Francesca Pavillard-Cain, a business and Spanish double-major at Western, stood atop an intimidating peak in Chamonix, France this winter, reflecting on how she'd ended up competing on the world stage as a freeride skier. Pavillard-Cain grew up on a pair of skis in Crested Butte and chose Western because of its proximity to big mountains and its quality academics. She was one of the first members of Western's Mountain Sports program and now, as a senior and president of the program, she's competing in the Swatch Freeride World Tour.
"Standing on that peak and inspecting the line I was going to ski, I realized I was competing in a whole different league," Pavillard-Cain says. "It was exciting, and kind of scary."
The Freeride World Tour is a chance for the best big mountain skiers in the world to compete against each other at challenging venues like Chamonix, Courmayeur, Fieberbrunn Kitzbuheler Alpen, Revelstoke, Snowbird and Verbier. Athletes have to qualify for the tour and Pavillard-Cain qualified by winning first place in competitions in Crested Butte and Taos and second place in Snowbird in 2013.
Pavillard-Cain's first competition in Chamonix could have gone better.
"I had a bit of crash," she says, "and it was pretty discouraging. But it may have been what I needed, because when I stepped into my skis to compete at the next event in Austria, I was calm and confident and ready to compete."
Pavillard-Cain placed second at Fieberbrunn Kitzbuheler Alpen, Austria.
"The amazing thing is that I'm traveling the world skiing and able to work on my senior capstone classes so I can graduate on time," she says. "My professors here have been awesome, but I have to admit that juggling the skiing and traveling schedule and the academics is tough. Western is a really good school and it's challenging."
But Pavillard-Cain says her professors have kept her motivated and been there to support her and her academic goals.
"When you have someone who is invested in your education, you're not going to slack off. Western doesn't have big lecture halls, you're not a number here, and I love that."
By Brian Barker, Director of Marketing & Media Relations.