Profile: Thomas Krief is next in the illustrious line of French pipe skiers

Comments by Shay Williams/

Vitals

Age: 19
Hometown: Alpe D’Huez, France
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Salomon, SFR, Caisse D’Epargne, Alpe D’Huez
Results: 2nd, 2012 European X Games superpipe, Tignes, France; 2nd, 2012 AFP World Championships superpipe, Whistler, BC; 2nd, 2012 World Cup Halfpipe, Cardrona, New Zealand; 3rd, 2012 AFP Men’s Halfpipe World Rankings

Thomas Krief, or Toto, is next in the illustrious line of French pipe skiers. He’s the latest Frenchman to take home X Games hardware, but don’t think of him as a flash in the pan. Toto has steadily been plying his trade, lurking under the radar, grabbing top five finish after top five finish. Consistency and steady progression aren’t always the sexiest traits in pipe skiing, but in a discipline where so much attention is put on February 2014, they might just be the most valuable.

With such a long line of French skiers before you, is it hard to get noticed in the French scene? I don’t think so. We all have a different story. Besides, even if we are all at the same level now, if you’re the best, you’ll get noticed anyway!

618_TotoHow does it feel competing before a huge hometown crowd at European X Games? It’s pretty hard to describe that feeling. It’s amazing to compete in front of your home crowd but there is also a lot of pressure when you’re the favorite. If you do well with that pressure it’s probably one of the best feelings.

Left: Photo by Louis Garnier in Val D’Isere, France

How did you get into freeskiing? Ski culture is huge in France, but what specifically brought you into the pipe? I was way more into slopestyle until I was 14 and then I got into pipe when I heard that it would probably become an Olympic sport. When I started to get better at pipe it became like a drug for me.

What’s your take on pipe and slope in the Olympics? I think it’s really good for our sport. It’s getting bigger and bigger and that’s what I was hoping for when I started. Some people are not really optimistic about it and think that it will change the sport in a bad way but my point of view this: The evolution of the sport is based on what the skiers do, not the people around it. We have the keys to the evolution in our hands, we just need to use it in the right way.

What do you think it’ll be like to represent your country in the Winter Games? I have absolutely no idea! I am pretty curious to see how it’s going to be, though.

How do you think that will affect this season? Will people be more conservative so they don’t injure themselves? Will it stunt progression? I don’t know about the others. On my side, it will not affect my skiing at all this season. I want to be the best, that’s it. The only changes are in training. I used to train only for the upcoming season and not think about the season after. I had to change that because I realized that I had a lot to do for the Olympics and that I needed more than a summer to be ready.

What are some of your goals for this upcoming season… other than doing well in contests? Being ready for the Olympics, that’s my other goal. Next year at the same period, I want to know that I’m ready and for that I’m going to need to train all season, not just in the summer.

What is the hardest part about being a halfpipe skier now that the level is so high? I think the hardest part is to be creative. A lot has been done already, but we need to find new stuff to do and make the sport evolve in the right direction. As I said: The keys to the evolution are in our hands!

This article originally appeared in the 2013 February issue of Freeskier. Subscribe to the magazine, or get it on the iTunes Newsstand.