The Snow Report
Fresh off a second place finish at the Dew Tour in early December—in which he stomped his new, signature trick, a double cork 1620 blunt grab in the big air competition—and having snagged last season’s AFP overall title for the second year in a row, 21-year-old Gus Kenworthy has cemented his status as one the world’s best park and pipe skiers. A triple threat in slopestyle, half-pipe, and big air, Kenworthy is one of the most well-rounded newschoolers out there. In 2012, he won the Dumont Cup, the Jon Olsson Invitational, and the big air and slopestyle events at the World Skiing Invitational. The only thing missing from his trophy collection now is an X Games medal, which he is gunning for—big time—this season. Look for him to come in hot to January’s X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
Based in Breckenridge, Colorado, Kenworthy’s rise to ski stardom has been meteoric. Since 2010, the London-born, Telluride-bred skier has graduated high school, won the 2011 and 2012 AFP overall titles (one of freeskiing’s top accolades), landed a spot on the inaugural U.S. Freeskiing team, and scored sponsorships with Atomic and Nike. He’s filmed with Matchstick and Poor Boyz. This season, in between competitions and shoots, he’ll train with the U.S. national squad in Breckenridge and Mammoth, California, for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he’ll compete in both the slopestyle and half-pipe events, making him the only American male participating in both disciplines. Judging from his recent successes, Kenworthy is a favorite to bring home some serious hardware from Sochi.
Here, Kenworthy talks about new tricks and competing in the 2014 Olympics, and demystifies the life of a young, pro skier—it’s not all fancy cars and film premieres.
What do you like about park and pipe riding?
I like the freedom to do what you want to do. There are so many different axes that you can spin on as well as direction of spins and variations of grabs. There’s always something different you can try and it never gets old. The possibilities are endless.
What’s your favorite event—big air, slopestyle, or pipe?
Big air is kind of turning into my new favorite event. The formats are fun and with snowmobiles or elevators at the city big airs, you are able to hit the jump a ton in a short period of time. The crowd is always excited and you end up pushing yourself way harder than you expected and doing something crazy.
What’s this new trick you’ve been putting down recently?
It’s a double cork 1620 “blunt” grab, which just means that you’re grabbing your ski on the very tip of the tail. Other people have done double cork 16s before but they’ve always done it with mute grabs. Because the trick is such a big rotation, your body naturally wants you to let go of the grab and wrap up to get the spin around. The hardest part was just forcing myself to hold my ski the entire way through the rotation even though it’s a little awkward feeling.
What’s the hardest part of learning a new trick?
The hardest part about learning new tricks at this point is trying to do so safely. For the most part, there are no easy or safe tricks left. Many of the top guys, including myself, have been working on multiple variations of triple corks for the past couple of seasons. The major concerns with tricks like that is that in order to do one successfully you need a massive jump, which is essentially more dangerous. The chance of messing up and falling significantly increases when you’re flipping through the air three times while spinning and trying to grab your skis. Furthermore, many of these tricks have never been done before, so you’re visualizing it in your head and even though you understand how it’ll work, having never seen it done before, it’s hard to know for sure how it will play out.
Who is your biggest competition or rival?
It’s hard to say. In slopestyle, there are so many guys that kill it that it’s really anybody’s game at most events. Tom Wallisch is a pretty hard person to beat, as is Russ Henshaw and Bobby Brown. In pipe, I’d say my biggest opposition is myself. I don’t ever train half-pipe except for the short training sessions during events and, because of that, I have a really hard time consistently putting my runs down smoothly. I think if I got over my fears of pipe and was able to land my runs more frequently, then I would have a good chance at doing well in pipe, too.