Arianna Tricomi won the Freeride World Tour in 2018, again in 2019, and bagged the trifecta in 2020. That alone is enough reason to interview this Italian all-star.
What’s more, Ari hails from a region that seems to be a breeding ground for freeski talent, is a fully qualified physiotherapist, and will soon make her film debut in this winter’s Matchstick Productions movie Huck Yeah! (check out the teaser in the Trailer Yard). That all meant that we had have a chat!
Interview: Matt Masson
Matt: The first question I should ask is, what have you been doing in lockdown?
Arianna: I was in Verbier, I went there for the competition that never happened. In the end I decided to stay there, because I didn’t know if I was infected. So I decided to spend my time with the people who I’d been with already. It turns out that Switzerland was actually one of the chillest spots to be during lockdown.
My lockdown wasn’t as severe as what many of my friends experienced. It was a bit weird, because we were still playing in the mountains. Obviously consciously and taking things easy, but we could still go out and skin up, climb or go for a hike. It was kind of weird compared to other people, who were really in lockdown.
Since I was able to be outside and enjoy the outdoors, I felt really lucky. I had an amazing time with some old friends, some new friends and it was awesome to be honest. It was some of the best months of the year, so I’m happy about my decision to stay there for two and a half months, rather than three days.
I recently saw the Teaser for Huck Yeah! Was MSP’s push for more women’s representation a factor in your decision to film with them?
I don’t think it was just my decision to film with them, it was a shared interest. I’ve always been dreaming about moving from contests towards filming one day. MSP hit me up at the beginning of winter, and we quickly aligned on exciting projects for the future.
I was supposed to go to Alaska in April, which is a lifelong dream of mine. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because of corona. Still, I’m super happy to be part of the project this year, even though I think my part is going to be kind of special. I don’t want to say too much, but I’m part of it and that’s awesome. I’m really looking forward to next year, the future and hopefully more trips with them. It’s an honor to be part of it.
Did you manage to get enough filming done before the pandemic?
No, not really, but you will see!
❝Winning once is nice, but the second time is double-nice.❞
Do you want to make the switch full-time from competition to film skiing?
I definitely want to try to invest more time in filming in the future, so I won’t focus so much on contests anymore. On the other hand, I don’t really want to quit the Freeride World Tour, because of the people and the good times. It’s a big family, and I’ve always been a part of it because of the vibes and the possibility to travel with some super-fun people. I’m keen to film with MSP and work on some personal projects that I have in mind. You will definitely see me more in the filming scene, I hope, but I will try to fit at least a few contests in my agenda as well. I think a hard exit from competitions would hurt too much.
Will you defend your FWT title next year?
I’ll be part of it, probably not on all stops, but you will see me on the tour. I will show up at some point, some way. Maybe like Markus this year, one or two events. That’d be great!
Ari in action on the Freeride World Tour. Photo: Jeremy Bernard/FWT
2020 was your third successive FWT title. Which one was the most rewarding for you?
2020 was definitely a strange year, and I would have preferred to earn the title the real way by going through the finals in Verbier. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way, and I earned the overall title because I was leading the ranking and the event got cancelled. So I think last year (2019) was the most special victory for me. Winning once is nice, but the second time is double-nice, because it confirms your first win. The level was really high last year, we saw more tricks and some young girls coming up that are really strong skiers. Winning in 2019 was tough, and the most beautiful because I got second in Verbier. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with the pressure and ski safe, but not too safe, so ending up second after Elisabeth [Gerritzen] was just the perfect scenario to win my second title.
This year must have been a bit weird in Comparison.
This season was super weird for me in general. I was skiing with a different crew than usual and I had a really different mindset. I was back into send mode, like full on, and I really enjoyed this winter because I was really just going for stuff again. In the past years I’ve been pretty conservative, which was smart, because I ended up winning twice and I kind of built up what I have right now. At the beginning of this winter, I was regretting that I wasn’t doing backflips because I wanted to be fit for the comp, and I wasn’t doing 360s from bigger cliffs because I didn’t want to crash. All these kind of conservative thoughts. So in 2020 I was really keen to learn new stuff, and that definitely happened. I’ve never done so many backflips, I tried some bigger 360s, and I knew that I could get hurt and that’s what happened. I didn’t regret it, because I was sending it more and that made it a very interesting season. I’m super glad I still managed to win, even with the injury. Then after all that, corona happened and just made the whole season even weirder.
Photo: Tobias Zlu Haller
Are you pleased with the way freeride competitions are run and judged, or would you like to see some changes? If so, what could be improved?
