Kyle Smaine loves the screamin’ seamen and the Alps; get to know the PPOS men’s pipe winner

Kyle Smaine loves the screamin’ seamen and the Alps; get to know the PPOS men’s pipe winner

South Lake Tahoe-native Kyle Smaine has been competing on the pipe circuit for some time now, and currently sits at number eight on the AFP World Tour halfpipe rankings. He also just took home the top prize in men’s halfpipe in The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series’ first-ever virtual competition. On the heels of a hectic competition season, we caught up with Smaine to get his thoughts on the PPOS, backcountry skiing and more.

Hey Kyle. Thanks for hoppin’ on the phone. Congratulations.

Thanks, man. I’m stoked.

The PPOS changed it up this year. Participants were invited to submit their ideal park and pipe runs in a video edit. What did you think of the change initially? What about now that you’ve gone through it?

When I first heard that they were changing it to a virtual format, obviously I had a lot of questions. We haven’t really seen that, unless you consider Superunknown a virtual contest in that sense. We hadn’t really seen anything like that, so it was the first attempt at it. I really just wanted to see the details and how they were going to put it all together, doing something completely new.

Watch: Kyle Smaine’s winning PPOS halfpipe run.

It’s a really cool idea because there’s so many athletes out there that are really exceptional and unbelievably talented, but sometimes have a hard time with competing. Whether it’s the mental aspect or just being able to put down their best run that they’re capable of on any given day, it doesn’t work for everyone. It’s cool because you get to incorporate those people into a contest environment.

Agreed. Your edit was unique in that, except for the final hit, you included a single pipe run, rather than piecing together shots. Why did you decide to do that?

You know, with the rules of the contest being that you couldn’t have footage from an actual on snow contest, it made it tough for me. I was so busy with contest skiing all year, I didn’t really have much time to break away. Plus, living in Tahoe, we had a horrible snow year and there wasn’t a 22 foot halfpipe built all season, so it really limited my options.

The footage was actually something I filmed for an edit a while back, a couple of seasons ago actually. For me, it’s cool to put something together where you have the whole run, because that’s still a huge aspect of skiing and skiing competitively. Judges notice where you’re able to link all of your tricks and having fluidity throughout the whole run as opposed to just individual maneuvers. That’s how I chose to put my run together and it worked out.

You also won the award for best air for your flat 5 screamin’ seamen.

I didn’t even think about best air when I added that trick in there. That was a trick I used to do in my contest run. I probably did it for a year and a half in competition, but any time I’d try to film it, whether it was with Alex Martini at Dew Tour or anyone else, I could never land the trick. This was the only instance that I ever actually landed that flat 5 screamin’ on film.

Watch: Kyle Smaine with the flat 5 screamin’ seamen.

It’s just unique and a trick that I really love doing. It’s different, no one else really does it, so I really wanted to add that in. Even now, when I have the chance I’d love to be able to add that trick to my contest run. It was cool having the option to do both, I could’ve pieced together a whole run. But the way I did it was to include a whole run, in sequence, but then I wanted to add that one trick in at the end as basically a sixth hit.

So do you prefer the regular competition circuit, or this virtual format?

I love both and believe there’s a place for both. For me, what I love about contest skiing is the mental challenge of it. To be able to arrive to different conditions, whether it’s weather or different pipes, to be able to adapt to the conditions that you’re given and put together your hardest tricks that you possibly can do, all in sequence, is such a challenge. There’s no time when you’re just freeskiing that you do that. You always do a set up trick and then practice your hard tricks. The mental challenge of being able to put it all down in those two runs when it counts is what I find really rewarding about contest skiing.

The virtual contest is just as challenging but in a totally different way. Especially when you look at slopestyle, your only limitations were four rails, four jumps and you could put them in any order you wanted. I thought it was really cool to see how people put together their runs. Noah [Wallace] had three rails, three jumps, a rail and then a jump. It takes just as much planning ahead of time and during the process to put together a good virtual run because you’re thinking, “these are my hardest tricks but I can’t do them in a simple sequence of four rails and four jumps because I don’t land off the rails and jumps the proper way.” Piecing that together and incorporating tricks that are unique and have your own flair to separate you is just as much of a process as showing up at a contest.

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