Speaking with Sammy Carlson about X Games Real Ski Backcountry
The dust has settled and Oregon’s own Sammy Carlson is the proud winner of the inaugural X Games Real Ski Backcountry contest, with Wiley Miller taking the honors in the “fan favorite” category. We caught up with Pasty C to get the inside scoop on his winning video segment.
What’s it mean to you to win the first-ever Real Ski Backcountry contest? It’s a huge honor. I have so much respect for everyone in the competition, and it means so much to get the gold. It was a lot of hard work, and it paid off.
Was working on Real Ski different than filming for a ski movie? For sure. Normally I’m not up in British Columbia so early in the season, but for Real Ski we were up there in December trying to go out into the backcountry. It was crazy how drastically different the terrain was—lots of open crevasses, rocks showing, and some of the usual jump spots weren’t quite filled in yet.
The timing of it all was a big challenge that people might not think about. The videos were due by February 21, but sometimes you have to wait through weeks of bad weather and crappy snow, not getting anything done. It definitely took a lot of time and energy to get the part done on time. We put extra pressure on ourselves because of how badly we wanted to kill it in the video.
Sammy shows off his new hardware
Who’d you pick to film your segment? There was no question for me. I worked with Brandon Kelly, who’s a good friend of mine and not long ago was in Poor Boyz movies as a skier himself. I’ve been filming with him for the past two years and he’s always easy to work with. Some filmers are a little worried about going out—if the light’s not good, they’re not going to get a shot, they don’t want to be out there, whatever. But we would go out even if it was a crappy day, just to go exploring and get better at sledding.
You got hurt right in the middle of the timeframe for filming your segment. What happened? I was training for the Aspen X Games, and four days before the event I came up shy on the rotation of a trick I was working on, busted my ankle, and needed surgery. So I was out for the X Games [slopestyle and big air], but with tons of hard work rehabbing, good doctors, and a lot of help from the U.S. Freeskiing Team, I was able to come right back three weeks later and keep filming for Real Ski. It was amazing.
When you broke your ankle, did you think that your chances for a good segment were finished? Definitely, and I was devastated because I really wanted to put out the best segment that I possibly could. But after the surgery, the doctor said I was lucky with the spot where I broke my bone. It wasn’t a spot that’s affected as much by impact, so I was still able to ski.
Between video contests like Real Ski, and more individual projects being released online, are we seeing a change in how the sport will be competed and presented in the future? I definitely think so. I don’t think we’ll ever lose the traditional competitions, and they’ll continue to grow. But so will other areas of the sport, and that’s what I’m really excited about. Skiing is not just about competition, and that’s why I think this contest is so cool. Even though it’s still a contest, it shows the other side of skiing: going out into the mountains and having fun. It’s cool to show the general public a different side of the sport besides the park and the pipe.
Which part of your segment really stands out for you on a personal level? The jump where I did the double rodeo 1080, because that was my first session back after the ankle injury. I went up to Whistler, not even sure if I could ski, and we built this massive jump. Luckily it worked out because the landing was really steep and there was almost zero impact when I hit. I had one of the best sessions of my life—I did double rodeo 10, double flatspin, and double cork 14. The double jump line was another one. For me it was the gnarliest session I’ve ever had in the backcountry—it was super high-speed coming off the first jump and right into the second one.
You were the only Real Ski competitor to also compete in X Games slopestyle. Were you disappointed that you weren’t able to make a good slopestyle showing this year? I definitely wanted to represent in slopestyle because recently I haven’t been able to perform in slope at the level that I’d like to. I was really hoping to ski well in slope at X Games Tignes, but on the qualification day the weather got really bad. They ran us in the most ridiculous conditions ever, and I just didn’t feel safe going into my second run. I was sitting in ninth place when I dropped, but I pulled out because I’m going to AK in a few weeks, and it’s not worth risking it all for one contest run. So I’m waiting. Another slope contest will come.
A lot of people heard you say “This is a joke!” on the livestream after your second run. It was a joke. At the level that we’re skiing at, to send competitors out in that weather is just offensive to me and the other riders. It’s so dangerous and we’re putting it all on the line. I was definitely disappointed about that, but hopefully they’ll learn to not do that again.
Whose Real Ski segment did you like besides yours? I liked them all, but there were definitely some highlights. I liked Pep’s right five with that endless blunt grab, and Pettit’s nosebutter five after stomping that cliff. I gotta give a shoutout to everyone, they all killed it and deserve recognition for the hard work they put in.
Any last words?
A big shoutout to all my sponsors for helping make the project possible: APO Skis, Nike, Oakley, Skullcandy, Dakine, Rockstar, and Mt. Bachelor. Everybody who supported me and voted for me, thanks so much. It really means a lot to me.
From ski journalism and photography to terrain park construction and event organization, Ethan Stone has his fingers in many different pies. And they all taste good.