Jamesa Hampton is a 24 year old skier and engineer from New Zealand on a journey to qualify for the Freeride World Tour. He has competed around the world for several years and after narrowly missing out on qualification last year he is determined to make his mark in 2020. He is also part of the MFC (Mountains Freeride Canterbury) skiing group responsible for producing short films, and running junior Freeride training programmes.
What was the path that led you to today?
I have grown up skiing the Canterbury club fields in New Zealand, which is like winding the clock back to the 1950s. We have no groomers, a lot of rocks and a piece of rope that you clip onto with a harness to drag you up the mountain. This leaves you no choice but to adapt or go home. With the help of friends and family I was able to adapt, which eventually led me down the path of competitive Freeride skiing.
Who inspired you to do what you do?
My friends and the people I ski with every day have undoubtedly inspired and shaped me into who I am. It all started from watching older the kids doing backflips and thinking how awesome it was. I was lucky enough to follow them around, alongside my good friends Craig and Charlie Murray and before we knew it we were doing them too.
What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?
Freeride skiing is a sport where you're so vulnerable to the environment. Everyone has had an event where they feel incredibly hard done by. It's not uncommon for the start of the field to compete in good conditions only for the weather and snow to deteriorate for the last few riders. It's hard not to think that it's unfair sometimes, but I've found that the ability to adapt to the environment as it changes is such an important quality for a competitor to have. When conditions work in your favour you have to embrace it but you should always be prepared for the worst because conditions can change so quickly in the mountains.
Winning The North Face Frontier in 2019 in front of a home crowd was a huge highlight for me. I had a great support crew at the bottom and was even joined on the podium with my two good friends Hank Bilous and Craig Murray. Blasting them with champagne was a pretty special experience. Before 2019, I had competed on this venue five times and only landed my run once. This had a huge impact on my confidence and I was feeling extremely nervous at the top. Being able to put down a solid run with no mistakes was a dream come true and set me up nicely for the remainder of the competition season.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To surround yourself with positive people and people that you aspire to be like. Eventually some of it will rub off on you.
What are the things that help you get through each adventure and why?
I love to expect the unexpected on all of my adventures. No great adventure has ever gone perfectly to plan and expecting them to is setting yourself up for failure. The best trips I've experienced are the ones where it feels like everything is going wrong, all hope is almost lost and then suddenly something changes and you can click into gear. And if things don't make a change for the better, at least you've got a good story to share with your mates.
What scares you and how do you deal with fear?
It's hard not to get scared before dropping into a big line or competition run. It's really important to do your research beforehand and make sure you know exactly where you're going. I find this can shift my mindset from being uncertain to knowing exactly what I have to do and relying on my skills to execute it. I also try to visualise myself doing the run perfectly a few times in my head, which I think makes a big difference.
Why is getting outdoors so important in modern life?
It can be so easy to get caught up in work, stress or problems in life. I find the mountains are a place to escape these problems of everyday life and realise what's really important. Once I click into my skis, all other problems feel so far away and all I can think about is where the best snow is or where I can find a nice rock to jump off. I think that everyone needs some kind of getaway in their lives and I'm lucky to call mine the mountains.
Amongst all of the adventures you have been involved with, which is the most unforgettable and why?
In 2018, while filming our movie “Southern Alps” we stayed at Centennial hut on the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand. We had tried and failed to get up there before due to bad weather but this time we lucked out and scored a great weather window. Being able to ski down to the hut while watching the sun set over the Tasman Sea was really special. Definitely an area that I need to explore further!
Who has been an unsung in your life?
Hard to pick one, but I think the original Freeriders from the ‘80s are pretty cool. What they managed to do on two metre long straight skis leaves my mind boggled.
What's next for you?
My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Freeride World Tour. To do this I need to finish my season on the Freeride World Qualifiers in 3rd place or better. I'm currently sitting in 3rd with two competitions to go so anything could happen!
Do you have a motto you live by?
Win some lose most.