My Perfect Adventure
He’s an Olympian and one of the world’s best halfpipe riders, but snowboarder Louie Vito isn’t satisfied yet. Up against other halfpipe greats such as Shaun White and Iouri Podladtchikov, the 24-year-old Ohio native wants to be No. 1, and he’s stepping up an already impressive career to get there.
Vito has had a solid run since placing fifth in halfpipe at the 2010 Winter Olympics, with podium finishes at 17 of his past 20 major superpipe contests. This year he snagged his fourth Winter X Games medal and reclaimed his title as the Winter Dew Tour superpipe champion, and he has won four of the past five U.S. Grand Prix Overall Championships. He also scored a prestigious Red Bull sponsorship last year after White left his spot with the energy drink giant, and, partly thanks to a tough new training regimen, he was invited to bear it all in a nude photo shoot for “The Body Issue” of ESPN Magazine last year.
Here, Vito tells us what he admires about boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr., how he prefers to get revenge, and why he thinks skeptics only make him stronger.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
This is a tough one. I would say I’d be somewhere in the mountains, maybe the Alps, because then you’re literally in the mountains rather than simply at a resort town. I would snowboard all day with my friends and family. Of course there would be a few feet of fresh snow. Then, after riding, we’d stay at a place with an amazing pool, hot tub, and sauna. I love being out in a pool or a hot tub with snow all around you and coming down.
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
Bora Bora. I’ve seen pictures of those huts off the docks in the middle of the craziest blue water, and I’ve always wanted to go there. The blue water makes the destination seem unreal. I feel like it would be the most relaxing place.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
I don't know if it would be the best, but one of the more memorable places I’ve been was the Bahamas. I think that’s the last time I really went on a vacation, and that was around 10 years ago. My grandpa took the whole family. We went on a cruise—with islands, family, parasailing, the whole nine. Of course, my dad took the lead, and we didn't do any of the activities through the cruise, but rather through the locals, which may or may not have been the best move. We went parasailing with a sketchy guide, went to another island to pick up his friend, and ended up at a dock with no one there. Meanwhile, all the docks next to us were filled with tourists and official groups. But we survived and it was a trip I will never forget.
If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
I’d like to go to lunch with boxing champ Floyd Mayweather. People love to hate him, but he knows he's the best and he backs it up. I just think you have to tell yourself that you’re the best and no one is better than you, that no one can beat you every time you enter a contest, a fight, or a race. That’s what Floyd does. I’d love to sit and talk to him—I think I could learn some things. I met him one time in Vegas when I was with a mutual friend, but it was a late night out and about, and not the best time to pick his brain.
What's something you can't travel without? And why do you need it?
I can’t travel without my phone and my computer. I like to stay connected. I’m really lucky to have a sponsorship with Sprint, so I can use my phone wherever I go, and whenever. That’s a real life saver, especially when you have hiccups in your travel plans. My computer just keeps me connected to what’s going on around me. My emails, music, movies, and calendars—it’s all on my computer.
When you arrive at a new destination, what's usually first on your agenda?
I take a shower. I hate the feeling after flying. After I drop off my bags and shower, the very next thing I would probably do is eat.
What motivates you as a snowboarder?
I’ve always been competitive and hard on myself. I love to push myself. I think anything you do would get boring if you didn't progress at all. My friends motivate me, as do my family. The feeling you get when you learn a new trick, and the people who doubt me, it all motivates me. I actually love when people doubt me or try to cut me down, because then I have a new motivation to prove everyone wrong. The greatest revenge is massive success. But at the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling you get when you land something, whether it’s a contest run or a trick that you have been trying over and over.
As a child, what was your dream job? If you gave up that dream, when and why did your plans change, and do you have any regrets?
Well, when I was little I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. It's hard for people to believe, but I was really good in school, and airplanes and space really interested me. I was also super interested in soccer while I was growing up, doing the whole club soccer and ODP [Olympic Development Program] thing.
I think it was in eighth grade, when I spent a whole winter in Vermont at Stratton Mountain School, where I got to snowboard every day for the first time, that I realized I wanted to do this day in and day out for as long as I could.
When and how did you first start snowboarding?
I started snowboarding when I was five or six years old on a small 300 vertical foot hill in Ohio called Mad River Mountain. Mad River is about five to 10 minutes from my house, and my grandpa used to have the whole family ski as something we all could enjoy together. One day my dad and I saw a chance to go snowboarding, and we both thought it looked cool so we decided to try it out. We both instantly fell in love with it, and it’s been a wrap ever since.
I also trained as a gymnast before becoming a snowboarder. My parents believed it was important to put your kids in gymnastics at an early age. I think it was especially important for me since I have endless energy and loved flipping off of anything. Gymnastics put me in a controlled environment to do all those things, taught me some fundamentals that carry over to a lot of different sports, and let me burn some of my energy at the same time.
As I got older in Ohio, if I missed more than five days of school in nine weeks, [my teachers] would try to fail me. If I had played football or baseball, they may have been more understanding, but snowboarding wasn't the biggest sport at the time. So my parents took a risk and sent me to Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where I could get a really good education (which made my mom happy), and I could travel and snowboard without having to worry about failing. I also got to ride better mountains and have someone helping me to achieve my goals.
What's one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring professional snowboarder?
I think, really, it's just to have fun. I grew up in Ohio, where we don't even have mountains, let alone halfpipes, in the entire state. And yet I went to the Olympics for halfpipe. You just have to get a crew of friends to ride with, film each other, do contests, push each other, and just have fun. Your riding will progress faster by just having fun. Set some goals and ride as much different terrain as possible.
Have you ever had any role models or mentors? Describe the most influential and what he or she taught you.
My parents have always been great mentors and role models in all aspects of life. My dad is one of those people who came from nothing and became successful. He was great in sports and has a quote for any and every situation I’ve been in, good or bad. He taught me a lot about goal setting, work ethic, mindset, and life in general. The quote I’ve always lived by, which he told me, is: "If you’re good enough, they can't ignore you." You can apply that to anything you do in life. It’s a quote I’ll never forget, especially when people are doubting me.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future.
Have you ever made a mistake or experienced an injury that made you think twice about competing again?
No. I know the risks of the sport I do. Sometimes you may get a little more nervous or stressed about trying something if you think about it too long, or if you see a friend get seriously hurt, but the adrenaline and the love of snowboarding outweighs it all.
If you had to choose a different career, what would it be and why?
That’s hard to say. I would love to be another type of professional athlete, just because I love waking up and doing something I love, plus I love sports and I’m super competitive in anything I do, but I never really thought about a different career. I guess if the career was non-sports related, I’d start by going back to school. I’d probably study communications or some type of marketing.
Name three things you still want to cross off your life bucket list.
Go to Bora Bora.
Summit Mt. Hood.
Donate my hair to Locks of Love.