As seen in the February 2012 issue of FREESKIER.
Interview by Shay Williams. Illustration by Chris Hotz.
After tallying 30,000 of your votes on freeskier.com, Swedish phenom Henrik Harlaut is your choice as the male 2011 Skier of the Year. A remarkable feat for the talented and stylish skier considering he spent the previous season hobbled by a nagging knee injury. What’s more remarkable is whom he beat to win. He didn’t win X Games, but he knocked off two of the gold medalists (Kevin Rolland and Sammy Carlson) in the voting bracket. He didn’t open or close any major movie; instead, he released his own 17-minute movie online. It doesn’t seem as though he touched a halfpipe or big-mountain line last season, either.
In fact, on paper, Henrik Harlaut’s year seems unworthy of Skier of the Year status at first glance. But that’s what makes this competition—and the title—so special. It’s not who had the most podiums, who won what Dew Cup or who had the most screen time in MSP’s latest flick. SOTY isn’t a formulaic crown waiting to be claimed. You’ve got to read between the lines and add up all the intangibles that make our heroes so great.
While tricks like Henrik’s bio 1440 at X Games big air and nose butter double cork speak louder than any podium could, they’re only fuel for the fire of his popularity. His appeal starts with his naturally fluid, energetic and raw style on skis and just grows when he exposes his contagious enthusiasm and tireless creativity online. It adds up to a vocal worldwide following few could hope to duplicate.
FREESKIER: Henrik, you’re the Skier of the Year.
Henrik Harlaut: No way! Holy! What? Holy! That’s crazy! I’m beyond stoked. Crazy stoked. I cannot believe it, really.
FREESKIER: How does it feel to beat guys like Kevin Rolland, Sean Pettit and last year’s SOTY Tom Wallisch?
Henrik Harlaut: It feels crazy I guess. I didn’t really expect it because everybody I was up against killed it all year super hard. I didn’t expect it, but I was stoked on my year, so I hoped for the best.
FREESKIER: Were you nervous going up against Sammy in the finals?
Henrik Harlaut: No, not really nervous. I was super stoked I had made it that far, super thankful to everybody that voted for me already. It was just sick.
[Photo Left: Chris O'Connell.]
FREESKIER: Is it a cool feeling that people recognize your skiing?
Henrik Harlaut: So, so sick. I’m so, so stoked. I can’t even really believe it. I’m so appreciative. It makes me even more stoked for a nice season.
FREESKIER: What were you most proud of this year?
Henrik Harlaut: I’m most proud of the movie that Phil [Casabon] and I put together, Blackout. Also, it was my first X Games in Aspen, so I was stoked on that. I made finals in slopestyle, and that was the goal. Did some tricks in the big air that I was stoked on that got recognized, so that was sick.
FREESKIER: Speaking of the big air, your bio 1440 was awesome, but do you think it got judged a little low?
Henrik Harlaut: Yeahhhh … maybe. I was hoping to get a little higher score, but I mean it’s a competition. It’s a judged sport so you can’t really get pissed at any judge on how they judge. You just have to do the best you can possibly do, and I did that, so I was stoked on my own skiing.
FREESKIER: Is that mindset how you approach competition?
Henrik Harlaut: Yeah. I try as hard as possible to not get pissed when I don’t do well. Try to do every contest with my own little flavor and try to do as best as possible with that. That’s how I look at it.
FREESKIER: You said your goal was to make it to X Games last year. What are your expectations this year?
Henrik Harlaut: Well, I’m not going to do the first Dew Tour. I had surgery on my knee during the first part of summer, so I’m feeling super good. But I just want to make sure I’m super strong, since I got my invite back to X Games. But mostly do a lot of contests, like the second and third Dew Tour and both X Games in Europe and Aspen. And then Phil Casabon, Paul Bergeron, Tanner Hall and I are teaming up for a movie project. It’s going to be produced by Inspired Media.
[Photo: Alex O'Brien—Park City, UT.]
FREESKIER: Does the project have a name yet?
Henrik Harlaut: It’s going to be called Educational Style.
FREESKIER: How was making a movie last year? What did you take away from the experience?
Henrik Harlaut: It was definitely a cool experience. Super fun. Phil and I are best friends. We have super good times and super good vibes together. That and my homie from Sweden, Joakim Åslund, was super cool to work with as well. It was just different, I guess. More work because we had to edit it and do all that, but it was super fun. I couldn’t be more stoked on how it turned out.
FREESKIER: Is that a direction you want to go, making your own stuff?
Henrik Harlaut: I’ll see. Doing my own stuff is more free because you don’t have to travel to places to film, you film where you’re at. It’s easier, less travel back and forth. But I’d like to do some things with Level 1. But for this year that’s coming, I’m going to work on the Inspired project. That’s the main goal.
[Photo: Nate Abbott—Aspen, CO.]
FREESKIER: What would you be doing if you weren’t skiing?
Henrik Harlaut: I would try and become a hockey player.
FREESKIER: You’re a big fan?
Henrik Harlaut: When I was young, I was super into hockey—until I was about nine and explored freeskiing. Then that got me too stoked and has been the best thing in life since.
