© Zoya Lynch
Australian freeride and big mountain skier Nat Segal spent six years competing (and bagging podiums) on the Freeride World Tour and Freeskiing World Tour circuit. A lover of backcountry skiing, Nat’s expeditions have led her through Greenland, Iceland, NZ, Canada and France, and when she’s not carving out her mountain skills, she’s passionate about producing female-driven content.
Together with her X-Games slopestyle skier sister, Anna Segal, and adventure film-maker Bjarne Salén, Nat recently produced Finding the Line, a documentary that explores fear and the sisters’ different experiences and approaches to it. Casual observers could assume both Anna and Nat to be ‘fearless’ based on their choice of career, so it’s an intriguing theme which we explore a bit further in our interview.
The UK premiere of Finding the Line debuts at the Four Seasons Film Festival in London on Friday 22 March.
You were a successful big mountain skier. What drew you to this type of skiing?
Growing up I really had no idea about big mountain skiing. I raced gates for a few years and after that skiing was all about freestyle – moguls, slopestyle and halfpipe. It was by chance that I found myself in Chamonix Mont-Blanc during a university gap year. My whole idea of skiing was turned upside down. I loved the challenge and freedom of big mountain skiing. There were so many possibilities and room to grow and learn. Skiing became a way of exploring rather than just a sport.
What inspired you to explore the concept of fear in your film Finding the Line?
Anna and I wanted to work on a film project together but we didn’t want to make another ski film that was all action and no story. A lot goes on behind the scenes when you are trying shoot ski lines and achieve your goals. Anna and I both realised that fear was something that we had both struggled with as professional skiers and in our everyday lives. But fear isn’t something that is discussed enough. So we decided to make it our focus and create a film that was relevant to audiences beyond the core ski industry. Our aim in creating Finding The Line was for our audiences to walk away from the film discussing fear and how it impacts them and what they can learn from working with their fears.
Was there anything historically in your ski career that made your palms sweaty?
I was always nervous before ski competitions and lining up bigger lines on film or photo shoots. However, I wouldn’t get sweaty palms. My heart would race out of control. I learnt to breathe slowly and try and relax in these scenarios.
Did you learn anything new about your relationship with fear during filming?
I learnt that fear is incredibly important and fostering a positive relationship with your fear is the best way to be happy and progress. I also learnt that mentorship is really important when dealing with fear and having a support system to talk about your fears is very useful and important.
You’ve said that your lack of faith in your abilities prevented you from pushing your limits. Did this stem from an experience you had during your ski career?
I don’t think my outlook on my abilities stems from a bad experience. I am naturally quite a calculated, analytical person so part of it comes from overthinking things. I also lack self-confidence in sporting situations. Ironically, in social situations I’m very outgoing but when it comes to sport, especially skiing, I struggle with self-confidence. I’m not sure where it stems from but I still struggle with it. However, now that I know that it is there, I challenge it and try not to let it define my actions.
In the past, you’ve talked about struggling with the mental side of competing. Can you elaborate?
When I was competing, I always did best when I was the underdog. When there was no pressure or expectations. As a competitive athlete, having a strong mental composure, not letting the pressure or expectations get to you, is an important skill that I had a very hard time mastering. Since I have stopped competing and spend my time filming and pushing my skiing in the backcountry, I’m working a lot on the mental side of the sport, dealing with expectations, goals and creating positive self-talk.
Have you used any mental techniques to help you during your career?
When I was competing I always used visualisation at the top of the venue before I dropped into my line. It prepared me mentally and physically to ski the line and also helped me to stay calm. I still use it whenever I’m just freeskiing and I can really recommend it to anyone who’s trying to push themselves to try it. Visualise yourself doing what you want to achieve, play it over and over again in your head; it helps your muscles to be prepared as well as your senses. However, it is also really important to set yourself up for success. Don’t push yourself in the wrong conditions.
Do you miss competing and have you fully closed the chapter on your professional career?
I stopped competing in 2016 and have been working as a professional skier since then. My winters involve shooting photos, filming for ski projects and writing for outdoor magazines. I am definitely not closing the chapter on my professional career. I moved to Revelstoke, BC this winter and I am currently working on some new ideas for film projects as both an athlete and a producer.
What do you consider to be the perfect way to spend a day on the snow?
I love ski touring and spending time in the backcountry, exploring new places and increasing my experience. A great day on snow could be anything from ski touring in Rogers Pass, hiking couloirs in Chamonix or skiing powder with friends. Skiing for me has always been a great way to travel, share experiences and spend time in the outdoors. If I tick one or all of the boxes I am usually very content.
Does your schedule include any gym work or strength training?
Pre-season training is really important for preventing injuries and making sure that you’re ready for winter. I spend a lot of time outdoors running, mountain biking and trying to climb in the summer and also usually spend 2-4 days in the gym. When winter comes, I try my best to stick to a strength schedule at least once a week but I have found stretching, yoga and active rest as important as strength training.
What’s on the horizon for you this year – any trips or projects in the pipeline?
I have a few things on the go, I just moved to Canada so I’m planning to staying around here for most of the season and exploring my new backyard. Next year I have a few more adventurous trips planned but you’ll just have to wait and see!
What are your favourite items of kit for a day on the snow?
Filling up my snack bag with treats! I never leave home without good face protection – I am quite partial to my merino wool Buff – it protects your face from the wind, cold and sun. I usually wear a shell jacket and pants, whether I am riding the resort or ski touring, and glove liners are ALWAYS a must.
Are you sponsored by anyone right now?
Yes, I’m supported by Bollé Eyewear, Icebreaker Merino, Voelkl Skis, Marker Protection, Dalbello Boots and Buff Canada.
The UK Premiere of “Finding The Line” will be screening as part of Four Seasons Film Festival, at the Charlotte Street Hotel in London on Friday 22ndMarch. Discover more and book your tickets at www.fourseasonsfilmfestival.com.
In the meantime, you can watch the trailer here:
You can follow Nat via her social channels: www.instagram.com/nat_segal and www.twitter.com/natsegal. To find out more about Finding the Line, visit www.findingthelinefilm.com and follow www.instagram.com/finding_the_line.