Multi track mind

Specialists reign supreme amongst professional skiers, it’s rare to find one athlete that excels against the watch, in front of a panel of big mountain judges and on the big screen. It’s rarer still to find a skier that has been doing it for a decade or more. In Mattias Hargin that’s exactly what you have, a competitive, multi-talented, big mountain slalom skier who happens to enjoy skiing everything and anything and always fueled by the pure enjoyment of being on snow.

An elite skier known as a fierce competitor on the world cup slalom circuit, also makes time to compete on the Freeride World Tour, which to some racers, focused purely on milliseconds, would be seen as a recipe to an unfocused disaster. Mattias, however, has always had a different perspective.

— I guess many skiers avoid freeskiing because of the risk of being injured, and that is understandable, but I think being scared of doing things you like isn’t the best way to approach things. Freeskiing, in one form or another, has always been a part of what I do, right back to the days when I was a little kid. Luckily for me, once I moved to Engelberg, which is recognized as a big mountain mecca in Switzerland, I got freeriding thrown in as part of the relocation process, as it’s easy to go out for a few laps here. I can’t say definitively that it helps me when I’m racing, but I’m sure that if you have the chance to master different kinds of skiing you’ll be a better, well… skier. And that includes being a better racer.

Coming from a family where both his elder sisters were in the national team, and who also went on to win the Freeride World Tour after their racing careers, skiing slalom and powder has always been a natural part of the everyday life in the mountains.

— As a child, I remember vividly that everything revolved around skiing. There was a lot of organized training, of course, but there was always a lot of playing around too, building small jumps, hitting the local park or skiing that secret track between the trees on the local hill. I believe it’s essential to see skiing as more than just gates and precision. Playing around and taking a new look at things is crucial for kids, for pretty obvious reasons, but I think it’s as good a thing for grown-up kids like me too.

Relaxed and “fun” skiing in-between training and competitions is one thing, but at the World Cup, all the athletes are there as they enjoy and excel in the competitive skiing environment. Mattias is no exception, well known for his winning instincts, his passion has often spilled out at the end of the run, where a broken pole would be the indicator of his competitive instinct and frustration. But with experience, maybe even age, fewer poles are being broken.

— I believe that the will to win will never go away. If you’re born with that drive to compete, and like to compete, it will last forever, whatever you choose to do. What I’ve noticed though, is that with experience I am now able to select when to go ‘all in’ that much better. I can control things, get a little less fired up playing soccer with friends, for example. But when it’s race day, it’s race day. Then the feelings are all the same, just managed. That will to perform, to win, which has always drawn me in, never goes away.

The focus on time and training could drive a slalom skier to a one-track mind; eat, sleep and drink nothing but racing, dreaming of gates and hearing the start beeps as the alarm rings. At the other end of the spectrum, the freeriders hang out, no less focused or professional, contemplating the big mountain lines and cliffs as one gigantic playground. Both need to be taken seriously so how does the competitive mind relax when skiing?

— Just being outside gives me a lot. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a ski touring demon, but I really enjoy getting that little bit further out into the mountains. To mix things up, even more, I sometimes get out and work with photographers. It is an area of skiing I really appreciate. I like taking photos myself, so it’s really cool to see how the best ski photographers work. It’s great to see the results of a process of discussion, light or movement, even though I often feel that the skiing element is the easy part of it.

Mattias is pretty good at that easy part though. So much so that he ended up with a cover on Powder magazine, with a shot from the acclaimed photographer, and Engelberg neighbor, Oskar Enander. Not bad for some relaxing between competitions.