Learning to get back up again

With every fall, he learns to get up and try harder. With every broken bone, he learns to look past the pain and not give up. With every win, he learns that hard work pays off. Freshman Dillan Morgan has mastered both the physical and mental challenges of skiing.

He first began skiing at three years old when his parents bought a cabin in Big Bear and decided to introduce the him to the sport. Morgan initially trained to ski in races, focusing primarily on speed. The more he skied, however, the more he began to gravitate towards the freedom and challenge of freestyle skiing.

“I thought [racing] was pretty fun, but eventually I started to hate it because everybody pushed me too hard,” Morgan said. “Everyone in freestyle skiing is more relaxed. They’re actually trying to help you out instead of trying to bring you down. The main thing about racing is just to go as fast as you can but in freestyle skiing you have to get the speed exactly right. It’s a lot more complex, and just knowing you managed it is really satisfying.”

With the guidance of his freestyle coach, Morgan made it onto the Big Bear Freeski Team along with five other members and now competes every other weekend. He has won first place in Half-Pipe and Rail Jam competitions as well as consistently placed in the top three for Slopestyle. Morgan focuses on improving the height and difficulty of his jumps and tricks during Half-Pipe competitions and the precision and execution of tricks during Rail Jam and Slopestyle competitions.

“[My coach is] the one who first taught me [freestyle skiing], and because of him helping me out, I learned to love freestyle skiing. I realized that if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen,” Morgan said. “[Competitions have taught me] that I should have fun and [yes], you’re competing because you want to win, but the main thing is just to have fun. You can get really discouraged sometimes when you can’t land something. When that happens to me I just stop focusing on it and the next day I’ll focus on it again, and most of the time, I’ll get it.”

Often, Morgan struggles with finding balance between school life and skiing. Despite the pressure of schoolwork and time, Morgan drives an hour and a half up to Big Bear every weekend to do physical training, work at a ski shop and practice each day from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“I consider it more home up there than I do here, because I feel more relaxed up there. Here, I’m really stressed. I’d rather just ski everyday, as much as possible, but I have to do schoolwork,” Morgan said. “It’s overwhelming on days that I’m non-stop working until ten at night, but more worth it because I’m having fun.”

Among Morgan’s greatest difficulties is overcoming the countless injuries he suffers from the sport as well as the physical training his body must endure. He has broken and sprained both his wrists and thumbs three times and got a concussion after falling on his back a month ago. With each injury, however, Morgan was able to learn from his mistakes and improve.

“It’s really hard, physically, because you can hurt yourself on anything, and I’ve hurt myself on everything. Even the most simplest of tricks you can fall on,” Morgan said. “After I got a concussion and fell on my back really hard, I thought that I wanted to stop, but then I realized that I don’t hate it, I just hate falling. I realized that if I just work harder, I’m not going to fall as much. I’ll still fall, but I’ll learn from it. And so, I just kept trying.”

Despite the hours Morgan dedicates to practicing, Morgan knows that honing his skills and technique is not the most important aspect to skiing. To Morgan, skiing is also a mental challenge. He trains himself to improve not only his physical capabilities but also his confidence and willpower.

“You have to have the mindset, the confidence, that you’re going to land your trick. That build-up of confidence goes for everything else,” Morgan said. “You can’t ever think, ‘That’s scary. I’m not going to do it.’ You have to think, ‘I can do this. I’m gonna do it.’ Either you’re going to do it, or you’re not going to do it. There’s no ‘maybe.’”

Skiing, once just a family hobby, has become a passion Morgan is determined to pursue a career in. He is training to place in national skiing competitions soon and hopes to professionally compete in the X Games in the future.

“Skiing, to me, is everything. It relaxes me, it motivates me [and] when I’ve had a bad week I know I can look forward to skiing,” Morgan said. “I hope that I can become professional. Some people don’t get to [ski], so I might as well take advantage of it and just have as much fun as possible.”

By Erica Chang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of John Meyer Photography