Jake Sakson is simply taking it as it comes. The 22-year-old professional Telemarker and SCARPA athlete is currently calling Grand Targhee Resort his home turf, and skiing as much as possible. And he’s doing just fine. The former child actor found mountains more appealing than the stage and screen, and is fully playing the part. Competing in Alpine freeskiing events on pins, he’s proven he can hold his own—making it to the podium in a deep field of talent. He’s also a rising force for the Powderwhore film company, whose irreverent, yet grassroots appeal to ski films is a welcome perspective. We got a hold of the young gun and got some insight into the Sakson state of mind.
Where did you grow up? And who first put skis on your feet? I grew up in Carbondale, Colorado. My mom first strapped skis on my feet at a small mountain called Sunlight that to this day has some of the oldest chairlifts still operating. After straight-lining my first run, my mom bought me a helmet. I guess I liked to ski fast back then too.
You grew up snowboarding and alpine skiing, what caused you make the big switch to Telemark? In the winter 2006-07, I went to high school at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, which has an amazing Telemark program. I was drawn in by my fearless leader, Kayo Ogilby. I fell in love with the turn on my first day on the hill. It reinvigorated my love for skiing.
What do you find so inspiring about the Telemark style? Why Telemark? It hurts more; it’s harder and face plants are inevitable. I love Telemark skiing because it demands so much focus and coordination. There isn’t really a time when it’s okay to turn off. There is also a lot more freedom of movement with free heel bindings, and so many ways to turn; it is just so dynamic. It’s also a lot harder to slow down and stop than when alpining, so it forces us to let go and work with the natural terrain of the mountain.
How did your parents get you into acting? And how does a child actor turn into a professional skier? When I was 5 years old there was an ad in the local Carbondale paper for a talent pool audition. They had me read a monologue about how my goldfish died. We spent the next 5 years in LA during pilot season, and at 10 years old I was sick of missing two months of skiing every winter. Now I really hate to miss two days in a row!
What are the differences between skiing for the camera, like in Powderwhore films, versus skiing for the judges in comps? The way I look at lines in both venues is pretty much the same. Nowadays, I’m always searching for the most aesthetic way to lay a line—not necessarily the biggest or gnarliest features. That’s something I learned from working with the Powderwhore guys. I really like hiking the lines that I ski; there is much more intimate interaction with the natural world, and I like to feel the snow before I ski it. The snow quality is always better in the backcountry, which allows for a lot more freedom in the way I ski things. Comps are cool because everyone gets to express themselves on the same features in their own way. I enjoying sharing my interpretation of the venue and seeing what everyone else skis too.
You placed third in a Freeskiing World Tour that was open to Alpine and Telemark. How did it feel to place so well in a field comprised mostly of fixed heelers? Since my first year Telemark skiing, I’ve always wondered if a Telemarker could end up on the podium at a FWT event. So it was pretty damn cool for the dream to come true.
Do you like competing with fixed heelers? Do you care, or is it not something you consider? To be completely honest there is something perversely satisfying about unseating alpiners in their own contests. The Telemark contests are a load of fun though; there is just so much camaraderie and debauchery at those events.
At 22, you’ve got a lot of room to grow as a skier and a person. How do you see yourself evolving with the sport in the coming decade? How do you think Telemark will grow or change in the coming decade? I’m just taking everyday as it comes. I love Telemark skiing. I want to do what I can to bring freeheelers together and change the paradigm of “fix the heel, ski for real,” which I think is already happening. For now skiing is the primary way I challenge and express myself, but it is really just a part of bigger quest to find spiritual health and wellness, so when that modality is ready to shift for me, I’ll roll with it. The freedom of fresh lines is pretty hard to beat though.