Skiing: Schiller to compete in Freeride championship |

Skiing: Schiller to compete in Freeride championship

by Joey Crandall

Douglas High graduate J.J. Schiller will stake his claim for a spot on the North American Free Skiing Tour this week.

Schiller, who graduated from Douglas last year, was set to compete in the North American Freeride Championship this week at Kirkwood. He was hoping to qualify for the five-stop tour next year so that he could further his career in the growing sport.

“I competed in the qualifier for this last year, but I lost my pole on my first run,” he said. “In order to qualify, you have to pretty much have a perfect run. I’m hoping for a better run this year.”

Free skiing, for all intents and purposes, is a downhill competition the combines speed, freestyle and course difficuly in scoring from a panel of judges.

“What you see on the Olympics, that’s pretty much just racing,” Schiller said. “Free skiing takes everything from racing and throws you out in the backcountry with the cliffs and chutes.

“There is a lot more creativity involved. In racing, you take two runs and the course is all laid out for you beforehand. Free skiing, you have the entire mountain and your run becomes your own little creation.”

Schiller said the judges take into account the speed a skier makes it from top to bottom, but weighs that against how technical the run is and the quality to which the skier can navigate it.

“Living in the Sierra, there is so much to take advantage of with this sport,” Schiller said. “Not too many people do though. It’s not nearly as popular out here as it is in Utah and Colorado.”

Schiller started skiing with the Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation when he first got into racing, but ended up helping to start a free ride team at Kirkwood when he was 12.

“There are a lot of local guys up there, and it is a tight local community,” he said. “I just go out every weekend and ski as hard as I can.”

Schiller said he is currently sponsored by Kirkwood and a company out of Reno called Moment.

“Last year, I was the youngest guy in the competition,” he said. “My hopes this year are simply to qualify for the second day. If I make it to the third, that’s even better.”

The tour also makes stops in Telluride, Colo., Squaw Valley, Calif., Snowbird, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The championships run through this weekend.

— Joey Crandall can be reached at or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.