After months of hype surrounding the all-new X Games Real Ski Backcountry contest, the judges have spoken. Oregon’s Sammy Carlson walks away with gold, Sean Pettit the silver and Parker White the bronze.
It all started in December when ESPN announced it would expand its Real Series video competition to include skiing, surf and women’s disciplines; previously, men’s skateboarding and snowboarding were the only two featured sports. Thereafter, eight of the world’s best backcountry freestyle skiers were invited to submit a 90-second video part—the top three earning certified X Games hardware. The contestants were Sean Pettit, Dane Tudor, Sammy Carlson, Parker White, Pep Fujas, Tanner Hall, Wiley Miller and Chris Benchetler.
The Real Ski Backcountry videos first debuted on xgames.com, where they were open to public voting. [Note: Fan Favorite is still up for grabs, with Sammy Carlson vs. Wiley Miller in the final round.] The videos were then judged by a committee of action sports industry leaders, and aired before a live national television audience this afternoon in conjunction with X Games Tignes. The gold medal announcement was made during the telecast. And I must say, it was pretty darn exciting to see a handful of backcountry skiing edits featured on ESPN—a pleasant break from the obnoxious screeching of shoes on the basketball court.
“The first thing we were looking for were tricks,” said Mike Douglas, X Games Real Ski judge. “We wanted to see big tricks like we would see in [X Games] slopestyle, but in nataural terrain.” The second thing judges were looking for was creativity. “Using terrain in ways people don’t usually think of,” Douglas explained. And lastly? A good tune, “Something that makes you feel good.”
What makes Sammy’s win all the more impressive is the fact that he suffered a broken ankle while shooting for the contest—just four days before the start of X Games Aspen, in fact, which he was forced to sit out of as a result of the injury. “I was so bummed because I thought I would be in for the Real Ski stuff,” said Carlson. Despite the odds, Sammy battled back in time to compete; he credits trainers with the US Freeskiing Team for his speedy recovery. “We were working morning and night and trying to take the best care of it that we could,” he explained. “I got back home and it was time to go, and I just toughed it out and made it happen.”
Left: Carlson and his cane. X Games Aspen, 2013.
After taking the win today, Sammy elated, “I’m so stoked. It’s such an honor to be up here, everyone in the competition… I have so much respect for them.” Sammy continued, “I gotta give a big shout out to my boy Brandon Kelly who helped me film this project. It wouldnt’ have been possible without him. We were working as hard as we could, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone else involved… you know who you are.”
“I’m on Cloud 9 right now,” Sammy said.
Carlson estimates he spent 30 days shooting for the edit, most of that time outside of Whistler, BC, Canada. “The journey along the way was insane,” he said. “It’s been so much fun.” And when asked about the implications of winning the first ever X Games Real Ski Backcountry gold medal, he said plainly, “This is just the beginning of where our sport is going, really. Everything that you’re going to see in the future, this is just the start, I can tell you that.”