Germany's star skier
Lisa Zimmermann, 17, might just be the future of women's slopestyle skiing. And she's from Germany, a country that has yet to produce more than a small handful of elite-level freeskiers.
Next week, the summer version of the X Games will visit Munich, Germany, for the fifth stop in this year's newly expanded global tour. Zimmermann will be attending the event as a spectator. "I will definitely come to watch it," she says. "It's not far from me and I am very interested in skateboarding and the other sports. It's awesome that the X Games is coming to Germany."
Zimmermann was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in Rosenheim, near Munich, where she still lives today.
A figure skater from age 6, she got into freeskiing just three years ago, at age 14. She followed her dad and brother to a regional slopestyle contest in 2010 and decided to enter just for fun. She ended up winning. She credits her ability to spin with her time spent in the rink.
The year after that, Zimmermann gave up ice skating for freeskiing, a sport that still has very little following in her home country.
Although there are ski areas closer to Munich -- the 1936 Winter Olympics site, Garmisch, is an hour away by train -- in order to practice in a quality terrain park, Zimmermann takes a train for between three and five hours to the Austrian resorts of Mayrhofen and Hintertux. "The parks in Austria are much better compared to the parks in Germany," she says. "But still, compared to the American parks, they are pretty bad. I don't even know of any good halfpipes near me where I could train."
She says the freeskiing community in Germany is small, but it's slowly growing. There is the Freeski Team Germany, which includes a few internationally ranked slopestyle skiers. Zimmermann hopes to represent Germany when ski slopestyle makes its Olympic debut next February in Sochi, Russia.
Here's the thing, though: Zimmermann has yet to compete in an X Games. Although she came close last winter.
In March, she got her first invitation to compete at X Games Tignes, in France. Canadian Kaya Turski was going for a record-setting four-peat in the Women's Ski Slopestyle competition (which she later earned), but there was a murmur going around that Turski might have some competition on her hands.
Just weeks earlier, Zimmermann -- then a relative unknown -- became the first female to land a double-cork 1260 in competition, while on her way to winning the all-women's Nine Queens Big Air contest in Austria. There was talk that Zimmermann was going to try the trick again in Tignes.
"It's very impressive. Lisa is probably the only [woman] that can do the dub 12, which is huge," Turski said this spring. "It definitely makes all of us think a little bit about what we need to be doing. It pushes me to work on what I'm doing."
But then a massive snowstorm in the French Alps delayed the start of the Women's Slopestyle finals by one day. Zimmermann, who was scheduled to fly home to Germany to take a final exam in school the same day, had to back out of the contest at the last minute.
Lisa is probably the only [woman] that can do the dub 12, which is huge.Kaya Turski
"My school wouldn't allow me to stay away from school on that day because the exam was part of my final examinations," Zimmermann says. "I got 29 points out of 30, so I don't regret it."
In the sports of slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, women have been slower than the men to introduce new tricks, which is why Zimmermann caught people's attention right away. She first landed the double-cork 1260 in practice in November 2012. "I often make a list with tricks that I'd like to learn and then I try to do the tricks during the season," Zimmermann says. "The dub 12 was on my list. Landing that, it was an amazing feeling. I can't even describe it."
If she passes her final exams this month, she is done with school for now, and she plans on either going to a sport-specific school for continuing education or taking a year off and moving to the U.S. to focus on her skiing.
In years past, Zimmermann hasn't been able to ski during the summer due to financial constraints, but this year, she says, it's looking more promising. Her ski career is on the rise, and sponsors are kicking in to help. She's planning a trip with her best friend to the U.S. in July to ski some summertime glaciers and she'll be flying to New Zealand for an Olympic-qualifying World Cup in August. Next winter, if all goes her way, she'll compete at the Olympics and make her debut appearance at the X Games.
Says Turski, "I'm excited for [Lisa] to get the chance to compete [at X Games]. I'd like to see what she can do."