Whether within the confines of the slalom course, when approaching the buoy at 60 mph or in his everyday life, Asher seeks to employ a proactive stance as opposed to reactive measures. He maps out whatever plan may be required to reach a specific outcome and adheres as closely to this plan as possible. That is how he manages to look so unflappable, even at 39 ½ off. If he needs to ski his best on a Saturday, he is taking the appropriate steps on the previous Wednesday. If he needs to peak in May, his February training plan allows him to do so. “I approach every set or every contest run with a very specific plan as to how I intend to ski each pass,” says Asher. “It sounds obvious, but I just tried to stop skiing with the mind-set that I would get into a pass and then react to what was happening. It is very important to try to ski the same line every time. This way, as you shorten, you will have an easier time adapting to the next line length. In terms of fitness, I take the same approach. I know my shoulders, hips and back have the potential to be problem areas, so I take extra care to make sure these areas are as strong and as mobile as possible. Its easier to avoid injury than to rehab them.”
Begin every endeavor with a specific outcome in mind.
Asher never hopes for the best. Instead, he plans for it. That has been the biggest part of his success over the last few years. Unlike during his first few rookie seasons, Asher now fully believes in his abilities and expects nothing short of his very best every time he takes to the water. His best will, more often than not, place him atop the podium. “I try to keep everything as structured as I can in my skiing,” he says. “I never leave the dock without a very specific objective. You should never hit the water without some sort of plan for the set. If there is a certain component to my technique that I am looking to improve, I ski with that singular component in mind. I have specific long-term and short-term objectives that I am always working toward. They evolve as the season progresses. You can coast through life seeing how your cards fall or you can really take control of things, lay it out and map out the most effective way to get there. I try not to leave anything to chance.
Train your mind with the same fervor as you train your body.
Active visualization has become a big part of Asher’s training regime. While he has long utilized some form of mental imagery training, he has recently taken his visualization rituals to a whole new level. Armed with a stopwatch, Asher walks through each pass, mimicking his skiing movements, progressively shortening the line (in his mind) through 41 off and timing each pass as he sees himself round all six buoys. Asher has refined his timing down to 1/100th of a second, oftentimes opening his eyes to see 16.08 seconds staring up at him from his stopwatch (the time required to complete a pass at 36 mph). “The dry land stuff has really helped, but for me, the mental training I do on the water is just as effective,” he says. “If I’m well into the season and I miss a pass, I don’t just blow it off and try again. I end my set and go back to the dock. I use it as a form of punishment. I’ll go in, dry off and make myself start over. I think too many skiers make a habit of missing passes by the way they train. Missing passes never feels ‘OK’ to me. I am now mentally tougher because I train my mind to never accept the failure associated with blowing a pass.”
Seek complete understanding.
The first step to becoming a truly competent skier is acknowledging the areas in which you most stand to improve. Be it fitness, nutrition or ski design, Asher looks to gain knowledge through the experience of others and then apply his own clinical trial-and-error approach to further better himself. “I have worked with a ton of different trainers in the past, picking up bits of information from each and applying them to my own theories,” he says. “It’s a continual process, but by charting my progress both on and off the water, I feel I am beginning to understand what works best for me and my skiing. It’s the same with my nutrition. At times, I’ll be relaxed about my diet for a few days just to observe how I feel compared to when I am eating super-clean. I try different fat and protein sources to see how they may affect my performance. For me, it simply comes down to eating as ‘clean’ as possible. Meaning, the fewer processed foods I eat, the better. When it comes to building skis with HO Sports, we have people in-factory with both ski and engineering backgrounds, so what I have learned from those guys has become an integral part of my own understanding of slalom ski design. I enjoy building a knowledge base supported by real-world testing.”
Step outside of your comfort zone.
When you become accustomed to success, it can be very addictive. However, after a string of professional wins, Asher felt he needed to put some effort into a new endeavor — something where he could start from the bottom and find that lost euphoric feeling of rapid, measurable improvement. Enter Asher’s newest passion: road biking. “It was so humbling for me to dive into a new sport like biking,” he says. “Initially, I had the mindset that I would just charge in and take down anyone in front of me, but that didn’t work out. I had so much to learn. In skiing, I am constantly trying to do things that have never been done before. I love it, but it can be so mentally tiring. With biking, I’m just trying to be as good as the people around me. There is so much for me to learn, things that must seem routine to more experienced riders.
Put yourself ahead of your pursuits.
With a tireless work ethic and incredible drive, Asher’s biggest potential pitfall is burnout. One more set before dark could be the key to his unraveling. “It’s really important for me to have a release or an escape from skiing,” says Asher. “I need to find a place that allows me to completely free my mind from the whole scene. Lately, I have found escape in the form of construction. Having recently moved to Clermont, Florida, I spent the last year or so remodeling my house. I enjoy it, and I’m even finding I’m not a half-bad builder. It sounds weird, but I also find this escape in the gym. When I’m lifting weights, skiing is the furthest thing from my mind. I am in that one single moment, and it could not be any further from a slalom course. Luckily for me, my release is also beneficial to my skiing, but that’s definitely not why I do it. Even if skiing is more of a hobby than a job, you can still run the risk of burning out or plateauing too soon. If you begin to feel frustrated or stuck in a rut, allow yourself to get away from the buoys for a while. It is often the best way to break out of a slump.
There is no skier, and perhaps no athlete, in the world more driven and more focused than Asher. But for all he has accomplished in the pro ski arena, it is not what defines him. “I learn so much about myself through my skiing: what motivates me, what makes me happy, what bums me out,” he says. “But when it comes down to it, how I ski on a particular day or at one particular contest will never define me. For me, my skiing is like a journey toward self-actualization. I learn about myself, but it will never define me. Relationships with my friends and my family play a far larger role in who I really am than skiing ever could. Regardless of how much you love skiing and competing, you have to be careful not to allow it to consume you. It’s like anything in life, I guess. Too much of a good thing can be wearing, no matter how much you love it. Balance is always key.”