Wise Man vs. Wild Man: Comparing, contrasting Professional Skiers David Wise and Torin Yater-Wallace
Who are the favorites in men’s pipe?
DW: I think it’s pretty easy. You can see, regardless of the results from the last couple years, that it comes down to what each rider has. Whether they can incorporate not only technicality and amplitude but also style. It’s a limited number of guys who can do that, go really big, do hard tricks and still add this freeskiing aspect of style to the sport. It’s Torin Yater-Wallace, Mike Riddle, Justin Dorey, Kevin Rolland— that’s pretty much it. Did I forget anybody? There’s a couple wildcards like Gus [Kenworthy]. Jossi [Wells], if he decides to be motivated, has the ability. There’s definitely some wild cards, and I’m not counting them out.
Tell me about Torin.
DW: Torin has this unbelievable ability to always keep me on my toes. It’s fun and I feel honored to be riding with somebody so talented. Never in my life have I been the kid who was so talented that things just fell into place. And not necessarily that that’s been the way his life has been, but every new thing I learn, every new thing I accomplish, he’s just, “Oh yeah, that’s how you do that.” Then he goes and does it. I put months and years of thought into it, and everything is hard work and grueling through it and learning. He just has this fresh, young approach to the sport. He just enjoys it. He doesn’t overthink it. It’s really cool to have the kind of yin-yang effect of Torin versus Wise. I have my style. He has his style. If you looked at both our runs side by side, they’re so incredibly different and yet they still score incredibly similarly. Here’s Torin’s style of skiing and here’s my style of skiing and the judges kind of think equally of them. That’s cool. I know that as long as that kid’s around, I’m not going to be able to sit back and take a breather.
David Wise at Nine Knights, Livigno, Italy. Photo by Christoph Schöch.
How does it feel to have a bunch of kids and even people new to the sport looking up to you?
DW: That’s one of the things I think about a lot with the Olympics. Everybody’s got a different opinion about it, and my two cents is that it comes down to the athletes who are there. That’s my biggest reason for wanting to get myself there. Call it professional pride, but I think I can represent our sport pretty well on that world stage. I’m not going to go there and do six doubles. I think that the style and freedom of our sport is just as important as progressing our sport and doing technical tricks. Skiing’s made me who I am, it’s been a part of my life since I was 3 years old. To go there and represent something that I feel ties so personally into who I am is going to be a pretty wild experience and something that I take pretty seriously.
Is it BS that ESPN canceled X Games Tignes and you can’t defend your titles?
TYW: I mean, it kind of sucks that I can’t go back and defend, but at the same time, it’s also pretty cool that I won the last one. It feels good and it takes a little pressure off because last year was pretty scary. That was definitely my biggest achievement. Consistency is the hardest, scariest thing. I always gotta do X Games. I think I medaled at every one I’ve done so far. You want to have fun at X Games, but that scares me. It’s not even pressure from other people. I’ve built it up in my own mind. I have expectations of myself. I can’t help it, that’s how my mind works.
Is there a rivalry between you and David?
TYW: Maybe there is. We go back and forth pretty often. I don’t know if it’s going to be some Tanner and Simon shit. Some people might call it that.
Did you follow the Tanner vs. Simon rivalry?
TYW: I definitely was watching X Games all those years and kind of hoping for a different person each year. I never wanted one person [to win].
Do you think it was fun for fans of skiing to have David and you going back and forth last year?
TYW: Maybe it was. A lot of that rivalry—ESPN makes up a cool story for X Games. They’re kind of ridiculous. Maybe it made some fans stoked. I’m not the most competitive person. I guess at skiing I am ’cause it’s something I really care about and it’s something I know I can succeed in.
Do you and David stare each other down at the top of the pipe?
TYW: I don’t really talk to him at the top of the pipe. I don’t really talk to anybody, I just try to stay in my own zone. That’s one thing I do that helps my composure, just sticking to myself, maybe talk to my coach about what I could do. And watching other people’s runs, I never know what to do, if it freaks me out. Should I know how everyone’s doing? That just gets stuff going in your head, and I kind of not watch and chill out.
“Music is such a big inspiration in my career. That note of putting myself outside of the competition, putting myself in a different mindset. I’m trying to not listen to anything going on in my real life, just listen to what’s in my headphones.” -TYW
Who are the favorites for your discipline?
TYW: Dave, obviously, is really good at skiing. Bone. I think all those French dudes get really into it. Thomas [Krief], Ben [Valentin], Kevin [Rolland]. Marge [Matt Margetts] has been skiing well recently. Riddle is someone who maybe isn’t the first person you think about, then you consider, but he has really good results. The whole field, so many people are at equal skill levels these days. It really comes down to those people you see in competitions all the time doing well because they’re mentally strong.
Do you think your loose personality is something important for people to know about you?
TYW: I’m literally the least serious person. I kind of laugh sometimes when I see people being serious about freeskiing. It’s all just kind of a joke. [David] probably trains hard at the gym. The last time I was at a gym was like a year and a half ago. I ski. I do my own thing. I like to chill out and have fun with all my ski friends and hang. I guess I’d like people to know I’m pretty laid back, and I’m not serious about a lot of stuff.
Does it feel weird being involved in this industry where you’re expected to be a grown up while your ID says 18?
TYW: It’s crazy like that. With any action sport industry, there’s a decent amount of partying. When I’m in Europe or pretty much any country that isn’t the US, I’m able to drink and go out to the parties after the events like an adult. The whole time I’m living like an adult, traveling alone throughout the world. I’ve had to mature a lot quicker than kids my age. I come back to the States, and I’m a little kid here. It’s something not a lot of people get to see, especially my friends. They’re like, “I want to get out of Aspen. It’s such a small town.” It’s such a bubble there. And I really do, I get to see the world. Not a lot of people can relate to the kind of lifestyle I live.
Do you think about your legacy in skiing?
TYW: I do. It’s something cool to think about: What would I like to be remembered as? I’d like to be remembered as somebody who obviously has a big career in competing, but at the same time I’d really like to be known for being able to shred in all aspects of skiing. I think it’s cool to be able to do all of it.