Known for his smooth flow and technical prowess, freeskier Nick Goepper is the reigning Winter X Games slopestyle champ, as well as the world’s top-ranked slopestyle skier. After winning—with a broken hand—and placing second at two qualifying events in December, the 19-year-old is in Sochi to represent the U.S. for slopestyle’s Olympic debut.
The competition will be held in a terrain park, with judges giving overall impression scores based on amplitude, difficulty, variety, execution, risk taking, and progression of tricks. Far from “just Jackass stuff they invented and called Olympic sports,” as NBC’s Olympics host Bob Costas recently said on Today, slopestyle requires guts, determination, and a boatload of practice. (Check out Goepper in action at Breckenridge’s slopestyle qualifier.)
Here are the young Olympian’s mind-body tips for definitively crushing the park:
You Don’t Need a Mountain
“I grew up about five minutes away from this little hill called Perfect North Slopes, which is about 300 feet tall,” explains Goepper. “It has a hundred percent man-made snow. I’d ski from the first week of December through the first week of March, five hours a day, every day, after school, and then for twelve-hour days on the weekends. I got in as many hours skiing there as some of my friends might have logged out west.”
Use a Trampoline
“If you want to do a backflip, do it on a trampoline a million times before you do it on skis,” Goepper advises. “Then go up to the hills with good friends, make sure they get you stoked to do it, and then commit a hundred percent to the trick. If you don’t commit fully, you won’t land on your feet—and that’s bad news. I did my first backflip when I was 11, and that’s kind of when I knew I wanted to compete.”
Conditioning? Just Ski—a Lot
“If I have a two- or three-week break when I’m not skiing, I’ll do some weight training,” says Goepper. “But my training is usually to just ski every day.”
“I normally do a bunch of squats, lunges, and jumping jacks in the lodge before I go out,” Goepper reports. “If I have access to a spin bike, I’ll spin for ten minutes.”
“I typically do it before I drop in,” confesses Goepper. “Then I stretch out a bunch, and visualize my run.”
Don’t Give in to Frustration
“Not being able to do a trick you wanted to do, not getting a grab or a good takeoff—that’s just frustrating,” Goepper acknowledges. “You know you’re capable of doing the trick, but when you can’t do it, it’s just a mental challenge. I might be angry for a little bit. But, after some of that, I buckle down and focus on what needs to be done to improve my run.”
Check out the video below. OK, it’s a Procter & Gamble ad, but it really showcases Goepper’s dedication to learning new tricks, even on snowless days:
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