Meet Team Wasatch Freestyle

dv-wf-i

If you ski at Deer Valley Resort with any regularity, you have probably noticed groups of young skiers on weekends and school holidays sporting the unique “Wasatch Freestyle” uniform and skiing with their coaches. I wanted to know more about them, so I took a few moments to chat with Jon O’Brien, director of Wasatch Freestyle, as he was overseeing a typical Saturday morning meeting at Snow Park Lodge. I then shadowed the groups and snapped a series of pictures of them having tons of fun.

dv-wf-b
JF: To some Utah skiers, Wasatch Freestyle and Jon O’Brien are household names.
Jon O’Brien: It’s true, we’ve come a long way. We began Wasatch Freestyle in 1983!

JF: Are you both the founder and director of this enduring organization?
Jon O’Brien: That’s correct. From our beginning at Snowbird, we’ve been growing ever since.

JF: Jon, how do you trace your interest in the sport?
Jon O’Brien: My brother, the late Stu O’Brien, one of the greatest mogul competitors of the late 1970s and 1980s, was instrumental in helping me develop a strong interest in skiing and freestyle. I attended my first freestyle event in 1976 to watch Stu compete on the Chevrolet Pro Tour. In those days, the prizes were impressive: there was a car for first place in moguls, a car for first place in aerials, a car for first place in ballet skiing and a car for first place in combined! There was a lot of media present, lots of excitement and interest and, as a very young person, I was instantly attracted to the sport. Soon after that, I stopped a scholastic career playing hockey to become a ski instructor and a mogul competitor.

JF: Where did you ski at the time?
Jon O’Brien: I got my start skiing in the Poconos mountains of Pennsylvania, and when I graduated from high school, I moved to Utah so I could have a chance to be a competitor and a ski instructor at a large destination resort. I was a student at Westminster College, in Salt Lake City, and that’s when I also became both a competitor and a ski instructor.

JF: How did you do as a competitor?
Jon O’Brien: In 1983 I won the Inter-mountain championships in all three events (moguls, aerials and ballet). I carried on with more competition, while still instructing and getting involved with coaching. At that time, large number of Park City parents were looking for a freestyle program for their children. My experience as a freestyle skier as well as a ski instructor give me the ideal background in coaching local young people in the sport of mogul skiing.

JF: When did you begin your program?
Jon O’Brien: I started in 1980 as a ski instructor at nearby Park West, and I was fortunate enough to have John Guay as a mentor. He was already a very talented technician and clinician. Today, John is the director of skier services at Deer Valley, overseeing the entire ski school and children’s center.

JF: What did you do after that?
Jon O’Brien: I took my mogul program to Park City Ski Area, before moving it again to Park West. Around 1988, there were questions about Park West opening for the season and that’s when I joined the ski school of Junior Bounous, at Snowbird; this association lasted until we became a non-profit organization in 1993 and founded Wasatch Freestyle.

JF: Which areas of freestyle skiing do you cover? Besides moguls, do you offer aerials, ski-cross and slope-side skiing?
Jon O’Brien: No, we focus exclusively on mogul skiing.

dv-wf-k

JF: How long have you been at Deer Valley Resort?
Jon O’Brien: We’ve been at Deer Valley for the past 18 years. We are extremely fortunate to be here. I love working with the people at Deer Valley, they’re all tremendously supportive, totally professional and this is a wonderful resort for our young athletes and our coaches to be affiliated with.

dv-wf-f

JF: Tell me about your young athletes.
Jon O’Brien: We have kids ages seven to 22 that train with us and their ability ranges from kids who are starting to parallel ski to young athletes who have World Cup starts on the U.S. Ski Team. We’re covering an impressive gamut of skills, commitments and ages.

dv-wf-d

JF: How many kids are in your program?
Jon O’Brien: Approximately 130.
dv-wf-e

JF: How do you train your skiers when there aren’t always moguls around?
Jon O’Brien: We do a great deal of training on the “flats” prior to getting on moguls. The turns skiers must make on the flats are the same they have to make on moguls!
dv-wf-g

JF: What should parents who have interested children do to join your program?
Jon O’Brien: If they are considering us for their children, parents should contact Wasatch Freestyle directly. We’re always open to meet with them and their kids. Most information is available on our website at wasatchfreestyle.com.

dv-wf-j

JF: Why should young competitors look into mogul skiing?
Jon O’Brien: Mogul skiing is an American sport. It started in North America and then spread to Europe, Japan and the rest of the ski world. Just like rodeo, it’s a genuine American creation and it’s a valuable part of our heritage and culture. Young American skiers should recognize this and support the sport. It’s also a great deal of fun to watch, it’s highly entertaining and from my perspective, it develops skiers really well. So, if skiers want to be free skiers, big mountain skiers, go on to become ski instructors or ski patrollers, mogul skiing gives them the skills to pursue all of these endeavors. It’s a fantastic foundation!

One Response

  1. Phil Johnson says:

    Awesome article Jon!!

Leave your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook Feed

Deer Valley Resort's Global Athlete Ambassador, Ted Ligety, is back on skis after 10 weeks of recovering from microdiscectomy surgery. Welcome back Ted! | #DeerValleyMoment ... See MoreSee Less

Besmir Ajeti, Chris Scarce and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Eric HandMore impressed by the steady camera work of whoever was following him

4 hours ago   ·  7
Avatar

Matthew LivingstonShredd!! You're the best. Same run I fractured my tibial plateau on last year. Glad to see you're back. Hope I can do the same next year.

2 hours ago
Avatar

Mitch MannWe wore the same color jacket and skied DV today as well, but our skiing form was a tad different.

