Where the sky is the limit — Interview with Alexandra Bär, Swiss Freestyle Aerial Skier participating in the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing
Excitement runs high at the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York– as the niece of one of our colleagues is in Beijing RIGHT NOW anticipating her debut at the XXIV Olympic Winter Games. Alexandra Bär, Freestyle Aerial Skier from Zürich will be competing in the new freestyle category ‘Mixed Team Aerials’. With only a few days away from this memorable competition, Alexandra has taken the time to answer our questions and give us personal insights into her life and the sport that has been sweeping her off her feet — literally.
Read about Alexandra’s passion, the rigorous all-seasons training and her personal ties to New York. As we root for Alexandra, wishing her many happy landings and a successful debut!
How did you originally get into this sport?
I started skiing when I was a little kid and competed as an alpine skier up to the age of about thirteen. At the age of around 8, I started doing “Geräteturnen” which is the less ambitious version of gymnastics. It was there that I met Carol Bouvard who told me and my sister about Aerial Skiing. My sister originally urged me to go to a try-out training and we both liked it and started training, though she later decided to quit. Carol still is my teammate and competes in the World Cup with me, but sadly tore her ACL this season.
How long have you been doing ‘aerial jumps’?
I think I was around 12 years old when I first went over a little jump.
How do you train for this sport in the beginning? Do you start right away with the piste training?
There are many steps before you jump off the big ramps. At a young age, you start with just doing upright jumps. Then you proceed to doing single back and front flips, on to double and triple backflips, with different combinations of twists.
First, we do our tricks in what we call the bungee. You jump on a trampoline, wearing a belt, which is attached to a framework through elastics. Here we can simulate the airtime we have on the ramps. Then we progress to doing our tricks on a water ramp in summer. Here the ramps (angles etc.) are shaped the same as in winter, but we land in a pool. After perfecting our jumps in summer and doing them over and over, we then finally proceed to do them on snow.
Do you have a ritual that you do before each competition/jump?
I try not to think too much about my competition jumps. Before every jump I usually go through the main points I have to focus on during my jump.
What fascinates you in particular about this sport?
I like how this sport pushes me to my limits.
These aerial jumps look very fierce, how do your parents sleep at night?
When my parents first saw people jumping off the big ramps in summer, they probably thought they were never going to let their daughter do this sport. But later, they realized how much work goes into building up those big jumps, how many jumps you do, before you actually do them on snow. Observing all of this preparation made them more comfortable and they also learnt to trust my coach to know when to go for the next step. But they still get nervous during my competitions, I guess, especially my mom.
Do you ever get scared?
I don’t think anyone would say that they have never been afraid in aerials. Personally, I would rather speak of respect. As an athlete, you have to learn to deal with these feelings so that they don’t block you.
How does a typical training day look?
After eating breakfast, we usually start with our warmup. This includes some stretching and light exercising to wake up the body.
Then we leave for the jump site, where we begin by preparing the jump site. This mainly includes chopping our landing hill. You grab a shovel and break up the landing hill to soften it up. Depending on how much time has passed since the original warmup, you either do some reactivation or you start with the training. At the beginning we do speed checks; we ski the inrun and measure the speed to make sure we don’t go way too fast or way too slow for the jumps. Then actual training starts. You do anywhere between 6 and 15 jumps, depending on the impact and how you feel. After training on snow, we usually go into the gym to do different kinds of workouts depending on the day.
Do you have an idol?
I’d say not one person in particular, but I look up to different people. Especially the women, who try and push themselves and the sport to the next level, by doing quadruple twisting triple summersaults!
Switzerland has very elaborate training facilities for your discipline, is it correct that you are hosting athletes from other countries as well?
Yes, I assume you refer to our water ramps in Mettmenstetten near Zurich. Apart from a facility in Minsk, Belarus, our ramp here is the only comparable site in Europe with only a few others around the world. Therefore, in summer, other athletes from different countries come and train here for a few weeks.
Have you ever trained in the United States — favorite location for training in the United States?
I haven’t trained in the US so far. Although we usually have a World Cup Competition in Deer Valley, Utah. They say it is one of the coolest events with a big crowd to jump for. Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced that yet, because I have only been jumping there since Covid has been around and due to that there were no spectators allowed in the past two World Cup seasons. I am really looking forward to going there and experiencing the big crowd after Covid.
What is your favorite spot in New York City?
To be completely honest, it’s been a while since my last visit to New York City. Obviously, New York’s Skyline is amazing, I’ve seen it many times whilst landing in New York (at Newark Airport). In the city itself, I think I’d choose the High Line. I first saw the High Line (parts of it) in 2008, while visiting my aunt. To me it’s just a cool concept to transform old structures into new ones and upcycle them. You kind of feel like you are flying through the city a bit. You see and experience the city and life from an unusual and different perspective.
What are your biggest achievements so far?
2nd at Junior World Championships in Krasnoyarsk (RUS) 2021
13th at World Championships in Almaty (KAZ) 2021
25th Overall World Cup Standing 2021
Curious about freestyle aerial skiing? Check out Alexandra’s Instagram page here!