That’s a very hard question. For me freeskiing is something that shouldn’t be judged. It’s very personal and it’s very subjective, what people like or don’t like. So on that basis, it shouldn’t be judged. On the other hand, the Freeride World Tour is a great platform that allows people like me to show their style and their skiing to a broad audience, so someone had to find a way to judge it.
Personally I think the judging is not bad, because the strongest skier of the day, who skis the best line, normally wins. I know how hard it is to judge. At the beginning I maybe got a bit more annoyed about judging, but the more time I spent on the tour, the more I realized how difficult it is to judge and have everybody happy at the end of the day. Seeing as the sport is progressing so much every year, the judges and the tour are trying to adapt the best they can, and the setup of the contests is pretty good. Maybe people dream of the perfect comp with the perfect conditions, at the perfect time, bla bla bla… unfortunately, it’s not just about snow and skiing. There’s a part that’s made out of money, sport and sponsors. I have a big respect for the organizers and judges of the Tour, and I think they do a really good job.
❝For me freeskiing is something that shouldn’t be judged.❞
With decorated skiers like yourself and Markus Eder, as well as people like Lukas SchÄfer coming out of South Tyrol, why do so many great skiers come from a relatively small area?
That’s a good question. I mean we have nice mountains, but there are other parts of Italy with great mountains. Maybe it’s the mix of Italian, kind of loose culture, being influenced by the German-speaking part that’s a bit more structured and follows the rules a bit more. This could be the winning mix, the two cultures. That could be the reason. Living “la bella vita” but still working a bit harder for what you want.
For those of us who have never skied there, what are the terrain and conditions like?
There’s great terrain around Alta Badia and the Dolomites with their famous steep, long and narrow couloirs. I grew up with this terrain, and I always realized how powerful the mountains are and how good it is for my soul. We also have different types of skiing, but maybe a bit less than other parts of the Alps. We have meadows that end up with big walls, so we don’t have much in between. The good thing about the Dolomites is that freeriding is still not super well-known, so you can still find fresh pow even a week after the last snowfall. People here either stay on the slopes or do the classical type of ski touring. The way we look at the mountain, here it’s still not what most people do. I really like that it’s not a hustle like anywhere else in the Alps.
Are there any parks?
There’s Seiser Alm, which is one of the best parks I know. We also have a park here in Alta Badia which is great too, so we do have snow parks and there’s good possibilities for the kids.
Ari at home among the spires of the Dolomites. Photo: Tobias Zlu Haller
Talk us through your journey as a professional skier. You started in slopestyle—did you always have ambitions to take that style out on the mountain, and was the transition as easy as you’ve made it look?
I grew up skiing. My mom was a World Cup skier and she skied Olympic downhill (Maria Cristina Gravina, Lake Placid 1980). She’s a great all-around skier and she showed me all the aspects, from skinning up and preparing my skis to powder to alpine. I did ten years of alpine skiing —from age 6 to 16—with good results, but surrounded by pretty strict rules. When I was sixteen, two of my best friends died in an avalanche. That’s when I made the transition to something I really wanted to do, but had never had the courage to do before. At that time I decided to go and jump around with my friends and be a bit more loose. Back when I started, we didn’t have a park and people didn’t really know how it worked. It was still at the very beginning, so it wasn’t easy to get better. It was so nice to just go out and build shitty jumps with your homies, crash and feel this freedom.
After that I did four years of slopestyle. The first three seasons were without FIS. I really liked the vibes, because it was just the passion and this love for skiing and good times. I enjoyed that, but then it became Olympic, FIS and everything. I did one year of World Cups, but I was upset because it felt like I was going back to alpine, with all these rules and all these other people making decisions. I did one season, but I knew it wasn’t for me. That’s the year that I decided—super last minute—to try a freeride qualifier.
I remember going to this contest, I was alone and didn’t have a clue. Everybody was looking at the mountain, this mini-face, with binoculars. I was like, “What are they doing?!” I just thought, “Whatever,” and decided to ski in the middle. The next day, the contest day, I decided to drop in with a switch 180 from a cliff, like, “Hell yeah!”, but obviously, it didn’t work out. I crashed and lost both skis and everything. I was so sad, because I knew it was the only comp I could enter that year. I remember I just skied down, collected my stuff, continued to the bottom and took this jump and went massive. I didn’t mean to, but I went massive.
After the comp I was crying, “Oh, I’m so stupid! Bla,bla,bla…” The organizer came up to me and told me I skied weird, but it looked cool, so they gave me a wildcard. I didn’t even know what a wildcard was. They told me I could go to a two-star in Kappl. It was cool, I took my mom to the comp. I needed support because I didn’t know what I was doing. I remember skiing Kappl, I picked up my line from the start gate. I went up, decided where to ski down, and I got second.
