Profile: Clayton Vila talks jibbing, skateboarding and pushing the limits
As seen in the February 2012 issue of FREESKIER.
PHOTOS & INTERVIEW: NATE ABBOTT_PBP
Maybe someday it will change. But for today, Clayton Vila is unapologetic about how and where he skis. He cares greatly about skiing, yet skiing to him is a word that means finding a wall, a rail or a parking lot with a big drop to a little transition then taking to the air, with skis on, to land on that transition. Coming from a tourist island, Clayton made his way to the University of Colorado and Keystone by way of the Waterville Valley Academy. He now spends his winters skiing in front of the camera and defining the word skiing, the sport of skiing, how he sees fit.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? Block Island. It’s a little island off the coast of Rhode Island. Most people haven’t even heard of it. There’s a thousand year-round residents. The island runs off tourism, and in the summertime it blows up and there’s about 50,000 people there. It’s kind of both worlds out there—party scene in the summer, then nothing in the winter.
YOU COMMUTED TO SKI? Being so quiet out there in the winter made me want to do something. That was skiing, for whatever reason. I don’t know why skiing in particular. I guess I was into action sports, into flipping around, and wanted to put it to skis.
HOW DID YOU END UP IN COLORADO? I skied on the East Coast, Waterville was my home mountain, but it was just obvious that everything is bigger and better out here [in CO], especially for park. There was a big movement from my ski crew in New Hampshire out here—Nick and Cam and the whole Stept crew all made their way out here. We all skied the Waterville, Loon area in high school, so I’ve been skiing with those guys for a while. We weren’t super close in high school. We skied together and went to similar competitions. I did a little park filming with them here and there when I could, but I didn’t really start filming with Stept full time until I came out to Colorado. I’m a year younger, so I came to Colorado a little later.
WHAT THINGS INFLUENCE YOU? Creating a segment and being able to edit it myself with the Stept crew is a huge motivation for me to do segments. I enjoy working with footage like that and creating exactly what I want to portray. I take a lot from skateboarding. I grew up skateboarding. I just think that, out of action sports, skateboarders are pretty much the most mature as far as creating video segments. I want to create segments that reflect skateboarding segments—all urban and a lot of tricks with back-to-back shots. I want to get to the technical level that skateboarders are at these days.
SO WHAT IS YOU FAVORITE SKATE SEGMENT? That’s tough. I’m a big fan of Heath Kirchart. I’ll give you my favorite movie, how’s that? Modus Operandi, Transworld, Volume 10, I believe. That’s the movie I watched growing up.
YOU LOOK UP TO THE SKATERS AND THE ATTITUDE THAT COMES WITH SKATING. IS THAT WHAT IS REQUIRED TO BECOME A JIB SKIER AND FILM A PART? There’s definitely a culture around it that I like to reflect. There are a lot of unwritten rules about the legitimacy of certain tricks and of the size of features. Within skateboarding, those things are really important. I really look up to their industry because the focus is on filmmaking and on creating video segments. Competition is more of a side note. They really understand that when you’re filming, that’s when you do your best stuff, the stuff you do on the streets and the stuff you create on your own and put on film and give it to the people for them to decide whether they like it or not.
WEIGHT HAS AN INTENSE CRASH SEGMENT, AND I’VE SEEN YOU AND THE GUYS HOBBLING AROUND A LOT. IS THERE A POINT WHERE THINGS ARE TOO DANGEROUS? I guess we’re pushing the limit, little by little, to see what we can do in the streets on features of this size and this level of consequence. This year will definitely be interesting ’cause we’re on the brink of how big we can go. But I disagree that everything has to be huge, and I think that’s clearly reflected in my segments. Like skateboarding, there’s a huge amount of technicality that can be done on smaller features. That’s much more difficult on skis of course ’cause we’re locked into them, and that’s why we move on to the big stuff— because we’re forced to. But we’re trying to do a lot with finding small transitions and combining multiple features. That’s where the smaller features can be very technical. Combining a closeout with a quick tranny and landing on concrete and stuff like that can make the smaller features legitimate and everything a lot more interesting.
HOME RESORT: Keystone, CO
HOMETOWN: Block Island, RI
SPONSORS: K2, Sessions, Scott, Keystone, Full Tilt
ON FILM: Head for the Hills_Meathead Films, Wild Stallions_Meathead Films, Network_Stept Productions, Weight_Stept Productions, The Grand Bizarre_Poorboyz Productions
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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.