James Woods Profile: From British dry slopes to the big leagues
As seen in the February 2012 issue of FREESKIER.
INTERVIEW: SHAY WILLIAMS — PHOTOS: ERIK SEO – GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
James Woods didn’t grow up on the corduroy of Colorado or vast mountains of France. He didn’t even grow up skiing in the harsh winters of New England. He grew up in Sheffield, England. Skiing on a dry slope. Frequently in the rain. Humble beginnings or not, Woodsy is the real deal. He’s put up serious results for a guy who learned to ski on plastic bristles. Now that he’s travelling amongst the globetrotting ski studs, we will soon see what he is capable of on the real stuff.
HOW WAS IT GROWING UP IN SHEFFIELD? The town is wicked. It’s actually quite a big town, one of the biggest in England. I’m lucky because I live halfway between the city and the countryside. I kind of grew up in the city, but it’s also an easy bike ride out to the country where there is nothingness in Derbyshire. It’s a great opportunity to have both things.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO SKIING? THE UK ISN’T EXACTLY A SKIING HOTSPOT. Right, not quite the skiing hotspot. There is a dry slope called Sheffield Ski Village, 15 or 20 minutes from my house. It used to be the biggest in the world. My mom saw an advert for the Ski Village in the paper, and I got a ski and snowboard lesson, and I loved them both. The most plausible way of continuing to do it was to join the ski club—that meant it was a lot cheaper to get a yearly ticket. Then I basically went every day. I loved it.
YOU’VE BEEN ONE OF THE SOLE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UK ON THE COMP SCENE. HOW DOES IT FEEL HAVING AN ENTIRE COUNTRY ON YOUR BACK? Everyone feels pressure when they compete, so when things get a little hectic and I lose my head a bit, I revert back and think, “Damn, this is bigger than me. I’m doing it for the UK.” When I think about it, compared to the other skiers, I guess it’s a bigger deal than I’m taking it for. But I love it, and I’m proud to be representing the UK on the competition side of things. On the international level, that little GBR flag next to my name is soul warming, and I feel very proud. Representing your country, that means something, doesn’t it?
WHAT’S IT LIKE GETTING TO SEE THE WORLD? ENGLAND, AFTER ALL, IS AN ISLAND. I always dreamed of trying to be the best in the world at skiing, but I never envisioned all the places I’d go. I showed up at this dry slope one day, and this whole side of my life began. Every time I step on a plane, I can’t believe how normal it is. It’s still sinking in as I go, and I can get bummed on traveling, but when I think about it, Are you insane? In the last two weeks, I’ve been to Zurich, Annecy, Budapest, Stockholm…It’s just mad, I’m so lucky. I’ll go to more places in a month than some people in their whole life. It’s something I’m going to try and not take for granted as the years go on. I’m going to pinch myself every time and be thankful.
YOU MUST REALLY BE EXCITED TO GET AWAY FROM BRITISH CUISINE. [laughs] You might think so! But I quite like it, thank you very much. You’ve got your classics: your fish and chips, your curries and a bunch of takeaways. Seriously though, thinking about going home to a Sunday roast with big thick gravy and proper puddings, that’s English food to me. I don’t know why people don’t like it. It’s bliss. It’s the taste of home, and I miss it.
HOME MOUNTAIN: Sheffield, England
SPONSORS: Quiksilver, Monster, Salomon
RESULTS: 2007–2011, British National Champion, slopestyle, Laax,
Switzerland 1st, 2011 Andreas Håtveit’s Backyard Battle, slopestyle &
big air, Skibyen, Norway 3rd, 2011 X Games Europe, slopestyle, Tignes, France 3rd, 2011 King of Style, big air, Stockholm, Sweden
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About the author:
Henrik Lampert loves hot dogs, backflips, the Boston Bruins and Norway. Twenty-seven years old and a Massachusetts native, he's the Editor of Freeskier Magazine and Freeskier.com—a proud staffer since 2010.