Oakley White-Allen has competed on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour since 2007, but one could argue that this year has been his breakout year: In January, he got second place and the Sickbird award at the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in Revelstoke, third place at the Freeride World Tour stop in Chamonix, and he's currently ranked second overall on the Freeride World Tour rankings. We spoke to the Salt Lake City, Utah, resident about the changing style of big mountain skiing, bamboo poles, and sketchy landings.
You've been competing for a while now.
I've been on the [Freeskiing World] Tour now for five years, but for three of them I only did Snowbird. I never really had the resources to put myself on tour. I was really just enjoying practicing and dialing in my skiing.
That seems to be your style, enjoying yourself and finding natural lines.
Yeah, that was a big eye-opener for me the first year I competed at Snowbird. In the qualifier I had built up more speed than I needed and went to shut some speed down above a big cliff and wasn't able to slow down enough. I had to air off it blindly to a really sketchy landing, but I pulled it off somehow. I hit a tree stump afterward at like 50 miles an hour and it hurt so bad. It was just a result of me trying to show off and skiing really fast. So I changed my approach at that point and I've been doing a lot better. I don't crash quite as often, but I still crash.
How have you seen the sport change in the last five years?
When I first started out it seemed like the more exposure you got yourself tangled into and the bigger your airs were, the higher your scores. The way it seems to be going now, the more aesthetically pleasing your run is, that's going to determine your score. You still need to get into these exposed areas where your line score will be bumped up but I see the judges rewarding a prettier style of skiing than they use to.
Which do you like better?
I tend to ski more aesthetic lines versus something more mind-blowing and scary, so it suits me as an athlete. It also does the sport a lot of good because it shows that [these lines] are all calculated, that this isn't just extreme and dangerous. You don't have to be a crazy person that wants to go really fast and really big all the time. If you love to freeski and you have a mind for it, you can theoretically do well on this tour.
You used to compete in big air, halfpipe, and slopestyle events. Do you still ski in the park?
I would, but I ski at Snowbird, so there's no park. I go over to Brighton or Solitude every once in a while and hit the booters. I miss halfpipe the most. If I could get to Park City easier, I'd still ride pipe at least one day a week. So, yeah, I don't shy away from the park.
You're involved with Panda Poles, a new bamboo ski pole manufacturer. What's your role there?
I'm one of the founders. I'm the team manager, as well as an athlete. It's been a project for about four years, finding the bamboo, developing our new 'reduce snag and drag' baskets. Last January, we launched the company. People have really been grabbing on to it -- they're interested in the aesthetic of the old-style ski pole and also interested in ways to make skiing a more ecologically sustainable sport. We can't really make a 'green' ski right now, and I don't know if we'll ever be able to with all the epoxies. But poles seemed to be a good compromise.