Skier halfpipe champion Jen Hudak breaks her way
to the top with dreams of gold. By Emily Cook
Jen Hudak at X Games.
“I don’t ski conservatively — when I win it’s because everything’s
on the line,” admits halfpipe skier Jen Hudak, reliving her 2010 X
Games victory. The night before the event, she limped to physiotherapy
to get treatment on both of her knees and the next morning, though
her body screamed and her confidence waned, she prepared for the day
When she stepped into the gate to battle for the X Games crown, she
bumped fists with her longtime coach and flashed the brilliant smile
she’s so well known for As Hudak dropped into the pipe, she faintly
heard Lady Gaga in her Skull Candy headphones and the sound of
the snow under her skis guided her focus and drove her to her first X
Games victory. She describes this experience as intense, amazing, and
the best night of her life so far.
But Hudak wants more. She wants to be an Olympian.
See, Hudak has won every title in her sport, except Olympic gold.
Many in the industry think her chance could be in the near future. The
International Ski Federation has finally backed skier halfpipe’s inclusion to the Olympic Games, and the International Olympic Committee
Executive Board is sounding positive, too, with a decision expected this
spring. If skier halfpipe is admitted as a new event, many athletes, like
Hudak who have trained for decades, may get the chance to represent
their countries at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014.
Born in Connecticut and growing up on winter weekends in Vermont,
Hudak began skiing moguls, but quickly realized that her passions lay
elsewhere. She spent her first days ducking “no skier” signs to poach
halfpipes until eventually, the park was opened to skiers and snow-
boarders alike. Her Okemo Mountain coach — former U.S. team aerial-
ist Elana Chase — recognized an opportunity in the emerging sport, and
began to teach her young team an adaptation of the skills already be-
ing used in other freestyle sports. Chase brought athletes to new USSA
Putting her Olympic dreams on hold, Hudak fell quickly into the half-
pipe culture. “The freedom of the sport drew me to it,” she says. “I
wanted to go to the Olympics, but I wanted to become a great athlete
and I felt that I was pursuing my athleticism more by pursuing halfpipe
than I was by doing moguls.” Over the years, and with Chase’s help in
training and competition, Hudak has become the premier female ath-
lete in the growing sport.
Chase predicts that the inclusion of skier halfpipe to the Olympic
Games will be a game changer. “If the announcement comes soon, I
think it will be quite mainstream to have coaches, dryland training,
sports psych and nutritionists, which is something that I never let go of
because I felt it had value from Day 1,” says Chase.
Hudak says that her childhood Olympic dream has not waned. “It is
ultimately where I want to compete — it’s not going to be easy, but I
didn’t pick this because it was easy,” she says. “It’s always been hard; it’s
always been a challenge, but I like challenges. I’m very progression oriented. I like to see things grow and get bigger and better and that exists
for my sport and my skiing. I want to be able to go [to Sochi], so I can
say that I’m an Olympian.”