The Flylow athlete and FWT rookie made a name for himself in year one.
Ross Tester is a Tahoe-bred skier and Flylow athlete who made splashes on the Freeride World Tour this season as the American rookie who nearly nabbed the top spot overall in the men’s ski division. Tester, age 22, ended up in a close second place, just behind overall winner Kristofer Turdell from Sweden. But he won the first two contests of the season and entered the Verbier, Switzerland, finale of the tour as the skier to watch. We chatted with Tester, who grew up skiing the slopes of Squaw Valley, California, and now calls Utah home, after the tour wrapped up to see what he has planned for spring and if he’ll back on the FWT next year.
Flylow: This was your first year on the Freeride World Tour. What were your goals going into this season?
Ross Tester: Going into this season as a rookie, my main goal was to keep a balanced mindset going into each run to make sure nothing went wrong and to have as much fun as possible as I made my way down.
You won your first-ever FWT contest, at Ordino-Arcalís. What did that feel like and how did you celebrate your victory?
When I won the first competition, I didn’t know what to think. I was overwhelmed with stoke and surprise, considering the number of great riders I was up against. I went into the competition with no expectations except to have fun with it and I was surprised to have it all work out. After I won, we did some party shredding and had a few drinks in the FWT riders’ lounge and played Mario Kart. Overall, the aftermath was pretty chill with COVID regulations, but it was still a good time.
What has competing internationally during COVID felt like? What is different on the tour this year due to the pandemic?
Competing internationally during COVID was interesting. The FWT handled it very well by getting us tested consistently while managing crowds, mask-wearing, and the athlete bubble. Not a single person tested positive, which is impressive given that each of us got 10+ tests each. I was super bummed to miss out on Japan and Kicking Horse this season since those are some of the best competitions in my opinion, but it was good incentive to make the tour next year.
You went into the Verbier finale leading the men’s ski rankings. How do you do under pressure?
Going into the competition at Verbier, I felt like I handled the pressure well. I knew people would be gunning to beat me but just like any comp, I wanted to stay focused on finding a line that I could ski confidently and not get too caught up in what others were thinking. The mountains in Verbier are steep and exposed, so I was definitely nervous to ski but after some inspection, I found lines that I knew I could enjoy and would be fun to watch.
What happened in Verbier? You had a good run still, but it wasn’t enough to hold your first-place position?
In my run at Verbier, I had a few issues. I had a run planned that I thought was for sure a winning line but snow conditions and poor inspection on my part led me to have to bail on my plans and improvise mid-run to hit a totally different line. I would say things went pretty well considering I completely missed my line.
What do you wish Americans knew about the Freeride World Tour that the European fans and spectators already know?
I think Americans may not realize how difficult it can be to visually inspect a mountain that you have never seen before. In Europe, it’s mandatory to know where you’re going a lot of the time because there are huge cliffs and crevasses that you need to avoid.
What do you know now that you didn’t know at the beginning of the season?
Some good advice for future rookies would be to pack light because you end up accumulating all kinds of stuff you don’t expect. My bags were way overweight and bursting at the seams on my way back so I will definitely be keeping that in mind for the future.
What’s on tap for the rest of your spring?
The rest of my spring is looking pretty low-key at this point. I’ll definitely be getting a lot of spring skiing and bike rides in and seeing friends and family.
Will you compete on the FWT again next year?
At this point, I am definitely planning on returning to the tour. Some of my friends and fellow Flylow riders Jack and Kevin Nichols will be returning to the scene so I’m super stoked to have them come along. I’m also excited to have a full tour with less COVID regulations to get the full experience.