SCARPA-athlete Dylan Freed has quite the pedigree. Mentored for years by world-class mountaineers, the humble and precocious ski mountaineer who’s not even a quarter century old already has years of professional skiing under his belt, which happens to be black, if you catch our drift. He’s all in, and here’s what he has to say.
You grew up in SLC in the mountaineering community. How has it been having hard man alpinist Mark Twight as your uncle? How did that influence you?
Having Mark as an influence when I was young has been the strongest force on my direction in life. He introduced me to what the mountains can offer, if you’re allowed to trespass in them long enough, and the way friendships and experiences evolve with people who embody similar attitudes. Seeing him in another realm as a compassionate family member made me aware that other people’s perceptions and the personas people create in the media are rarely accurate.
In addition to Twight, you’ve had a lot of great mentors to learn from, including Andrew McLean. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from them?
Skiing and traveling with Andrew McLean is always entertaining. Whether swerving around Tehran in an ‘88 Land Cruiser cheating death (in an auto accident), waiting for cameramen in Iceland in a whiteout, or skiing some “low angle bullshit” on a high danger day in the Wasatch, he always has an incredibly positive attitude. It has been great to have a friend and mentor that has taught me about what it’s like to be a traveler and make the best of any experience you’re given.
I spend a large chunk of the year out of my home country now and have really come to appreciate the perspective he gave me those years ago. Getting out of your comfort zone both mentally and physically while traveling to ski in mountains all over the world is what he has been doing for many years, and something I look forward to doing with him again sometime soon.
You’ve made a full time commitment to the mountains, an education in and of itself. Do you have any ambition to continue with college?
Guiding skiing and teaching avalanche courses has become my career. I now travel to New Zealand to guide heli-skiing during their winter months, and manage to get some springtime to myself in the northern and southern hemispheres for other activities. My future education in the short term will involve acquiring certifications through the American Mountain Guides Association to further my guiding skills, and open opportunities in countries around the world. Continuing with college at this point would require a season-ending injury for me to submit.
Gathering knowledge in a university environment appealed to me in the medical realm to be better equipped in mountain emergencies, and in the engineering field for snow science at multiple times when I was younger. I would have a really hard time now sitting inside an institution of learning that pays their football coach more than their entire science department in a year. But, I can’t rule it out completely.
Many people might not know this, but you also like martial arts. In what discipline is your black belt? Do mountaineering and martial arts require a similar focus?
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to martial arts seriously around 12 years old, and it’s something I carry around with me everyday. I trained in the weapon-based Pilipino martial arts Kali, Eskrima, and Silat, as well as Jeet Kune Do, and Muay Thai kickboxing. I have since trained a bit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and dabbled in a few others. I think having a quiet confidence and humble exterior in all elements of life is the attribute I take advantage of the most in my mountain life.
I really enjoy the Hurricane Pro for Heli-ski guiding; it allows me to drive the biggest skis imaginable, and still have awesome traction around the Heli-pad and rocky terrain. Having a walk mode also gives me the skin-to-win option and comfort while walking tram/telepherique lines around the world.
My go-to boot for big days or mountaineering objectives is always the Maestrale. I am always amazed how well the skin-to-ski ratio is. I have never worn another boot that skins as well, yet still has the ability to perform on steep, technical descents. Both boots are also incredibly warm, comfortable, and light.
What projects are you working on this coming season? What are some of your short-term and long-term goals, in skiing or otherwise?
Certainly looking forward to hopefully another successful trip to Europe if they continue to get snow. La Grave has become my favorite destination for multiple reasons: incredible terrain, few people, great access, and awesome wine-cheese-meat-bread-chocolate combos.
Having another incredible year guiding in AK has been something I’ve looked forward to since the last day of our season last year. It will be my 6th year guiding there, and it’d be another conservative 30 or so to ski all the terrain I’ve stared at through the helicopter window. Hopefully, I’ll get some trips this spring in Alaska to ranges I’ve never been in order to get the hiking legs back and the heli-belly gone!
My long-term goals include more trips to places I haven’t even heard of yet, to attempt skiing lines in good style with aesthetic and challenging aspects, all with the reward of diverse travel experiences.