Nick Goepper talks X Games gold, sugary cereals, celebrity gymnasts and the state of freeskiing
Switching topics. When you’re not on the hill, or gym, or trampolines, what are you doing? What is home life like? Let’s see, when I’m not on the hill I’m… Well, if it’s the summertime I’m either skating or surfing and in the winter, usually just chilling out, maybe bowling, hanging out with friends, going to the movies. Kind of normal teenager stuff.
Do you find that it’s kind of hard to manage or balance both the teenage lifestyle and the X Games gold medalist lifestyle? That’s definitely… you kind of have to be careful, because you can’t be a normal teenager and at the same time be an X Games athlete. You kind of have to balance the two carefully, but it’s definitely possible.
So if you weren’t a professional skier, what do you think you’d be doing now? College? What would you be studying? If I wasn’t a professional skier I’d be at a big school either playing soccer or studying, and doing extracurricular sports and hanging out with a good group of friends. Having a lot of fun. Having the time of my life.
What do you think you’d major in? Let’s see, I’d probably major at something along the lines of business and marketing. A little more practical than a lot of other majors. Like my coach [Mike Hanley], he almost has… he’s like one thesis away from a PHD in Medievel History. Super practical, right?
Do you guys have any sword fights, or rather, talk about the theory of sword fighting? He’s one of those guys that will talk your ear off. You ask him one question and he’ll give you a two-hour response.
So we talked earlier this weekend about your love of surfing. If your ski career doesn’t work out, do you think you’re going to make it as a pro surfer? Are we going to find you in either the Jaws or Mavericks lineup? I wouldn’t be a big wave surfer, that’s for sure. I’d be one of those technical, kind of small wave, air surfers.
If you had to travel anywhere in the world to surf, where would it be? I’d probably go to southern California, honestly. I love it down there and there’s so many sick beach breaks and points. I know a lot of people down there too, so it’d be there.
And where in the world would you like to go skiing that you haven’t? I would love to go skiing in either Austrailia or Japan. Both because they have different types of skiing to offer and also because of the place and culture too.
Are you a fan of sushi? No.
That might be a little tough for you. [Laughs]
So from skiing to surfing to gymnastics. You’ve recently shown up in a few photos with Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, which has lead to a few rumors circulating the internet that you two might be involved romantically. Is there any truth to those rumors? [Pause] That information has to stay, what’s the word, classified. That information has to stay classified as of this point. I can’t leak anything yet.
Am I allowed to write that? Yeah.
So then, are you dating anyone? I’m not dating anyone.
Are you currently filming with anyone? Or, if not, and if you wanted to, who would you like to film a segment with? I’d love to film a segment with just about anybody, but it’s about time and also kind of this next year and a half. I mean, as lame as it sounds, I don’t want to put myself at risk before the Olympics, and after the Olympics is when I want to start filming heavily.
With regards to ski films, what would you rather watch? Ski documentary or ski porn? Ski porn. I’m not one to sit through a story or something. I don’t want to see all the background footage and that nitty gritty stuff. I just want to see the tricks.
Who do you think laid down the best segment in this year’s crop of ski films? It really depends. You’ve got all different types of skiers. Backcountry, park and urban. I mean Tom [Wallisch] always puts together a good segment. I really liked Will Wesson’s urban segment in the Level 1 movie. I also liked Clayton Vila and Sean Jordan’s segments in the new Poor Boyz movie, WE.Those are really the only two movies I’ve seen this year. I haven’t seen the Matchstick or TGR movie.
Are there any particular segments in the past, you know, looking back, that’ve really inspired you? Or is there really anything out there that really inspired you? Well, when I was younger I watched Dave Crichton’s segment in the Level 1 movie Forward over and over and over again. That was my favorite film segment of all time, and that inspired me to go out and try new tricks and just have fun on my skis. What else inspires me? I really look up to a lot of athletes in action sports that have pushed their limits and made names for themselves. Some of them… Kelly Slater would probably be number one. He’s just the winningest individual, the most winningest individual of all time. Other guys like Nyjah Huston and David Gonzales in the skate world. Kevin Robinson in the BMX world. He’s got two kids and a wife, coming up on like 40, and he’s still winning X Games. It’s crazy. There’s a lot of things that inspire me. Fans too. My family for sure.
