Tom Peiffer's Freeride World Tour career got off to a strong start with a third-place finish in his first-ever competition in Hakuba, Japan.
While he didn't return to the podium in 2019, Peiffer's rookie campaign was strong enough to earn him sixth overall in the season and punch his ticket for the 2020 campaign.
Looking back on his debut, Peiffer said the bronze result was a good way to start the season in the standings while also giving him a sense he wasn't at all out of place on the tour.
"I didn't expect it, honestly, when I got it. It was really big as a confidence booster for the rest of the season, knowing that you can compete on a venue that's not really my style of skiing and still be able to succeed," he recalled. "Being able to stand on the podium beside Markus Eder and Tanner Hall, I don't think I'll process that for a while, just because it's nothing like you've ever imagined.
"I didn't podium for the rest of the season, which I'm totally OK with, but it's still nice to know that it's achievable," he added.
Peiffer, however, said the most memorable part of the season was the camaraderie he created with other competitors.
"Just getting to be around such a great group of riders, really, I think is the highlight for me," he said. "It's so intimidating coming into it, but everybody makes you feel at home. They're all such good friends now. Everybody is so friendly and kind and open that it just kind of took off that edge and made the experience that much more fun."
Peiffer explained that he looked up to fellow competitors as role models, studying how they were dealing with increased on-site media and distractions compared to the qualifying or junior tours.
"It's really good to see how a lot of these experienced and more professional guys, (seeing) their mental game and seeing how they interact around dropping in and comps at bigger venues," he said. "For me, it's seeing how they handle it, and what they're doing."
In terms of his own skiing, Peiffer explained he is learning to balance the risk-versus-reward nature of the scoring system, where a couple of crashes are detrimental to a competitor's chances of being invited back the following season, whereas a slate of conservative runs is a safer but less exciting option.
"You don't want to crash and you don't want to do poorly, so it's balancing that fine line of, 'How big can I go before I crash?'" Peiffer said. "It was really motivating to see them throw down some big things. I can do that, too."
Peiffer experienced 2019 alongside his twin brother, Liam, who finished the season ranked 16th and missed out on being in the top 12 invited back for 2020.
With an atmosphere where competitors are both friend and foe, Tom explained it was tough to handle that relationship on tour, especially when Liam finished 12th at the fourth race in Andorra and didn't qualify for the season's final event in Verbier, Switzerland.
"It was a dream come true that I could ride and qualify with him," he said. "(But) for him to succeed, it's going to hurt me. I'm being supportive, but also ensuring my own individual success, while also trying to make sure he's successful. There's no real way to go about it.
"It was so heartbreaking in Andorra just to see the pain, what he had to go through. It was a dream come true, but it's your worst nightmare at the same time is the best way to put it."
While he finished higher in the standings, Peiffer said the results aren't necessarily indicative of who is more talented overall, given that factors such as this season's venues and weather conditions were among the myriad factors that affected the outcome.
"That's the weird thing about competing. Everybody always asks, 'Who's better, who's better?'" Peiffer said. "Sometimes, you're not feeling it and you don't feel quite as confident, and other times, you're feeling really good about it. There are so many variables that go into it that are out of your control."
Peiffer said he's eager for his sophomore campaign and would be ready to go if it started soon. Alas, he will have to wait until the new year.