TOM WAL­LISCH

ON GROW­ING UP IN PITTS­BURGH, FREESKI­ING’S OLYMPIC DE­BUT, AND WHY UR­BAN SKI­ING IS WORTH THE EF­FORT.

Skiing - - Focus The Truth - As told to Megan Michel­son

Tom Wal­lisch owes it all to YouTube. As an un­known 19-year-old col­lege kid at the Univer­sity of Utah he won an on­line film contest through Level 1 Pro­duc­tions and rapidly be­came ski­ing’s in­ter­net dar­ling. The Pitts­burgh na­tive went on to film ma­jor seg­ments with Level 1, Te­ton Grav­ity Re­search, Sher­pas Cin­ema, and 4bi9 Me­dia. And his own solo film, The Wal

lisch Project, came out last sum­mer. He’s also a dec­o­rated slopestyle com­peti­tor, hav­ing won the over­all Dew Tour ti­tle in 2012 and two X Games medals. Now 25 and liv­ing in Park City, Utah, Wal­lisch will likely be one of Amer­ica’s top medal con­tenders when slopestyle makes its Olympic de­but this Fe­bru­ary in Sochi, Rus­sia.

The most common ques­tion I get

is, “How did you be­come a pro skier com­ing from Pitts­burgh?” The an­swer is, my par­ents bought a condo at a ski area in Maryland, and we’d go there ev­ery week­end. I’d spend the en­tire time see­ing how fast I could go and what I could jump off. By the time I was a teenager, I’d be­come in­fat­u­ated with ski­ing.

When I first got into ski­ing, I had

no con­cept of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional skier. It didn’t seem like you could be­come a pro skier like you could be a pro foot­ball player. But once I moved to Utah for col­lege, I met some pro skiers and all of a sud­den I was like, “OK, this is pos­si­ble. I’ve got to work hard and get my­self out there.”

The prime thing that made me

what I am is the in­ter­net. Get­ting on­line com­mu­ni­ties to watch my ski ed­its and get my name out there is what made it pos­si­ble for me to get on film trips. It made me a star overnight even be­fore I had won a ma­jor contest. Lots of kids across the in­ter­net thought I was good, and even­tu­ally spon­sors caught on.

It’s a huge op­por­tu­nity to have the

Olympics com­ing up and to be a part of this piv­otal mo­ment in our sport. I’m look­ing for­ward to rep­re­sent­ing our coun­try and rep­re­sent­ing our sport on the world­wide stage.

I like com­pet­ing, not for the fact

that I want to win or be­cause I’m such a desperately com­pet­i­tive per­son. More so be­cause I love the at­mos­phere of com­pet­ing and try­ing to put to­gether a run that’s the best you can do—that’s al­ways a fun chal­lenge for me.

It’s def­i­nitely tir­ing to al­ways be

try­ing to keep up with kids who are push­ing them­selves. The older I get, the harder that be­comes.

Film­ing is where I started, and

it’s the thing that I’ve al­ways done. You’re cre­at­ing some­thing that you can go back and watch and re­mem­ber. In film­ing, you have a big­ger op­por­tu­nity to be cre­ative and ex­press your­self than you do in a contest. It’s a chance to cre­ate some­thing en­tirely your own.

Ur­ban ski­ing lets you not be

con­fined by day­light hours. Any hour of the day is a per­fect hour to film ur­ban. There’s un­lim­ited pos­si­bil­i­ties—you get to choose and build the fea­tures you want to ski.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons from

ur­ban ski­ing about pa­tience, about tak­ing your time to work on some­thing. Whether you’re shov­el­ing for hours or try­ing a trick on a rail hun­dreds of times, you’re fo­cus­ing, you’re spend­ing the time to re­ally work to­ward some­thing. You’re try­ing not to get frus­trated and walk away.

We’re in such a dan­ger­ous sport

and there are a lot of risks for in­juries. I’ve bro­ken my col­lar­bone and shoul­der bone and torn my MCL, but I count my­self as one of the lucky ones. I’ve learned to deal with in­juries, take time off, re­fo­cus, and plan for the fu­ture.

I’ve heard Travis Pas­trana de­scribe

him­self as a risk cal­cu­la­tor. While he’s more in­sane than I am, I like that def­i­ni­tion of what we do. Be­fore I do some­thing, I look at it and ask, “What’s the worst pos­si­ble thing that could hap­pen?” And then I make sure that thing doesn’t hap­pen.

There’s this adren­a­line rush and

fear you feel when you’re try­ing a new trick or a new rail. Ev­ery time you get over that fear, that feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion is some­thing I’ve be­come ad­dicted to.

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