FREESKIER: What made you switch over to freeskiing at that age?
Henrik Harlaut: I had always been skiing with my brother Oscar. We were always trying to hit any kind of jumps or bumps in the ski hill. But then we moved to Åre when I was nine and had a whole terrain park. I was stoked that we had so many jumps in one run. It was super fun and everybody seemed to have so much freedom. I liked it all so much.
FREESKIER: Who influenced you back then?
Henrik Harlaut: A whole lot of people. But from the very beginning it was Jon Olsson and Mickael Deschenaux. The first year I moved up to Åre, I saw some really crazy tricks, so they were my first influences.
[Photo Below: Nate Abbott—Mammoth Mountain, CA.]
FREESKIER: You’ve added a bunch of new sponsors the last couple years: Oakley, Full Tilt, Empire. But Armada seems to be the biggest news. What’s the story behind that?
Henrik Harlaut: It was pretty funny. When I was 13, I got sponsored by Armada over at the first Jon Olsson Invitational. I was skiing in the park with Greg Strokes [of Oakley], and I asked him if he could introduce me to Chris O’Connell [of Armada] because I wanted to get sponsored. I met him and we talked a little bit, and he said he’d send over some stuff. I waited like three weeks or something, and I started to think he was joking. So I signed with Scott and got a little travel budget. Two days after I signed with Scott, I went home and a box of Armada gear was there, so I had to send that back.
Tanner and Iberg have been pushing on it the last four or five years. They thought I would fit well with Armada. They were the main guys that got me stoked to join the program. So I waited until some contracts were done and got it signed, and now I’m a part of the sickest ski industry family.
FREESKIER: Why did you stay with Ninthward for so long?
Henrik Harlaut: I’ve always had a good passion for that company. I always thought the company had a crazy image but a sick, raw image, too. I thought it was fun to work with for a while. But I think I was always waiting for a good opportunity. That’s why I didn’t want to switch. But this year I got a good deal.
FREESKIER: Armada is very style and image driven. Is that important to you?
Henrik Harlaut: Yeah. That was definitely one of the most important things for me. I want to keep the style I like. Armada is a good fit.
FREESKIER: Quite a few people love your style and how it’s different.
Henrik Harlaut: It’s just style. Style is how you naturally ski, I guess. I’m stoked a lot of people like it. I don’t know … I just try to keep it as stylish as possible with inspiration from guys like Candide [Thovex], CR [Johnson], [David] Crichton, Tanner and Mickael. Try to multiply all those into one, and that’s how I want to ski, basically.
FREESKIER: Do you think people will always hate on you for wearing big clothing?
Henrik Harlaut: Yeah, they’ll probably keep hating, but I get pumped up because I always want to burn them haters, ya know? Tanner taught me that HATERS stands for Having Anger Towards Everyone Reaching Success. I always try and think of it like that. People are not stoked because they are not in your position or whatever.
FREESKIER: What are some of your influences outside of skiing?
Henrik Harlaut: Right now, it’s a lot of skateboarding. I watch skateboarding the most for inspiration. But it could be anything. Anyone that has a sick mindset and wants to create a lot. People who are super motivated. I take a lot of inspiration from that.
FREESKIER: As skiing gets more technical every year, you brought style into the equation with your nose butter double cork. Can you tell me the story behind that?
Henrik Harlaut: It was pretty crazy. I was up in Mammoth, and it was my last day of skiing. I was going to fly home the day after and get my knee scoped. I had thought about the trick for a while, like since Laurent Favre did it on an airbag in La Clusaz. I did a lot of nose butter 7s and 9s that day, and my very last run I was like, “I gotta go for it.” I wanted it super badly, and I got it, so I’m stoked.
FREESKIER: Do you think more people are going to do stuff like that? Would you like to see stylish and technical tricks come together?
B&E Show BLACKOUT The Movie
Henrik Harlaut: Yeah. I think it would be super sick if a lot of people started doing them—even just butter to spins. It doesn’t have to be a double. But technical stuff that is super stylish, I like to see it a lot. Different axes with different grabs is also cool. I like those a lot.
FREESKIER: What’s your take on the Olympics?
Henrik Harlaut: I’m not really sure to be honest. I think about it a lot. I want to do it. Obviously a lot of people see it, and it’d be really cool to represent the sport. But at the same time, if they start creating rules and taking away the core feeling of slopestyle, I don’t really want to be a part of it.
FREESKIER: So you’re going to wait and see then?
Henrik Harlaut: Exactly. Just ski and have as much fun as possible. The Olympics are a goal to make me ski better and train harder to be ready for them, even though I’m not sure if I’m going to do it or not.
FREESKIER: Do you notice that every year brings more pressure from yourself and outside sources?
Henrik Harlaut: No. If it’s any pressure, I think it’s good pressure. Everybody, the fans, wants me to do better, so it’s a sick kind of pressure. It makes me push even harder and want it even more.
FREESKIER: So it’s all positive then?
Henrik Harlaut: I try to take away all the negative stuff as much as possible. I only think positively.
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