Welcome back to the family! How does it feel to be back with Line Skis?
When I spoke with Jason and he welcomed me back he said “I’ve been waiting for this phone call for 6 years.” That was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten. I’m pretty excited to be back where it all began.
What ski models have you been riding?
Line was your original ski sponsor, how did you first get sponsored by Line and how old were you back then?
They were. I’d just switched from snowboarding to skiing (Actually, I still snowboarded almost as much as I skied at that point) and I met the whole LINE team in the park in Vermont. Mike Egan actually introduced me to Jason Levinthal, and we got to talking. I ran my mouth like most 11 or 12 year olds, but I guess I was able to back it up enough that Jason wanted to sponsor me. He even made a pair of custom skis for me cause I was so small.
You’ve been in the ski industry for a long time since then. What do you see as the biggest changes over the years and what do you think hasn’t changed?
Oh man, almost everything has changed or reversed, this may be a long answer. I’m glad I got into it when I did. There was a lot more loyalty between athletes and companies before. I rode for Line for 8 or 9 years, and Scott and Helly Hansen about the same. But that was because I loved their products, and the team managers made it fun. Now it seems there are too many kids, and everyone wants free stuff, so the companies sponsor millions of kids, rather than investing in talent and growing them like LINE did for me. Everyone is doing “double corks” but half of the x-games last year didn’t ever get uncorcked. In order for it to be a double cork, you must get corked, then upright and able to land, then corked again, then land. If you never get uncorked, its just a corked 1260, not a double corked 1260. I was kinda disappointed in the announcing of most of the events I saw, and also that many athletes don’t even know what trick they’re actually doing. But hey, anything is better than a 5 year drought of switch 1080’s..
You were one of the originals to start the whole double cork revolution with the Wilson Flip. What inspired you to throw that trick and when would you say you first start attempting dubs?
I did the first double cork ever at the US Open in 2004. When I was 17. I had planned to do a switch 1080, because I thought only a few guys at that point could do it. The first 6 guys all did switch 1080’s, and then Tanner threw his. Tanner went to the top of the leaderboard, and I knew my name wouldn’t carry me there, but that I couldn’t do the same trick as everyone else. I asked how many more people were doing that trick and found that every single one of the 32 big air jumpers at the US Open were planning to do the same trick. I did a cork 7. I knew I was wasting a jump, but I had to come up with something that would beat a switch 1080, because I knew I was better than most of the jumpers there. I went to the bottom and remembered a dare from my buddy Luke. It came about playing video games, I pointed out that a trick I could do with low gravity on Amped 2 was theoretically possible, so he said “do it in the US Open, pussy”. I basically had ½ hour to take it from theory and visualization and turn it into a reality. It was my disgust with doing the same thing everyone else did that triggered it. 2 years later when everyone was still doing switch 1080’s was when I quit competing, I just thought skiing had lost it’s way at that point. But I was really glad when Jon Olsson started doing his “Kangaroo flip” 2 years later. The Wilson flip was 2 flips with 3 spins, and a kangaroo flip is 2 flips with ½ spin. Without people seeing how much easier it could be I don’t think the double cork would ever have caught on.
How do you feel about the triple cork hype in skiing and snowboarding?
I think skiing needs another Eric Pollard. We need another athlete who has so much style that everyone respects it, and is inspired to do their tricks with more style. I’m all for triple corks, but I’d like to see them done cleaner. Once I started doing double corks in 2004 I realized I’d never do that much rotation as smooth as I wanted, so I started hitting bigger and bigger jumps. My love for big jumps is because I wanted the airtime to slow down and keep my tricks stylie, which I feel many athletes have lost focus of. (In my opinion) Jossi Wells is hands down the best skier in the world, because of his ability to do the tricks with the proper rotation (knowing what he’s doing) and do them with that much style. I love the way that kid skis.
So you’re originally from the east coast but where do you live now?
I was born and raised in southern Vermont, skiing out of Stratton and Mt. Snow. I started skiing out of Lake Tahoe when is was 12 or so, and went to high school in Park City, Utah. Now I split my time between Lake Tahoe California, and Bermuda.
Living in Squaw Valley did you ever get to spend much time with Shane McConkey?
I didn’t as much as you’d think. He is a big mountain legend, and I was mostly a park skier. We didn’t have any sponsors in common, so we never traveled together. It’s weird, but Shane was my hero from BASE jumping, not from skiing.
What was your favorite moment with Shane?
About 3 weeks before he died, Shane, JT Holmes, and I made a midnight BASE jump off of the Squaw tram cables under a near full moon. On the way down he told me I was going to die BASE jumping because I was too much like him. At the time I thought it one of the biggest compliments ever, to be “just like” Shane. Now it’s a very cool and special memory.
Did Shane ever take you on a ski BASE? Is that something you are into?
I never made a ski BASE jump with Shane. I don’t think I’ve ever ski BASE jumped with JT Holmes either. I’ve made a good number of ski base jumps (I prefer the term Skarachuting) but mostly by myself. BASE jumping is a way for me to relax and clear my head, I’m super weird, but I prefer to do it alone.
How many GNAR points do you have today?
Not many. I’ve had days though that would beat most peoples season records. Jumping into the High Camp hot tub fully clothed, and taking Debbie Dutton to lunch are my favorite, but I’ve always been good at talking smack.
You’ve hit some really big jumps over the years. What have been some of your favorite jump sessions?
