A week after departing Aspen, Colorado with an X Games gold medal, Nick Goepper sits silently eating his breakfast. We’re seated at a table in The Grand Country Deli, a small eatery and convenience store located within Mount Snow’s Grand Summit Hotel in West Dover, Vermont. Typical New England tchotchkes line the store shelves: postcards, keychains and a half dozen varieties of maple syrup. A deli counter sits in the rear, serving up one of my favorite breakfasts in the area. Should you find yourself here, you’d do well to order the breakfast burrito.
Our group consists of Goepper, Windells Academy’s Kerry Miller, Mount Snow’s Matt Gebo and filmer Dylan Demers, in addition to Ian Burson, Ian’s father Chad and friend Gary Showalter; the latter three coming from Carson City, NV after Ian won a contest that netted him two days of skiing with Goepper, as well as a full gear setup from Goepper’s sponsors. The conversation jumps around, switching from plans for the next two days and the recent January thaw, to the quickest way to getting Ian’s new skis mounted. Goepper is subdued and focused, making small talk but not much else; not what you’d expect from someone who’d just claimed one of freeskiing’s top honors and the bragging rights to go with it. The group finally finishes their meals and departs. I’d spend the next two days following Nick and the Carson City crew around Mount Snow’s Carinthia Parks, hot lapping through the resort’s parks, watching Goepper sign autographs for fans in the base lodge and photographing the contingent before I’d be able to sit Nick down for an interview. When I finally did, here’s what he had to say on everything from sugary cereals, celebrity gymnasts and the state of freeskiing today.
So I’m going to start off with some quick questions… Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms? Lucky Charms for sure. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. My parents never bought sugary cereal, but whenever I would go to my grandparents in Michigan for holidays, my grandmother would always buy them for me, she was a saint for that.
Your little secret? Yeah.
New Zealand or South America? New Zealand. Never been to South America, but New Zealand tops all.
When was the last time you were there? I was there last August and September.
Hood or Whistler? Hood.
Favorite book? Favorite book? [Pause] The Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It’s a book about a Navy SEAL who… gets separated from his contingent in Afghanistan and has to do all this crazy, heroic stuff.
Favorite musician? Are we talking like musician? Or rapper? Or…?
Whatever’s in your headphones? I mean, it really changes day to day, but right now I guess I’d say Kendrik Lamar.
If you were to have a trail named after you, what would it be called? A trail named after me? [Laughs] [Pause] Goep’ Dog’s Fun Park.
Would you rather attend the Super Bowl or the World Series? Super Bowl.
So coming off of XGames gold, how big of a whirlwind has it been for you? It’s been a massive whirlwind. The last week and a half has been really busy with interviews and signings and all that kind of stuff. My sponsors are really stoked and I’m really stoked and my family… I mean, it’s really been an amazing experience so far.
Have you had any downtime? Yeah I’ve had some downtime. My only downtime, really, is when I sleep. [Laughs] But, um, yeah I’m hanging out on airplanes and stuff so I guess I’d call that downtime too.
So your story is the kind of story that the media loves to eat up; small town kid growing up skiing a small hill goes on to win one of, if not the largest, freeskiing competitions out there. Are we going to see you on Ellen anytime soon? Ellen? I don’t know about being on Ellen, I guess I would love to… We’ll see, I mean that might be something for next year. [Laughs] We can see how my agent can do. I guess that’d be cool.
How many interviews do you think you’ve done between now and then? Probably at least 25 to 30.
Who do you think was the biggest media outlet? Biggest media… I would probably say ESPN right after the X Games. They took me to one of their major studios and had me interviewed by this cute Australian girl. I think it went on the air after the event.
Is it fair to say that standing up on the podium was perhaps the greatest moment of your life? Yes, that is absolutely correct. That was… almost a tearful moment. You know, especially with my coach there, my mentor, and my family watching. It was definitely one of the highlights of my life.
Who was the first person you called? The first person I talked to on the phone after I won, besides my parents, was one of my best friends back home. His name is also Nick, he’s got a twin brother. That was really special to talk to him right afterwards.
Obviously competition was tough with Henrik and Woodsy rounding out the podium; Bellemare and Håtveit sitting just outside the top three. What was it like competing against those athletes? It was nerve racking, for sure. It was really tough, because they’re all such great skiers and they all get really creative and technical on the course. That day was really anyone’s contest; anyone could have stepped up and won and it just so happened to go my way and I’m really excited about that. I think with a lot of strategizing, a lot of hard work, I think that could stay that way in the future.
That kind of brings me into my next question. ESPN loves their records, whether it’s whatever record Shaun White is currently holding or what not, the whole “three-peat, four-peat…” You’re part of what they’ve categorized as the “quirkiest event,” where nine different skiers have won nine gold medals in nine years. Are you worried that streak will continue? Yes and no. [Laughs] I’d like to end that streak next year, that’s one of my major goals. I can’t wait for this summer to just to do as much skiing as possible up at Mt. Hood and hang out at Windells, but yeah, I think that streak could change next year. I definitely think it’s possible.
So now you’re here in Mount Snow for the week. How has Mount Snow helped you out in your growth as an athlete? Well, skiing here at Mount Snow is a lot of fun. I love the parks here and also the people on the East Coast, and New England in general, are just so… they’re a lot more down to Earth and genuine than I find out West. Especially the kids, the kids are just so much more stoked and just really… really excited to see pro skiers and things happening on their home mountain, and I don’t really see that in the western states as much. I got my big break here when I was thirteen. I did my first major pro contest, the Mount Snow Open, and it was an eye opening experience. I was really intimidated. The conditions were pretty good but the jumps were huge. I mean, I’m this little thirteen-year-old trying go off these jumps and lay down my best run. But yeah, that was definitely an experience. I’d say Mount Snow has done a lot for my career.
Leaned back, just havin’ a day. Carinthia Parks at Mt. Snow.
One of those kids that we were talking about who was really stoked to hang out was the contest winner Ian Burson. How was that, this past weekend, hanging out and skiing with him? Yeah, giving Ian Burson the chance to come out and ski with me for a couple of days was a real pleasure, just cause he’s a great kid, and he’s an awesome skier. His dad is fantastic. [Ian] just wants to ski, he genuinely loves to ski. He was yanking me off the lunch table every day like, “Come on! Let’s go ski! Let’s go ski!” You know, “Let’s get first chair!” He was really enthusiastic about it, and it was really fun to see that.