“Now, a snowboarder just did a quad cork, and another one did a triple in the pipe. That didn’t even look fun. That’s robot shit, I mean, is that even necessary?” – Tanner Hall
I love watching competitive snow sports – X Games, World Cup or the Olympics, it always blows my mind. Can you imagine standing at the top of one of those courses? I can only speculate…
The cameras, sponsors, crowds and all the people you’ve looked up to in the sport you love are all there in a blinding haze of excitement. You’re standing in the gate trying to concentrate but the adrenaline is pumping, the course guy is chirping on the radio looking at his clip board of bib numbers.
This is what I’ve worked for. I’m here.
Looking down the barrel of the super pipe or the intimidating oblivion lip of the Big Air or the first set of rails on the slopestyle course; your coach gives you a final fist bump.
Racer ready? 3 2 1 ….
I suppose that’s the dream for a lot of people. I can see why – my speculation sounds fun and exciting but, as I am more active as an audience member, I can tell you more about watching. I usually sit back with some friends and a beer or 3 and watch YouTube re runs of the finals that I already know the results of, because time differences and TV contracts hindered my ability to watch in real time. We hang out and catch up on text book examples of what is the craziest and most highly scored trick at the moment. And after a few “holy shit”s and “Duuuude that was sick”s I’m left feeling the following:
Motivation – Due to the above dream and they make those dub cork 14s look sooo easy! (Keyword: look)
Boredom – Because text book skiing and snow boarding actually kinda sucks
Confusion – Wait.. Why do I ski? Is this the end game? I don’t count if I cant quad? Someone has to tell me I’m good?
I don’t give a shit about quads anymore.
In my ski bum chalet of the 14/15 winter I was cleaning my teeth when my buddy shouted out that Henrick Harlaut was dropping his X games slope lap. I ran out and slid along the kitchen floor so fast that I smashed into a wall and broke my toe. You know why?
“He’s throwing up Wu-Tang sings, pulling boogers out of his nose and looking at the camera all goofy. I like that, man. That’s fun. That’s cool.” Tanner Hall in The Ski Journal, Vol 9 Iss 1, pg 80
It took me a little while to realise all this. You know, that skiing is made for fun? That having awesome style instead of a robotic, well rehearsed slopestyle run is way cooler.
I grew up in Australia, at a ski resort, but it’s a long, long way from these rad cats in North America who have been sending it since Mike Douglas blew up with the Salomon 1080. I didn’t really know who Shane McConkey was and I didn’t have the internet. All I knew were the ski movies playing in the bars, my instructors who told me stories of bottomless snow and terrain parks, and my super rich weekend ski friends who had been to Europe and North America and skied all summer. Skiing was all I loved and I could only do it from June – September, if you weren’t rained out. Imagine if I could do it all summer or even all year?!
I still have this piggy bank with ‘Vail’ written on it in Sharpie that 12 year old me was slotting coins into to fund my high school exchange trip there. Mum still looks at it to remind herself why her only daughter is sitting in the big mountains of BC, penniless and frost bitten. Because I love to ski. Always have.
I had friends who were going to the US to compete and I started to change. I thought “That’s how I get there. That’s how I can do what I love.” A judge, a timer – something or someone has to tell me I’m good enough. I ripped my face off in a moguls comp trying to get a ski scholarship when I was 15 and I remember trying to hide the fact that I was crying on the way off the ski hill because I didn’t medal in these state school races. I got scared to try anything new because if it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth it.
I mean yeah, I loved the competing part and the few times I stood on the podium were fucking awesome but jeez… Thinking a whole winter was wasted because I wasn’t the best? That sucked.
I was pretty sheltered from big competition skiing, like X Games. And, even if I wasn’t, when I was a kid the guys people were watching were hilarious legends like Shane, Candide, Tanner and CRJ that could send on skis, be creative and have a good time. Now what? Quad or go home? Imagine me, going home from my lame race at 12 being pretty upset only to turn the TV on and see 14 year old Kelly Sildaru send a switch 10 for the win. Fuck.