5 hours ago
Avatar

Tess TeurlingsTyler Teurlings they finally got around to posting this video of me from spring break

3 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Stephen PohlmanWizard

5 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Ron ReillySmooth

1 hour ago
Avatar

Kelly DetweilerLooks good to me ☺

5 hours ago
Avatar

Max ScottPaul Stu Herlan you guys just missed ripping some runs with Ted

2 hours ago   ·  1

1 Reply

Avatar

Larry WeiderThat's what I look like in my head when I ski. It's better I never know what I actually look like.

3 hours ago
Avatar

Dennis BressGreat run and great camera work. :-) Kerry Rutherford

4 hours ago
Avatar

Octavio BarreraEmilio Fernandez our next level of skiing for next winter 💪🏽

2 hours ago
Avatar

John TredentTrue carve turn, Ted is one of the best in the world.

3 hours ago
Avatar

Scott DillmanGo Ted. I am sure it feels really good to be carving some turns. Enjoy your regained freedom.

2 hours ago
Avatar

James EvansBoth Ted and the snow conditions look great . .

3 hours ago
Avatar

Dan LudwigDude is flyin...

5 hours ago
Avatar

Jon T FruendLegity split!

2 hours ago
Avatar

Mehrnaz ZuieYousef Zuie this is where I want to go!

2 hours ago

2 Replies

Avatar

Shanna RidnerLikes this picture

3 hours ago
Avatar

Effie BaramSo nice

2 hours ago
Avatar

Jon Blumbergbautiful skier

4 hours ago
Avatar

Wesley MillerDan Duncan Corey Baumgartner definitely gotta make it happen

5 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Tzachi AlmogNadavo Ha. מזכיר אותך

4 hours ago
Avatar

Matt ShawDamian Leopard those lines.

3 hours ago
Avatar

Lauren SaulAlana Saul

5 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Sunday, March 26, 2017
Deer Valley Resort has recieved over 400 inches of snow this season and still has a 101" base. You can only #SkiTheDifference for three more weeks. | Skier: Jillian Vogtli Video: Chris Morgan / Two Sherpas LLC on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
... See MoreSee Less

Kirsten Curtis, Veronica Christensen and 23 others like this

View previous comments

Rose JutrasGo Jillian!! What an Ambassador!!

13 hours ago   ·  1

1 Reply

Avatar

Dennis WillisYep, only $1.28 per inch for that base. Or $15.52 per hour if you ski from opening to closing.

7 hours ago
Avatar

Adi DeOltManon Mbd she has the same color equipment like me. And I skied there. Could it be me? 😂😂😂

10 hours ago   ·  1
Avatar

Claine CowdrickWhy end the season if there is still enough snow to ski on? Extend the season maximize profits

8 hours ago
Avatar

Marcela MrugalaIt was a fantastic day of skiing yesterday!

13 hours ago
Avatar

Brandon BenallyCute but can she ski MOGULS as fast?

1 day ago
Avatar

Steve ZebrowskiSure didn't look anywhere near 101 inch base Saturday

9 hours ago
Avatar

Nic ReneeAwesome skiing this year

20 hours ago
Avatar

Lou KaltensteinWatched her cut her teeth at Holiday Valley! Go girl!

4 hours ago
Avatar

Elaine Lawrencer u having a good time

17 hours ago
Avatar

Indy BaileyVery cool!!

16 hours ago
Avatar

Tai RobinsonYeah Jillian Vogtli!

22 hours ago   ·  1

1 Reply

Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Today's #DeerValleyMoment | Photo Credit: Emily Summers ... See MoreSee Less

Todays #DeerValleyMoment  | Photo Credit: Emily Summers

Alan Ford, Sungjin Joseph Yoon and 1165 others like this

View previous comments

Stephen HelmI thought that was Upper Stein, I have a shot real similar to that one

3 days ago   ·  1
Avatar

Joyce GriffinBeautiful photo, Emily Summers! It makes me want to be there making the first tracks down.

3 days ago   ·  1
Avatar

Brian ParkerIf I squint, I can just barely see my old house!

3 days ago   ·  1
Avatar

Randy CarterBeautiful and my acrophobia will dissipate as the thrill of downhill takes over.

2 days ago
Avatar

George LadnerI was there 2 weeks ago and loved it. Nearly as good as the Swiss alps/Zermatt¿¡¡

3 days ago
Avatar

Eric LongabardiNice shot Emily Summers! :) I can see Heber!

2 days ago
Avatar

Todd RameyTop of Steins, just past Sultan .

3 days ago   ·  1
Avatar

Alma WeldeLovely

2 days ago
Avatar

Francis GougeonWith this view you can pretend you are an astronaut.⛷

3 days ago
Avatar

Ariana B. AlvarezI want to be the first one down!

3 days ago
Avatar

Janis Bauer FullmerBeautiful!

3 days ago
Avatar

Rafael TorresWHAT A SHOT!

2 days ago
Avatar

Gerry FeherCorduroy....yea baby !!

2 days ago
Avatar

Will WilliamsDebbie Riley-Williams favorite place to ski in the USA 😎

2 days ago
Avatar

MaryEllen ProctorBarb and Karen, wish we were there.

2 days ago
Avatar

Drew DealIs this the run to the gondola?

3 days ago
Avatar

Linda Glore-SewardI must get my knees in shape so I can ski that again!

2 days ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Holly EtlinStein's Way, nice!

3 days ago
Avatar

Charlotte StrackBeautiful!

3 days ago
Avatar

Paul Stu HerlanRipped that yesterday...thanks Stein!

2 days ago
Avatar

Alan HorganI want to there now! Pity our £ is so cheap...

2 days ago
Avatar

Carolyn MacherBeautiful...

3 days ago
Avatar

Lisa AntellJordanelle run?

3 days ago

1 Reply

Avatar

Comment on Facebook

Twitter Feed @Deer_Valley