On March 28, 2015, Colorado-native George Rodney took third place at the Xtreme Verbier event in Switzerland, and with that secured the 2015 Freeride World Tour (FWT) overall title. It was Rodney’s rookie season on tour. The University of Utah student became only the second American to ever take home the FWT crown, after Drew Tabke did it in 2013. FREESKIER fans took notice of the rooks’ incredible performance—where he impressed with innovative line choices, powerful skiing and a “send it” attitude—and voted him the 2015 Skier of the Year – People’s Choice. Taking a break from studying for final exams in Salt Lake City, Rodney discussed his SOTY title—the newest trophy poised to grace his mantle.
Hey George, how’s it goin’?
I’m doing good, just finishing up the semester here.
What’re you studying?
Sports management, through the Parks, Recreation and Tourism department.
Awesome. Well, by now you know that you won the Skier of the Year – People’s Choice. Congratulations.
Thank you, man, I’m stoked! This is unreal.
You got it. So, down to brass tacks. What’s being a rookie on the FWT like? Any hazing?
Not too much hazing [laughs]. I was lucky enough that I fit in well with everyone. I was the young kid, but I was also the biggest kid so that helps with the hazing. It was really cool having all of the older guys there to follow around and see how it was done… it made it easier that they were super friendly.
How do you usually go about picking a line during a competition?
[We always] have an inspection of the venue, and every time there’s one line that stands out more than the others, or at least one specific feature. Oftentimes it’s the biggest rock faces, and I’m like, ‘how can I get off of that?’ If there’s one that stands out I try to tie it together with everything else to make a complete run.
Your win at Andorra last year was impressive. You skied a route that no one else even touched. How’d that line come together?
[The line] was the first thing I saw when I was looking at that venue; I was like, ‘does it go?’ My first instinct said ‘yes,’ then I second guessed myself and picked four or five other lines. But I had the first one in the back of my mind. I talked to the other guys and it sounded like no one else was going to go for it. Then, the night before [the show] I was like, ‘I know it goes,’ and I went with my gut and it worked out.
What was it like going into Haines (the final venue of the season) as the leader, controlling your own destiny?
It was surreal. I could have been in last place going into Alaska and it still would’ve been the same experience. I tried not to think of the position I was in and rather think about it being my first time in Alaska and skiing the exact line I wanted to for myself, not for the competition or placing.
You lost your balance a bit on your run in Haines and almost went for a long tumble, but had quite the miraculous save. What was that feeling like?
I’ll never forget that moment. I can still feel the muscle movements I was making in that split second. I remember thinking ‘no, you’re not falling. You came all this way, just throw it back in the fall line. You know where you are on the hill, you’ve been staring at it for two weeks on the computer.’ I tried to stay calm and just throw my balls toward the fall line; balls to the wall, right?
That’s some mental fortitude, George. How about the “Wolf Pack” you run with on the FWT?
The Wolf Pack is a group of mainly Americans and Canadians. We’re over there in Europe for most of the season, away from our homes in a foreign land. Most of us don’t speak the languages and traveling is chaos, so we come together as opposed to separating. We have a big van, are like-minded in how we hang out in between competitions, are always having a good time, always laughing—it’s just a big old party.
What’re your thoughts on the lack of American tour stops on the FWT?
Now that I’ve been on tour and seen other venues, I can understand a bit why they do it. I know that the venues we competed on in the lower 48 during the Freeride World Qualifiers are just not the same as the FWT venues. You just can’t get onto the gnarlier venues in the Americas. There’s the [monitoring of the] snowpack, the resorts have pushback—they’ll have to close the venue for a few months before the competition and it’s hard for resorts to do that if [the venues] are inbounds.
You’ve obviously got a lot of fans out there, winning SOTY – People’s Choice. What’re your thoughts on the support you’ve received?
It feels so great to see that people are following. There can be times when the FWT seems very Euro-oriented without a lot of exposure to us. To be voted [Skier of the Year] is another reason to keep doing it. I’m realizing that people are watching. It’s nice to see the support I received from fans and friends, sharing [the voting] all over the place. In the first round I shared one post about it and I thought there was no chance at all [I would win] after looking at the names nominated. I was happy just to be considered with those names. I looked at it a few days later [when it was to] the second round of voting and saw my name. I thought my phone was broken. Then, there I was in the finals. Thanks to my friends, family and fans… That was really something special going into this next season.
Are you hoping to get into filming through your career on the FWT?
I am definitely looking to transition out of competition fairly soon. I have my doubts going into this season, because I definitely miss hanging out in the States, filming and making stuff with my friends. Getting shots with the cameraman and being part of the final production is something I’m hoping to get into more… I’m going to try to ski with the TGR guys before I leave for Europe. It’s nothing official but I’ll ski around, see if we get along and our styles mesh. I’ve also had a lot of talk with my friends in Salt Lake City and Aspen about getting a production company off the ground, once we’re in the same spot and out of college. We’ll try and do something with those degrees.