360 moment: Summit’s Sam Ward competes in U.S. Grand Prix 20 years after learning to ski at Arapahoe Basin | SummitDaily.com

360 moment: Summit’s Sam Ward competes in U.S. Grand Prix 20 years after learning to ski at Arapahoe Basin

Sam Ward performs a grab while flying through the air during a freeski competition. Ward recently competed at last week's U.S Grand Prix in front of fellow Copper Mountain Resort employees and Team Summit athletes.
Sam Ward/Courtesy photo

Sam Ward’s skiing career came full circle last week at Copper Mountain Resort for the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix men’s halfpipe competition. 

Twenty years after learning how to ski at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area when he was around 2 years old, Ward took to the Copper’s 22-foot superpipe to compete against some of the best freeskiers in the world in the men’s halfpipe qualifiers on Thursday, Dec. 15.

What made the moment even more special for Ward is that he competed in front of local friends, athletes and co-workers. Ward currently works at Copper Mountain Resort and also serves as a park and pipe coach for Team Summit. 

At the age of 17, Ward got his first job at Copper as a junior counselor for Copper Woodward’s on-snow summer camps. Ward liked the job so much that he stayed close to the area. Ward now serves as a Woodward summer camp ski coach and sometimes works at Copper’s Camp Hale Outfitters store.

The jobs allow Ward to remain focused on training for freeskiing competitions, while bleeding into the next generation of up-and-coming freeski athletes. 

“It’s awesome,” Ward said. “Working with Copper and having access to all the facilities that Copper has including Woodward, as well. It’s awesome to also give back to the next generation. They definitely have some young guns coming up that are pretty exciting to facilitate and coach.”

Another reason why Ward enjoys the job is because both Copper and Team Summit give him the flexibility to only work in the summer if he wants to, allowing him to stay dialed in to his freeskiing goals. He thanked his co-workers at Copper and Team Summit for making it possible for him to compete and train.

“The past couple years I took some time off from working in the winter to try to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing,” Ward said. “That unfortunately didn’t happen. I qualified, but Great Britain did not have enough spots so I didn’t get to go.”

Sam Ward turns his body in the air during a day of training in Copper Mountain Resort’s superpipe. Ward learned to ski 20 years ago at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and recently competed at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort in the men’s freeski halfpipe.
Sam Ward/Courtesy photo

Prior to becoming an employee at Copper and coaching with Team Summit, Ward began his competitive skiing career by starting out in ski racing when he was around the age of 7.

Ward enjoyed ski racing for a few years, but ultimately made the switch to freeskiing competitions when he was 13. Since then, Ward has regularly competed in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe freeskiing competitions while splitting his time between Summit, Tahoe, California and the United Kingdom.

Ward is a dual citizen with Great Britain and competes with Team Great Britain on the freeskiing circuit.

 “My mom is from the U.S. and my dad is British,” Ward said. 

Ward has put together several lengthy seasons over the last four to five years. After not traveling to Beijing for the 2022 Olympics, Ward began his 2022-23 freeskiing season in his own backyard. 

At the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper last week, Ward competed in a 36-man, freeski halfpipe qualifiers field. Out of the 36 total athletes, only the top 10 skiers advanced to the final.

Ward was able to put down one clean run to earn him 40.75 points, but it was not enough to advance to finals. Ward finished in 31st overall while fellow Team Summit coach Ben Harrington placed 23rd with a score of 55.

“It’s always awesome to have a World Cup in your backyard,” Ward said. “It did not go exactly how I wanted it to during the competition. I wanted to do a couple more of my tricks there. I landed a run, but I am happy with that.”

Ward will compete here and there throughout the rest of the season, but said he doesn’t necessarily have his eyes set on competing at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

Instead, Ward wants to focus on the video production side of skiing while exploring the idea of being an International Ski Federation certified judge at future World Cup events and the 2026 Olympics.

“I honestly did not give much thought to judging until I met a man by the name of Justin Allen — who is a Breckenridge local,” Ward said. “He and his brother — Dan Allen — are some of the highest certified judges in the world.”

Justin Allen recognized Ward as a competitor and talked to Ward about the beauties of becoming a judge after the end of a competitive career in skiing or snowboarding. 

“He was explaining how in judging it is a way to help shape the sport of freeskiing in the way that you want it to be and making sure it is still all for the culture,” Ward said. “That the riders are being taken care of and heard.” 

Both the video production and judging allows Ward to still be involved in the sport while not having to put his body on the line every few weeks. Ward recently received the funding necessary to release his first video project in 2023.

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