Off the course, Hubbard hits the slopes
November 19, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Mark Hubbard has been skiing as long as he can remember. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The helicopter ride was actually what made him nervous. Not the 8- or 10-foot drop out of the chopper on his skis down to the pristine, snow-covered slope.
Mark Hubbard admittedly isn’t a big fan of heights, and this was just his third helicopter ride. He’d never been heli-skiing before, but the chance to go with some buddies was just too good to pass up.
“I’m terrified of helicopters,” Hubbard explains with a smile. “But the actual drop in wasn’t too bad. It's kind of one of those things where you just kind of do it. You just kind of jump and go.
“But the ride up there, it's kind of like a roller coaster. Like, the worst part for me is the slow climb to the very top. Once you start going, it's awesome.”
Hubbard’s friends worked on the ski patrol and had been charged with clearing the fresh, loose snow so there wouldn’t be any avalanches. When everything was deemed safe, there was time for a little back-country skiing on slopes that had not been touched.
Hubbard felt the rush as soon as his skis hit the slope; the helicopter hovering overhead.
“You're dropping into a pretty steep grade,” Hubbard explains. “You kind of hit it and just start going. There's not a whole lot of kind of drop and stop the way they angle it. … You just kind of smooth it out.
“I'm a horrible surfer. But it's got to be the same as, you know, kind of dropping into a big wave. Like there's not a lot of hits and slap kind of thing. If you're doing it right, you kind of just drop in and coast.”
While heli-skiing is considered a bucket-list item for some adventure-seekers, Hubbard has only done it that one time – and he says, “that was probably enough for me.” After all, his appendages, fingers, arms and legs, are pretty important if he’s to be successful at his job on the PGA TOUR.
“I don't take any risks anymore for me,” Hubbard says. “Like, I have a better chance of falling down the stairs than falling on most of the runs that we do. I stay away from the tough stuff now. It's just a leisurely stroll down the mountain to me now. But back in the day, I wouldn't say no to a whole lot.”
Hubbard, who grew up in Denver, Colorado, has skied basically since he could walk. For several years, until he was about 15 years old, he participated in the DEVO Junior Alpine program at Vail and did some downhill racing. He soon realized he wasn’t going to be the next Bode Miller, though.
“I've always been, and this is true, you know, of running, too -- I don't know if it actually translates or not, but I've always been kind of quick side-to-side, like have (a good) first step,” Hubbard says. “And so, I've always kind of been agile like that on skis.
“So, I'm pretty good at moguls and I'm pretty good in the trees and stuff like that. But in terms of racing, I never, never was fast enough.”
Still, until recently, Hubbard says he’d often joke that he was probably was as good a skier as he was a golfer. But he just put together his best season on the Korn Ferry Tour – winning once – and has finished 13th or better in three of his first five starts this fall in his return to the PGA TOUR.
Hubbard ranks 17th in the FedExCup, has earned more than $1 million – nearly as much as in his three previous TOUR seasons combined – and ranks ninth in the Birdies Fore Love competition that ends this week. So now the pendulum may have slanted toward golf.
“I might've in the last month, I might have crossed that threshold,” Hubbard says.
Hubbard, who posted a career-high tie for second last month at the Houston Open, says the most difficult skiing he’s ever done was at the top of Crested Butte in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
“It gets really steep,” he explains. “There's lots of exposed kind of trees and rocks and stuff like that and it gets a little icy late in the day. So that's probably the toughest -- especially late in the day when the conditions are just so-so, I mean, you’ve really just got to commit.
“That's why I actually, I think that's one of the reasons I really like skiing things. You can overthink it. I know as soon as you start thinking like that's when you're in trouble. You’ve just kind of got to plan you route like you do, you know, the game-planning you think about.
“You visualize where you're going to go, but then once you're going and you just kind of have got to go. … I like stuff that puts you kind of in the moment where you can’t overthink things.”
Hubbard says his wife Meghan, whom he proposed to on the 18th green during the final round of the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, has also become an avid skier. Soon after this week’s The RSM Classic is over, the two are taking a bucket-list trip to Europe where they plan to ski in the Alps.
One of the places likely on the itinerary is Zermatt, Switzerland, which is in the shadow of the famous Matterhorn. But skiing isn’t the only thing on the agenda for the month-long trip – they also plan to hit the famous Christmas markets in places like Austria and Germany.
“It's been our dream to do it,” Hubbard says. “And we both turned 30 this year, so our clock's ticking a little bit. It's been a good year, so yeah.”