It’s not just watching Jasper Cobcroft ski downhill that’s breathtaking, it’s the sound. The clattering of skis, rasping titanium whooshing against ice, peppered with airborne silence.
It repeatedly decrescendos one kilometre down an obstructive 250-metre vertical drop in 70 seconds; a mother’s voice in the background says, “slow down, mate”.
Jasper isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
Just two months ago, the-then 17-year-old represented Australia in the high-octane discipline of ski cross at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics in Lausanne.
This is a lad born of the land. To an eighth-generation farmer. His hometown is Young and he’s had more to do with dust, wheat, sheep and cattle in his lifetime than he has snow.
That said, Olympic DNA runs through his veins. His grandfather, the late Brien Cobcroft, was an accomplished equestrian who represented Australia at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and brought home bronze from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
But Jasper is forging his own track in the mountains of the world and his success almost seems a surprise to him. Perhaps because he fell into it so innocently.
His parents Nick and Fiona met on the slopes and there was an annual family trip to Thredbo where Jasper and his siblings Daisy and Hermione found their snow feet.
But in Copper Mountain, Colorado a family friend saw racing potential in the young Cobcrofts, marking a crossroads on Jasper’s journey.
Back home they joined the Thredbo Ski Racing Club and were soon representing their town and Young Public School in interschool competition.
“I don’t remember how I did in my first race but I got a few podiums and that gave me the motivation to keep going – I really enjoyed it,” Jasper told About Regional.
Never for one moment did he think it would lead to anything major.
Another turning point came in 2013 during a six-week training program under Australian Olympic ski coach Helmut Spiegl at Windermere Valley Ski Club in British Colombia, Canada.
As he transitioned to boarding school in Sydney so did his skiing, although Jasper says it was around this time that things got serious.
By serious he means international representation at the Whistler Cup in under-14s and Italy’s Trofeo Topolino for under-16s.
In 2019 he went completely off-grid – in a good way – moving from alpine to men’s freestyle ski cross, which involves individual qualification before the final 32 thrash it out on the slopes, jumps and turns in teams of four.
“I found the transition to ski cross smooth actually – and going into the Hotham races I didn’t know what to expect to qualify but I did a day’s training to get a feel for the course and what ski cross is all about,” Jasper said.
“I’m used to going fast around the gates, but I now had obstacles, rollers, burns and jumps,” he explained, “I had to learn how to handle the rollers, where to absorb them and jumps and get over obstacles as quick as I can.”
That day’s training worked. Jasper came in 14th amid stellar internationals at the 2019 FIS (Federation International Ski) Australia New Zealand Cup, landing one of two ski cross spots on the Youth Winter Olympics team.
Olympics preparation involved 4.5 weeks of training with the Australian men’s freestyle ski cross team in Austria and practice runs at the European Cup in France.
“It was really good experience to see how the older guys handle the racing and training and see where I have to get to the next step,” Jasper said.
The Youth Winter Olympics is staged over a two-week period and replicates its senior counterpart.
“The aim of it is to give kids an idea of what it’s like going to the actual Olympics – so it’s a bit of an eye-opener,” Jasper said.
The end result was Jasper placing 16th out of a field of 50.
“I was going in for the top 10 but at the end of the day I just wanted to do my best, not make any mistakes, to get down and finish it,” he said.
“There were a few little mistakes that cost me a bit but the experience overall was everything.”
“I’d like to see where I can go with it – it might take a few years but I’ll keep chipping away,” he said.
But in the meantime, the now-18-year-old faces the challenge of the HSC. Another mountain of sorts.