ ride with?
James: Will & Tommy Smyth, Eli Koski, Gordon Buffington, Peter Lochner, Hans Larson, Ryan Brueninghaus and I hope I am not leaving anyone out.
Sam: You are about to graduate from high school, what’s next?
James: I am probably going to go to school in Montana, not necessarily because of the skiing but they have a pretty good ski scene out there and some good street spots. Also, Will is probably going to go out there with me so it’s going to be nice.
Sam: Do you have any advice for kids wanting to be involved with the terrain park?
James: Put in the work and be creative. It is very rewarding to see what you’ve helped out with when completed.