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Part 2

The Rookies: Andrew and Jackie Pollard

Story by Max Ritter

Andrew and Jackie Pollard were born and raised in Alta, Utah and even though it’s only their first year on the FWT, it’s obvious they have what it takes to hang with the best in world. More importantly, it’s clear that they are in it for the right reasons.

When Jackie Pollard stepped into her skis at Kirkwood Mountain Resort for her final run as a Junior last year, she was not expecting the outcome that would befall her. After pushing herself through an entire season of qualifying events, working harder than she ever had before, it all clicked as she pushed off from the starting gate atop Kirkwood’s infamous Cirque. After throwing down a flawless run, she skied into the finish corral and immediately knew it had all worked out. Her big brother Andrew stood there incredulously; he, too had just fulfilled a lifelong dream to make it to the big leagues. They were about to join the Freeride World Tour as rookies together.

This year, both stood in the starting gate at their first-ever FWT competition in Hakuba, Japan. Skiing at competition freeriding’s highest level was a totally new experience for the two, who had never dropped into a comp face without actually skiing it before. A simple face check was all they got, and it turned into a substantial learning curve. Both were unable to put down a clean run, but that only lit the fire.

Staying True to the Roots

Two weeks later, I stood atop an untouched powder run on the backside of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort alongside Andrew and Jackie. They were stoked to be back in BC during quite the storm cycle, and did not seem the slightest bit nervous about the second stop of the FWT looming over their head. We enjoyed a few thousand vertical feet of bottomless powder skiing, with pillows, tree jibs, and fun-sized cliffs littering the playground we found ourselves in. The two don’t act like pro skiers; instead, they hold true to their roots of being two lucky kids enjoying life in the mountains.

Jackie (left) and Andrew (right) milking the best of a down day in Kicking Horse before their second FWT competition. Max Ritter photos.

The Pollards grew up a bit differently than most. Calling one of the most iconic ski areas in the world home – Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Alta – you would think that skiing comes naturally. Well, you’re right. The Pollards were literally raised on the slopes, skiing for a few hours every single day after school, which happened to be in the basement of the iconic Goldminer’s Daughter lodge. It helps when your dad is the mayor and shares the ski dream with the whole family. The Wasatch ski scene is one of superlatives. Deep snow, big cliffs, tall mountains, and a whole lot of stoke. With major players in the ski world, like Angel and Johnny Collinson to name a few, coming out of there, it should come as no surprise that the Pollards live and breathe skiing.

Calling one of the most iconic ski areas in the world home – Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Alta – you would think that skiing comes naturally. Well, you’re right.

Growing up at a ski area is one thing, but you still have to work hard to get to the top of your game, especially in the modern world of hyper-connectivity and the fact that every single moment seems to end up on the internet. Somehow, Andrew and Jackie managed to fly somewhat under the radar until now, still posting top competition results and even some banger web clips over the years. “I have a hard time selling myself to sponsors for skiing,” says Andrew, “it just feels wrong.” He would rather let his skiing and his painting do the talking, and that shows through.

Outside of skiing, Andrew spends time creating beautiful depictions of the world he finds himself in - colorful mountains, river valleys, and the Utah desert he spends his summers raft guiding in. Jackie is busy finishing college, taking winter semesters off to ski and compete, and balancing her studies with her job as a raft guide with her brother.

Success Comes to The Tenacious

With the current FWT qualifying rules leaving space for only three ski men and one ski woman from each region to qualify, working your way up through the rankings is no easy feat. It requires going to qualifying event after qualifying event and making sure every run counts. For years, both Andrew and Jackie skied at events of the Freeskiing World Tour (the FWT's North American precursor), and the Freeride World Qualifiers, slowly stacking up points. 

As they grew older, it was also time to balance their skiing with some real-world responsibilities, like college. Luckily, both had the opportunity to attend Westminister College down the road in Salt Lake City, best known for its commitment to skiing. Andrew chuckles about his time spent there: "I majored in skiing, with a minor in art and business."

As riders growing up in the North American freeskiing circuit, face checks were a steep learning curve for the Pollards. FWT photos.

The competition results starting stacking up for Andrew, with podiums and high scores at numerous events. Putting the work in paid off, and he soon ended up with one of the most coveted prizes in skiing: the Sickbird belt buckle - given to those riders pushing the envelope and progression further than anyone else.  "Watching Andrew ski that run in Big Sky was wild," Jackie says, "when he landed that 360 off the air nobody else could hit, I knew he deserved that Sickbird."

"Watching Andrew ski that run in Big Sky was wild," Jackie says, "when he landed that 360 off the air nobody else could hit, I knew he deserved that Sickbird."

On the other hand, Jackie admits that she wasn't actually that stoked on skiing growing up. While her brother has had a season pass to Alta 24 years running, she started a few years after him and never felt full commitment to the sport growing up. "To be honest, skiing was really my dream growing up, and our parents always let us do our own thing," says Andrew, "and Jackie's was never skiing until later on, when she realized that she was really pretty good at it!"

Once Jackie entered her first few competitions and realized she was a step ahead of her peers, she harnessed her tenacity and the skills she had quietly built up to pursue her dream. Like her brother, podiums and awards started stacking up - she placed second in her first ever competition - and she soon found herself in that start gate in Kirkwood with nowhere to go but the top. 

However, for both of them, the most important aspect of it all was being able to hang out with friends and goof off in the mountains.

Results They Can Live With

A few days after we skied bottomless British Columbian champagne powder, Andrew and Jackie clicked into their skis for the season’s second competition. Stormy weather and heavy snow prevented a proper face check, and both were a bit nervous when it came time to hike up the ridge to the start gate. Up top, a fierce wind howled and near-record low temperatures made certain any second spent waiting was absolutely brutal.

Stormy weather and heavy snow prevented a proper face check, and both were a bit nervous when it came time to hike up the ridge to the start gate. 

While the wind and temperature might not have been playing along, the light certainly was. For the first time in days, Jackie could finally see her entire line below her. Air the cornice, make a big sweeping turn into the second air, watch the trees, line up with speed, and send the two-stager at the bottom. 

Jackie Pollard, in utter disbelief of her flawless run, standing atop the Kicking Horse podium. FWT photos.

She dropped in, and without any hesitation linked the features like someone who’s been skiing on the Tour for years. The result? A resounding first place, beating out reigning champion Arianna Tricomi and veteran Hazel Birnbaum.

Andrew, meanwhile, stood up top eagerly waiting his turn to drop. With big runs already stomped from many skiers ahead of him, he had big shoes to fill. Resorting to what he knows best, Andrew dropped in and oozed that retro Alta style with a splaffy, a shifty, and super-smooth fast turns through the chopped up powder. With high marks in fluidity, control, and technique, the run landed him in 13th place out of 21. Not bad for round two. 

With eyes on the remainder of the season, they are stoked as ever to continue living their dream. A few weeks at home skiing bottomless Wasatch pow in Alta will soothe the soul before the long journey to Europe for the next two stops of the Tour - Fieberbrunn and Andorra. If their current trend continues, who knows? We'll likely see them atop the Bec de Rosses staring down their wildest ride yet.

Read World Class - Part 1 Here