For years, the Bridger Ski Foundation’s Freeskiing Team has operated under the umbrella of the Freestyle moguls program, and often they’ve only had coaching available on weekends. All that changes this year.
Freeskiing Head Coach Cody Ling has signed on to work for BSF full-time, in a newly created role of Freeskiing Program Director. It’s an investment in a growing program, and athletes will now have the option of skiing during the week. “It’s crazy how much interest we’ve already had,” says Cody. At least eight kids have already committed to the 5-days-a-week program.
“This is a huge option to be able to provide this to our Freesking athletes,” says Cody. “Nowhere in Montana have we been able to offer this kind of program to kids. Now we can provide the same kind of training and coaching that other ski academies across the country can provide, only at a much more affordable price.”
Freeskiing will still work closely with the Freestyle team in jumps and aerial training. Cody and Freestyle Program Director Mike Papke just took their athletes to Park City, Utah, for their first water ramps camp session of the summer. They’ll also offer Fall Tramp(oline) Camps as a combined effort.
Freeskiing athletes spend much of their time in the terrain park and compete in slopestyle and big air competitions. Going forward, Freeskiing will have its own Development and Comp Team programs (and you’ll notice new website pages for them now, too).
Development team: you can ski 1, 2, or 3 days a week
Comp Team: you can ski 1, 2, 3, or 5 days a week
Athletes who chose the 5-days a week program will have a noon release from school each day. Many Alpine and Freestyle athletes also pursue this half-day schedule, with some online coursework as well. “It’s a great way to transition into college and adulthood,” says Cody. Athletes must be in good academic standing and be disciplined about keeping up with their coursework.
Cody wants to emphasize how important the off season is for freeskiers. “Weight training for injury prevention is so important for our sport,” he says.
Some of the Freeskiing athletes are already hitting the gym for strength training workouts with Cody and the Alpine team this summer. They’ll transition into Fall Dryland training in September, with a combination of strength training and trampoline work.
Full-time skiers will practice Monday through Friday all fall. Anyone signed up for 1-, 2-, or 3-day a week programs in Devo or Comp will have the option of joining dryland training on Mondays and Fridays after school throughout the fall, plus they can sign up for Tramp Camp sessions.
“Fall is really about staying active, staying strong, and going into the ski season ready to go. Being able to go into the season strong and ready will put you ahead leaps and bounds,” says Cody.
Mike Papke says of Cody: “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve seen.” He combines two worlds: someone who competed professionally as a freeskier and a teacher with a degree in elementary education.
Cody grew up in Minnesota. “My mom was an alpine ski racer, and a pretty good one. And she came from a ski family. From age two, my mom had me on skis.” By age 7 he was alpine racing at Powder Ridge. But by age 11, skiing gates began to get boring, and Cody found himself in the terrain park between races. With the change in interest, his parents found Nybora Freestyle team for him to join at Hyland Hills, Minnesota.
“When I was 13, I was competing in a local event and I got in touch with the local Smith and Salomon reps. That’s where the sponsorships started. And I got the feeling that this could be a real possibility to chase the dream of becoming a professional skier,” says Cody.
He began competing in USASA events and went on to win the overall Winter Junior Olympics medal. From there he competed in amateur open events, signed his first pro contract, and then started competing in Dew Tour.
After several injuries and three knee surgeries, Cody retired from competing and moved to Bozeman to pursue a degree in education at MSU. “When I took a year off and started skiing at Bridger, I just fell back in love with skiing,” says Cody.
As luck would have it, Cody’s coaches from Minnesota knew Mike Papke, as they’d been on the U.S. Ski Team together. Cody says, “I sat down with Mike one day and expressed an interest in coaching. I thought this would be a great way to be on the mountain and come full circle.”
Cody began coaching with then Head Freeskiing Coach Pat Gillis. “When Pat left, I stepped into the head coaching role. It’s right where I want to be,” Cody says.
At the time, Cody was still juggling teaching third grade during the week with coaching on weekends. This fall, after five years of teaching, he won’t be returning to the classroom. Instead, he’ll be coaching full time.
“A big part of having that teaching background is learning how to understand the needs of my athletes,” Cody explains. “To succeed in my classroom, I had to differentiate my teaching for 27 different kids because not everyone learns the same way. What I’ve tried to do is differentiate my coaching to my athletes.”
He brings patience to the ski hill, and he listens to his athletes. “My teaching was successful based on my relationships, and the same is true with my coaching.”
Bridger Ski Foundation is proud to have Cody on board, taking Freeskiing to the next level and giving kids the opportunity to chase their skiing dreams.
Questions about the Freeskiing program? You can reach Cody at firstname.lastname@example.org