MOUNT HOOD, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s no wonder Austin Abel best remembers his childhood being mostly outside.
“I always had something to do, I feel like, and my parents were really motivated to keep us moving and keep us active,” Abel told KOIN 6 News. “Played a lot of soccer, a lot of lacrosse growing up and then when I got into skiing I just, like, grabbed onto it and I’m still here. I just love it so much.”
It’s not just skiing. It’s free skiing. For someone who loves to push the limits, going to Windell’s Academy is the perfect fit.
Windell’s Academy — now officially called Wy’East Mountain Academy — is a sports academy at the base of Mount Hood that is “designed to develop driven and talented student athletes from grades 7-12 in skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding and aviation.”
Trying tricks at Windell’s comes with some risks. The kids train on trampolines into foam pits before they ever hit the slopes.
“The goal is, like, progression so you never stop having new things to do,” he said. “Like when you go skiing you’re, like, ‘Oh, I want to try this trick, I want to try that trick.'”
The other thing is, he said, “you have to be confident that you know how to fall. I’ve had so many hours on trampolines and just doing tricks without skis that I know, OK, if I don’t make this trick around, then I’ll be fine and I’ll just land on my back and be able to try it again.”
The 16-year-old is hoping his tricks eventually land him on the World Cup circuit, able to compete in the Olympics, Grand Prix events and the most prestigious events his sport can offer.
But for some events what he can throw is only part of the entry requirements.
“It’s not based off your competition results,” Austen Abel said. “It’s based off your social media platform and how many people know your name.”
The pressure of tricks and the pressure of going viral can be a lot. So every day, Austen Abel adds something else to his routine.
“You can kind of get swept away in it and it can make the sport kind of not fun sometimes,” he said. “For me, it’s constant looking back at myself and asking myself, ‘Am I still doing what I want to do?’ So, I probably do it 5 or 6 times a day, like, ‘OK, am I still having fun with this? Am I still where I need to be mentally and physically?'”
With his whole career ahead of him and no idea how far freeskiing will take him, Austen Abel is determined to just live in every moment, for every trick.
“As long as it’s still fun and as long as I can still do it the next day, then I’d love to keep doing it. I mean, I love it more than anything.”