After that I entered a comp in Romania, so I went there with a friend that I had just met two weeks before. We had, seriously, the best trip of our lives. It was so loose skiing Romania! We got to some magical spots up on the mountain, everybody was partying and having fun. That was my motivation to keep doing that, because that trip was amazing. That was my introduction to freeride comps. Romania was the last comp of the year, and I remember some people were celebrating really hard. They told me that they’d qualified for the World Tour. I didn’t know that there was another tour! They told me, “This is just the qualification for the Freeride World Tour!”
The next season, I qualified.
❝I skied weird, but it looked cool, so they gave me a wildcard. I didn’t even know what a wildcard was.❞
Have you ever done a full season of the FWT and not won it?
Yeah, my first two seasons. The thing is, I was still going to school when I qualified. I would leave Friday, ski the contest and drive back. It was kind of crazy, but it worked out. I qualified for the tour and it was so hard to keep up with both, but my first two years I ended up third overall and it was amazing anyway. I always got to Verbier with a chance to win the title. I was always second when I got to Verbier, then I shit my pants hard and I ended up third and it was insane. Two years in a row I ended up third. Once I graduated, my first winter without school, that’s when I won.
So two thirds, and then first three times. That’s amazing!
Haha, yeah, it’s not too bad.
after finishing university, you’re a fully trained physiotherapist. will you ever step away from skiing to use that qualification?
Well once I finish, I’ll be pretty keen to not do much, because it took so much energy from me that I was like , “Fuck physio, I could never do that!” But I always knew I loved it, so I’ve started to do physio on my mom, on my friends and on myself. I never worked as a physio in a hospital or whatever, but I’ve always loved it and I realized—especially this year with the injuries—that it’s pretty much the best thing I could have studied, for me, as an athlete.
With five straight seasons of top-three rankings and a three-peat as overall winner, Ari is no stranger to Freeride World Tour podiums, like this one last year in Fieberbrunn. Photo: Dom Daher/FWT
You’ve recently been out with an injured ankle. Was a global lockdown the best possible time to be injured as a pro skier?
As I said, I’ve been sending it a little more this year and I actually got hurt mid-December on my right ankle. I didn’t go to the doctor, I just thought I’d wait and see. It kind of healed, so it was alright. Then I fell again on the same ankle in mid-February. The second time, after three days I realized maybe I should go check it out. When I went to the doctor, he was like, “I’m sorry, but your season is over,” and said I needed surgery. I couldn’t believe it, and I also didn’t feel that I needed surgery. I told the doctor—as a stubborn physiotherapist—that I would try. It was tough, because it really felt like shit for a long time. Once it started to feel better in daily life, I thought I could go skiing. But the first time I went it was so painful that I couldn’t imagine how I could ski a contest.
It was difficult to make a decision, because some people were telling me to stay in Innsbruck and get fit for Fieberbrunn, but my heart was telling me to go to Andorra, just because I didn’t want to miss out on the good times. So I went to Andorra and didn’t ski [before the contest]. Fortunately, for me at least, the conditions were shit, so I didn’t miss out on skiing. It was weird to be there without skiing, because I always go skiing, even if it’s shit. My Andorra contest run was pretty much my first run back. I was super happy, because I realized that it was kind of holding, and I knew I could go a little bigger next time.
Then came Fieberbrunn. That was crazy because I hadn’t really been skiing for three weeks, and the two days before Fieberbrunn I just overcame the pain, because skiing’s so good for my heart and soul. I skied two days for two or three hours. That’s all I could do, but I felt so happy. The comp day was like a dream: it was a bluebird day, good snow, good vibes, and I felt so much joy skiing down in the contest. I did the first 360 since I had gotten hurt. And I had gotten hurt on a 360, so I did another one. Then I won, and it was one of the best days of the year.
As you said, it was probably the perfect timing for an injury, because I had time to heal up. Unfortunately at the end, I went skating, crashed and broke my fibula, and some other ligaments. I broke everything again and I had to get surgery that time, like pretty fast. Now I’m recovering and off crutches, which is awesome. The injury definitely sucks, but the timing was the best.
So you’ll be fit to ski next season?
Yeah, if we’re allowed! We’ll be allowed, for sure!
Is there anything else you want to talk about?
Maybe the Kings and Queens of Corbets. That was a great experience for me. I don’t know, I think I was the only European rider. It’s absolutely awesome and I would recommend it to every skier or snowboarder that has the chance to go there. It was insane, the vibe and such a nice setup. We were judging each other, and you can build your own kicker, entry or whatever. That’s something that made my winter so much more fun. It’s like a big party where everyone is so passionate about being on the mountain. Plus, it’s American-style, and loud and everything. I loved it.