Who in the start house makes you nervous? Who has a run that makes you particularly worried as you’re about to drop in on course? Tom [Wallisch] definitely, every time has a run that you know is going to be fire. James “Woodsy” Woods has also been skiing super well this year and every time he drops in you know he’s going to pull out something crazy and something cool and also Henrik [Harlaut]. He’s got that nose butter and he’ll be doing it in all the contests this year. Every time he drops in, you’re definitely wiping the sweat off your brow.
An op-ed appeared in Powder Magazine written by Clayton Vila that puts forth the argument that filming segments is a better expression of freeskiing than say, competitions. How would you respond to that? I would 100 percent agree with him, that filming segments displays freeskiing in a better light than contests. I mean, there’s no questions asked that you can display more well rounded and creative and interesting skiing with filming, which is why after this next year or so I definitely want to dive into that and start doing more filming. You know, it really is up to the individuals of the sport. There’s the competitive side. You know, guys who want to go out and compete and do well, and there’s also the guys who want to film and film segments. I have the utmost respect to everyone who does both, who does one or the other, and I think it’s really up to the individual, whatever he/she has fun doing and whatever he/she enjoys success in.
Do you think that there’s something to the argument that there’s a “spin to win” mentality in today’s competitive freeskiing circuit? Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think any contest no matter what, as sad as it is to say, is “spin to win,” but I think it’s getting more creative and it’s getting more original with the grabs and the nose butters and the creativity on the rails, and I think it’s kind of toning down the spin to win mentality. But I also think that it’s still going to play a major role in the future.
Goepper lets ‘er fly at Mt. Snow
So obviously you’re up there in the ranks of some of the top freeskiers, which opens you up to criticism from both the professional side and the online forums. What would you say to people who have specifically targeted you and have criticism, saying that you could be called “an aerialist who grabs?” [Laughs] Well, that’s true. [Laughs] I’d say all competitive skiers are. An aerialist who grabs? I think everyone is an aerialist who grabs. What then, are we? I mean, we’re going upside down and spinning around on skis. What more is there to it? You can call it whatever you want. But myself? I am having the most fun going out and skiing and progressing myself and flipping upside down every single day, and I love it, and I don’t really care what people have to say as long I’m having fun and I do every day.
Because my follow-up question to that would be, “Does it get to you?” Do you ever find yourself skimming the forums or seeing the criticism out there? Does it ever hurt to read? Well, to those people who just go on the internet and hate, I mean, I really have no comment. It really doesn’t bug me at all. I know that I’m living my dream and I’m doing what I love to do: Skiing every day with my friends, and that’s really all that matters.
With the recent passing of Caleb Moore, and before that Sarah, and before that CR and Shane McConkey, the national media focuses its attention on the dangers that lie within the realm of action sports. And you know on our side, we say that it’s just inherent. Do you think our sport is sometimes too dangerous? I think there are a lot of dangerous aspects to freeskiing, but I 100 percent believe in how you prepare and how you train for it. If you’re attempting a skill or a feat that you have no business doing, then that’s when things go wrong. But you know, sometimes you do have freak accidents. I think people like to emphasize that in action sports because it’s got that ‘extreme,’ you know, reckless vibe to it. I think it happens in all types of different sports: soccer, baseball, football. I mean that stuff too, you have freak accidents. You know, it’s all about how you prepare and how you train for it and how your body and your skill-set is ready to take on some of the different things that we do as action sports athletes.
One of the biggest news stories in recent months has been Lance Armstrong. Doping and coming out like that. Being an Olympic hopeful, do you think that would ever seep into the ski scene? Do you think that would ever come out that there’s doping or stuff like that? No, I do not think doping would ever be an issue in skiing because skiing isn’t the type of sport that you would need super human strength and ability to do it. It’s more of a really meticulous skill that you acquire to do flips and spins on your skis. You don’t need brute strength to do it, so I don’t think that would ever be an issue in skiing.
Let’s wrap it up with a happier subject. Tell me about your upcoming season? What are you psyched about? I’m really excited for the near future because I’ll be doing a lot of traveling, going to new places and meeting new people. Really focusing on staying healthy and keeping my mind in check and just having the most fun possible.
Is there anyone you’d want to give some shout outs to? All my sponsors for helping me along the way and all the folks here at Mount Snow. My family and God.
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About the author:
Dan Brown is a photographer who lives just South of Boston with a dog named Frank.