Profile: Tim McChesney and LJ Strenio talk filming versus competing
Have you got any big trips planned or places that you want to go this winter?
Nope! [Laughs] I’m realizing that I just need to enjoy the fact that I don’t have a job right now. My job is to go have fun skiing. If there is anything to achieve in skiing, that should be the goal. When I’m out of skiing, I’ll be battered and bruised and my body will be all messed up, but hopefully I’ll have five or ten years where I got to ski. Fuck accomplishments, I got to go skiing for ten years without a job. I don’t really have anything planned except ski a ton and have fun. I feel like the Olympics are creating a climax in the competitive world. Are you just done competing now?
No, I wouldn’t say that I’m done at all. I definitely want to do some competitions or something, but I just dropped out of the whole FIS thing because it was getting expensive and pointless for me. But some sort of open slopestyle competition, I would definitely be into doing that.
So are you against the global categorization and labeling of every skier that skis? I feel like you can look up any slopestyle skier now and their value is, like, a number.
“My job is to go have fun skiing. If there is anything to achieve in skiing, that should be the goal… Fuck accomplishments, I got to go skiing for ten years without a job.” – LJ Strenio
I don’t know. It’s hard as you were saying earlier, you can’t really compete these days unless you’re at every single competition, and that’s expensive. I don’t have that kind of money to just travel to all these competitions and try to stay up on all of these crazy tricks.
I think [invitational events are] pretty much the coolest kind of competition ever. I went to the Sammy Carlson Invitational [in 2012], and it was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a competition because you’re just out there with a bunch of friends and no one really cares who wins.
I think that the two most fun times that I’ve had at a competition were probably when Jon Olsson had JOSS—I don’t even know if that’s a competition, it was an event—and it was so damn fun. A lot of people learn tricks at competitions, and I never do, but at that one I learned like five new tricks. Just basically they were like, “We’re going to build you a super sick environment to ski.” And then Orage Masters, that has nothing to do with anything, at all, and whether you’re competing in it or just watching it, everyone loves that event. I think it’s a great example of a fun time that is skiing, and it’s a competition I suppose.
I remember one Dew Tour in Vermont, it was so windy and icy that they didn’t even know if they wanted to run us. And it’s like, do you really want to go and risk your whole season doing this competition run where there are 40-mile-an-hour winds, and you have no idea if you’re going to clear the jump? It’s kind of frustrating when you wouldn’t even be skiing on these days, and they’re trying to get you to do the craziest tricks that you can.
None of it is intentional, it’s just with TV cameras and a schedule to follow, and it can [be] tricky. They’re sick events and so much thought and care is put into every single event that is ranked, but there are just setbacks involved that you kind of have to choose whether it’s worth it or not. I guess sooner or later it starts to seem less worth it.
Do you guys want to touch on that issue of style versus technicality when it comes to the competition scene?
There are a lot of people in the competition scene that build off of each other, and you kind of see the same tricks over and over again, with the same grabs. But there are some people, like Henrik [Harlaut], who try to do things a little different. That’s when it really makes competitions interesting for me to watch because I can’t remember a single trick that most people do in competitions, but you see the nose butter triple and you’ll remember that for awhile. But I don’t really know what anyone else did that night at X Games Big Air, just the same spins and grabs with a little bit of variation. What do you think, LJ?
Something as subjective as freestyle skiing—it’s tricky to put definitive, hard numbers on something that can be really opinionated. To keep competitions fair, I think that style has to be less and less an aspect of competitions, and that’s just going back to the divergence of the sport once again. Slopestyle and halfpipe skiing are more technicality based already than a segment
So you’re saying that style should be less a part of competitions?
There are two things that you can’t combine: fairness and judging off of style. They’re just like oil and water. You can try to do them well, but if you want to have a 100-percent fair competition, then you can’t really have subjectivity in it. Unfortunately, style in itself is a subjective thing.
So each judge, you’re saying, is subjective to different styles? Each skier’s style appeals to a different type of person?
Yeah, basically. I know that judges have set criteria for what scores what, but when we see something we like or that we think is good, it’s not following criteria. You and I disagree ourselves on what we think looks good and what we think looks bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just don’t think they mesh very well.
I think that makes sense. It’s what kind of sucks about competitions. It forces you to put style on the back burner and focus more on technicality. That’s what’s nice about filming is that you can whatever you want and it doesn’t matter.
Who has the worst style?
You. And you did well in so many competitions, and I was like, “What’re they thinking? It’s horrible style.” [Laughs] No, I’m just kidding. I think that I’m probably on the lower echelon of style. You can agree with that for sure. When I ski rails, I like to do technical things and usually my style hurts. I think I’m a contender there. But, to end it, I think that despite what we think or what we say or where competition skiing goes or how much fun filming is, I don’t think that any of it really matters. At the end of the day, it’s just all about what you’re trying to get out of it, and we all started because we enjoy skiing and it’s fun. If you like to compete, then good for you. If you like to go film, then good for you. If you’re a weekend warrior, that’s sick. All we’re doing is going skiing. Keeping it in perspective is key.
That’s pretty much what it comes down to, whatever you want to do on your skis and enjoy it. There are so many different aspects of skiing so many people are into different stuff, whether it’s filming, competing or just skiing powder, and it just adds to the sport and makes it what it is. It’s cool to see in all of the movies what everyone’s been doing all year.
Name: John “LJ” Strenio
Hometown: Burlington, VT
Sponsors: Line Skis, Giro, Saga, Eastern Collective
Film Credits: Sunny_Level 1, Partly Cloudy_Level 1, Prime Cut_Meathead
Name: Tim “Cheddar” McChesney
Hometown: Bozeman, MT
Sponsors: Saga, Faction
Film Credits: Sunny_Level 1, Partly Cloudy_Level 1, All Damn Day_4BI9
About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.