Anything with Kris Ostness. I really wish I’d gotten to ski with him more as an athlete rather than a filmer. He was so far ahead of the times. Kris was doing tricks in 1998 that most pros were learning in 2006. To see that far ahead and to hit those jumps with the tricks he did is absolutely mind boggling to me. One other session that sticks out was at Super Park when I was 15 or 16. All the best athletes were there, but only 7 or 8 stepped up to the biggest jump. Most people did one or 2 jumps, got the shot, and called it. But Candide, Shoya, and I hit it until it got dark. It was so fun with the 3 of us smiling and loving the jump, but also trying to be polite with the language barrier. I remember making up sign language to try to talk to either of them.
Who is your biggest inspiration in skiing?
I have always looked up to Candide Thovex. Tanner Hall is an incredible athlete, and his mental competition is unmatched. Eric Pollard taught skiing about style. Jossi Wells is the future, and that’s who everyone should look up to right now. But I owe my career to Jason Levinthal, Mike Nick, Kris Ostness, and Riley Poor.
Is there anything you regret or wish you never attempted?
I wish I’d never switched off LINE. I had a good reason, but have never found a better company to ski for.
So you’ve been all over the world in recent years doing crazy stunts on camera, including being featured in the ‘People are Awesome’ video for your rope swing. How did you get into these sports outside of skiing?
I’ve always been into other stuff. Mike Nick taught me everything I know about skiing, but most of it was on my trampoline in Vermont. When I needed to bounce higher I started jumping off the barn roof onto the tramp. Cliff diving came naturally. BASE jumping and skydiving as soon as I was 18. I’ve never really found a sport that I didn’t at least want to try. Except swimming. Swimming is dumb. I do want to thank Joe Commendatore and the boys at Hula Networks for inspiring me to film it rather than keep it all to myself. Without them you’d never have seen any of it unless you lived it with me.
Can you tell us what else you like to do when you’re not skiing at Squaw Valley?
I spend most of my time at Sugar Bowl now. The terrain is amazing, and the mountain is so much more fun. I wish I could transplant a few top skiers to Sugar Bowl, but having Darron Rahlves to look up to is working for now. When I’m not skiing I’m normally looking for another adventure. I just got home from an epic 2 week trip through California.
Is there anything you haven’t done, that you still want to accomplish?
As far as skiing goes, I have a few ideas… There are still a lot of things that can be done on a pair of skis that nobody has done, or most likely has even thought about. The next one I do will be even bigger than the double cork. Personally, I have a huge checklist of things to do before I die, but I think it’s a pretty epic bucket list so I’m looking forward to it.
Do you care that everyone seems think you’re crazy?
Not really. I’m a physics nerd, and I think it’s cool. My knowledge of physics allows me to see things that are possible in a very different perspective from most people. What I don’t understand is why I had a reputation for getting hurt. In 15 years of professional skiing I had a major accident in Aspen when I was 18, and I broke both my heels out-jumping the landing at Squaw on a triple backflip when I was 22. Other than that I had the occasional tweaked knee, but nothing major. Tanner has had far more injuries. So has Candide, Simon, Jossi and the entire US ski team… I think most skiers have.
Do you have any fears or phobias?
Paralyzation scares me. One of my best friends Riley Poor was injured a few years ago and it scares me so much that I’ve barely talked to him since. I’ve been a terrible friend but I have a really hard time thinking about the reality of it, so I have a hard time talking to him now. It really sucks. I love you Riley!
What ever happened to the giant rope jump you were working on in West Virginia?
It was actually in California, but we joked that the mountains looked more like the mountains of West Virginia. Last year we had a record breaking bad snow season, so I set out on a BASE jumping mission. I built the world’s biggest zipline, which was also the first time anyone had ever built a BASE jump for the purpose of jumping. I hope it will open people’s eyes about the possibilities of sport, and about why being a math nerd can be cool.
Do you have any skiing goals for next winter?
I have one idea I’ve been waiting a few years for. The idea is simple, but will change the way people ski. I just need the right crew, because I want to share it with my friends before the rest of the world sees it and jumps all over it.
Favorite people to ski with?
This changes every day, but at the moment Jessica Tidd. Lizzie Larkins, and Sophie and Emma Warren are a close 2nd.
Favorite ski movie?
Teddy Bear Crisis. But honestly anything Kris Ostness has touched is incredible.
Can you give us an idea of what big plans you have for the future?
I could, but that would ruin the surprise.
Ok, so how close are we to finally seeing a Mike Wilson reality show?
Haha. I get that a lot. I dunno, I’m not sure the public could handle the stuff I do on a regular basis.
What makes you happy?
Seeing other people smile or helping someone learn something nobody else can teach them. I also like BASE jumping or doing something super rad by myself, knowing I did it just for me.
Person you would most like to meet?
One of the Kardashians…maybe then I’ll get it.
Best vacations spot?
I spent most of last year in Bermuda, so I obviously love it there. I also have a car in Hawaii (for the rainforest, most of Hawaii is too built up for me) and in New Zealand too. I like to travel to places I’ve never been before. I’m heading to the Philippines for a few months this summer and I’m super excited for that.
Have you ever been arrested?
Haha, I was just in court the other day about the zipline I built. I was told it was legal, but the same guy who told me that then testified in court that it was dangerous and I wasn’t allowed to do it. USFS (US government in general) is full of liars.
If you were granted 1 wish from a genie, what would you ask for?
I don’t think I’d change anything major, but maybe a chance to do it all over again.
Anything else you would like to mention to your fans?
Haha, ya! The world is a really cool place, covered with amazing things, with tons of fun to be had. I make it a goal to see and experience as much as I can, and have more fun than anyone else alive. I’m formally challenging you to have more fun than I do.