I started skiing for myself again. Like I did before I thought being a perfect form competitor was the only way to do it. Like when I was a little kid ripping around, fuelled on chocolate bars and happiness. I remember when it snowed down to the base of the resort on a school day and my buddy and I drove out towards the mountain just to look at it. I remember buying my first skis with my own money – a Salomon Suspect and being so fucking hype when I saw them on Matt Walker in Every Day is a Saturday. I still did the occasional race but I knew as soon as I finished school that I was going skiing and I was going for fun!
I don’t think competitive skiing is a bad thing and I don’t think the athletes are stagnant robots. And I certainly don’t think Kelly Sildaru is anything but amazing. It just scares me to think rigid, text book competition skiing and snowboarding that we see a lot of today is what could be the future. A future where if you aren’t perfect or throwing tricks to nearly the point of risking your life, you don’t count. Where a nine year old thinks they have to have a quad dialed by age 16 –
“If it goes to that point, then I just don’t know. The message will be so lost” – Tanner Hall in The Ski Journal, Vol 9 Iss 1, pg 80
But what do others think? After scouring Newschoolers it seems the ski community feels similar.
“In skiing there is a huge disparity between those who compete and those who film in the streets or bc – and it isn’t because those in competition can do tricks the other’s can’t – it’s about advertising and marketing and $$$.
In my experience the rift in skiing has to do with the fact that one aspect of the sport (competing) is more highly valued than filming in terms of dollars.” – Trina
Becoming a pro looks pretty awesome I guess. But I asked myself why? So I don’t have to work in a cafe to pay rent? Or volunteer on ski patrol for a free pass?
Realistically it would be amazing to get paid to ski! But I can still ski and have, more than likely, a better time than a pro who is constantly training, being interviewed or getting injured. At least I hope that’s the case!
But it’s not all about money. Or none of us would ski. Or snowboard if that’s what you’re into. What impresses you when you watch someone ski? I know I’d rather a super styley 360 over a text book 360. Fuck I’d prefer it over a text book 1080.
From what I see on NS, the hate that guys like Goepper get isn’t due to income inequality compared to film stars, but due to their “robotic” style. And that’s what NS mainly hates about comp skiing- its cookie-cutter nature and lack of style.” – One Nerdy Kid
“Another problem might also be that in ski comps the courses are mostly quite un creative. As an non skier I think it will get quite repetitive seeing some skiers just spinning around on the same features. They won’t notice the variety of tricks, they’ll just see some guys spinning and flipping crazy.
We just need competitions with more creative setups, like B&E Invitational for example.” – T Van
Until I read the Newschoolers article on the above B&E Invitational I didn’t know that Henrick shared his prize money with all the riders. That guy honestly blows my mind. I pulled t-bars for him all day at Perisher once but I didn’t recognise him because it was just after he cut his dreads off. I should’ve recognised his stupidly awesome oversized gear and big smile. But I probably would’ve dived on him and covered him in the dankest cuddles possible if I did. So he’s probably thankful!
“Awesome to see an event that looks like the goal was to have as much fun as possible with your friends. That’s skiing!” – JLev
So.. Where do we go from here? Bigger, more rotations, more money? I hope not.
Things I’m going to push and support are events like the B&E, inspiring creativity like SLVSH, small crews having fun like The Bunch, Burlapppz, Mole Squad and The Acres and rewarding style over robotic trick repeats.
If you get lost in it all just remember that skiing and snowboarding are one thing before anything else.
If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
And to be honest about competition skiing.. I can’t tell what any jump is after a 1080 anyway. You’re a god damn helicopter.
Newschoolers B&E Invitational – Mar 12th 2016 by Matt Kretzschmar
Bankston, S, Into the Cage with Tanner Hall, The Ski Journal, Vol 9 Number 1, pp 71 – 83