Sammy Carlson

Q&A: Sammy Carlson on X Games Real Ski three-peat and the future of skiing

Q&A: Sammy Carlson on X Games Real Ski three-peat and the future of skiing

Throughout his decorated career, Sammy Carlson has built an extensive trophy case. Up until this year, the slopestyle stunner turned big-mountain boss has bagged a total of seven X Games medals, including one slopestyle gold (2011) and two Real Ski Backcountry gold medals (2013, 2014). This week, it was announced that Carlson locked up yet another Real Ski gold medal (three-peat!), as well as the fan favorite award, solidifying his stranglehold on the event.

On top of his competition success, the twenty-six-year-old out of Oregon has also made waves in film skiing. With banger segments in a slew of top-name ski movies, Carlson is now nearing completion of his most recent piece, The Sammy C Project, highlighting his supreme skills and unmatched style on snow. This morning, I caught up with the man himself to congratulate him on his golden 2015 Real Ski performance, to get the details on The Sammy C Project and find out what’s in store for the future.

The Q&A…

Dude. Congratulations on the three-peat. You earned the judges’ vote and fan favorite award. How does it feel?

Feels good. I’m so psyched. It was a challenging winter for me last year, which makes this one extra special. Every year my appreciation for being in the mountains continues to grow. I’m honored be a part of the progression. Big thanks to all the fans for voting.

Let’s talk about your pillow combinations. They’re mind-blowing. Where does that stem from?

[Laughs] I’m not sure. Every season I try to build off of the previous one. I started gapping some pillows a few years back and focusing on taking more speed or adding a quick little trick into my lines. I guess it stems from that. Usually when we find new zones, different terrain sparks new ideas.

You’ve spent a good amount of time filming with snowboarder Tim Humphreys over the past couple of years. Do you draw inspiration from his riding? Who else provides you motivation to push yourself?

For sure, Tim is one of my favorite dudes to shred with. We’re always pushing each other’s riding and he’s not afraid to go on my crazy adventures. He motivates me to keep pushing it when I’m tired. He shreds hard. I don’t watch as many ski videos these days. I’m drawing lots of inspiration from outside of the sport. Different artists, surfing, and I’m really inspired by the way [snowboarders] Nicolas Müller and Gigi Rüf look at the mountains.

That monstrous step-down setup atop Mt. Hood, how did that come to fruition?

Tim and I were cruising around Hood, looking for something new to set up. It was my brother’s birthday that day, so we were looking for a quick build. We stumbled upon the step-down and it caught our eye. The session was going off; Tim was killing it. I was kind of rushing the whole time because I knew I had to head down for my bro’s birthday. I was supposed to leave by 6:00 p.m. At six, on the dot, I ran back up for one more hit and stomped the dub flat, first try. I was hyped to stomp, since it was a high speed landing, crashes were very consequential. I knuckled earlier on in the session and got served. I rushed down after the dub and still made my bro’s b-day.

Step-down atop Mt. Hood | Photo by Ruedi Flueck

Aside from Hood, where else did you film for your entry?

Besides Hood we were posted up in B.C. [British Columbia] and a quick trip to Switzerland.

What do you like most about the format of X Games Real Ski?

The format is pretty open, with no specific criteria for tricks. The only restriction is a time limit, which enables everyone to showcase their own style and leaves complete creative freedom to the riders.

With more and more ski competitions entering the online space, where do you see comp skiing in the next few years?

I’m sure there will always be standard slope and pipe events. As the sport continues to evolve I hope to see more contest like Real Ski for people to focus on creativity and style. Video contests eliminate the stress of a two- or three-run format and allow riders to push their riding harder than they normally would. With all competitions, I hope people start thinking differently with the setups. As the sport grows, the courses should too. If people are just focused on one more 180, it’s the same progression as it’s always been, when people went from a 720 to 900. I would like to see the courses becoming more challenging and different than the standard, straight down the hill, with basic jumps and rails.

Along with your riding, the camera work in your entry was also top-notch. Who have you been working with?

I was mainly working with Scotty Titterington and Jasper Newton on this piece. Teton Gravity Research is also involved with everything I’m producing these days. The guys are out there grinding with me all of the time. Some of the missions we went on this year required a three-hour hike just to get to the spot, followed by a ten-hour build… then we hike up again the next day or two to session the feature. It wouldn’t be possible without such a dedicated crew.

Which trick or combination are you most stoked on in your edit?

The best-feeling trick was the cab 540 into the pillow stack, into a 360 out of the bottom pillow. I love the intensity of those tricks. Everything happens so fast. As soon as I drop there’s no stopping until you get to the bottom. As soon as I set the trick, I’m trying to spot where I am going to land. Then, I’m just holding on tight. The pillow combos really bring all the aspects of skiing together. I don’t know, it feels insane. Everything is really fast, but when I stomp it, it usually feels exactly like I envisioned at the top [of the run] or the night before [in my head].

Your two-year film project, The Sammy C Project is premiering next month. What more can we expect to see?

We have been working hard trying to create something special. We dedicated almost two full seasons to the project. We’re grinding in the editing room. It’s been a cool experience working with Teton Gravity Research. Expect to see some snowboarding, too. Tim Humphreys will be one of the main riders in the film, as well as a few other riders I enjoy skiing with.

What’s your plan for all of that new prize money?

I’m going surfing.

What about the coming winter? Can we expect to see you on the slopestyle circuit ever again?

Don’t expect to see me on the slope circuit this year. Never say never, but this upcoming season I’m really excited to focus on some other mini-projects I’ve been schemin’.

Final thoughts?

I want to say thank you to everyone that has believed in me over the years. Also, a big thanks to those that voted. I’m honored to be a part of such a progressive sport. Thanks to all my sponsors, family, friends and my fans for the continued support.

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