The Finnish open in slopestyle took place 14-15.2 in Sappee. I had a talk with the the head judge of the competition / European brand manager for Bern / Host in tv series Wild Spirits / Ski bum, Skye Darden after the competition.
How do you feel about the comp on Friday and Saturday?
First of all cons, they are not many. I was expecting the level of the pros to be a little higher. So that might be one but that may also have to do with that all the guys are not here this year, so maybe that means something and i wish there was more girls.
But then pros. I think there are way more of them. In the competition i definately saw a lot of good style and I think the level is rising. I think that the guys have so much heart for what they are doing. Like training all the way into the night. They were supporting eachother and they were still strong in the way they were riding. I think that this is a big pro and that the sport is going to grow here in Finland.
How would you compare what you have seen now compared to what you saw four years ago when you were last judging here?
Four years ago I saw kids that were doing more of the following type of way. Because i don´t think they had their own sense of style yet. Some of they guys like Nipwitz and guys like that have changed it and you can see it now. And i think that´s really important. So now you can see their personality in the way they ski compared to four years ago.
It has aways been like a big family here and i think its even more a family now. Kids are even closer now and even though they are becoming individuals they still are a big group of individuals. And that shows and reflects in their style
Where do you think skiing is going in the future. How do you think it should progress and how do you feel about the present state?
The olympics was obiviously a big deal because it opened it to a world stage so i think that the mainstream now that what we are about. That we are not just these saggy pants even though that´s what they saw on some of the guys in the olympics. And I think we are going to get a lot more of respect from the rest of the world because of that. I think also the snowboarders saw what we did too and i think they are afraid of us now actually. They realized that even though their sport is not dying its going backwards a little bit. And skiing is becoming more cooler and not saying cooler than snowboarding because its apples and oranges, but the fact that skiers know who they are now and that´s a big change for sure and I hope to see that continuing especially in a conservative place like Finland.
What type of skiers do you appreciate?
Its funny because I´m friends with a lot of big name guys. Couple of my best friends are like Candide Thovex, Henrik Harlaut and Phil Casabon but also there is guys out there that i really appreciate. Like when i see guys like Iisko Heiskanen i get so stoked to see guys like that ski. And i love guys like that. I like anyone who has their own reflection in the way they ski. Like I said I work with guys like Candide and Henrik and i see how their influence is on other people when they ski as well. But they are also super super pros so they are being watched every minute of what they do. But to me its the guy at the local hill that everyone is talking about. So I don´t necessarily have a favourite but its that local guy who is my favourite. He´s the guy I love to watch, he´s the guy I love to ski with and basically the guy I love to be around because not only is he such an unique skier but he is such an unique guy as well.
Safety in skiing. Do you feel that kids are being pushed to do crazier tricks year after year?
Yes. And it´s a very very big point right now. Obiviously progression is something we need but at what cost. If we think about Pekka Hyysalo for example. He got injured when he was pushing in a spot where he shouldnt have been pushing. And that´s something i want everyone to understand. You need to wear your helmet, you need to be very very careful even when you are pushing it and to understand what conditions are given to you. And i don´t want to see kids trying to do something that´s outside of themselves just because a brand is pushing them or they are in a competition. Every progression should be step by step where they continue the progression but do it in the right way. That´s the most important thing I´m trying to push to people. The only way our sport is going to grow is that those people are going to be around and going. And they need to be safe that way.
What about protection. Do you think its getting normal to be wearing a helmet?
I think its very normal with the kids. Its the older guys like myself. I just stated to wear my helmet which i hate to say publically but i also think it need to be said that even old dogs can learn new tricks. And my new trick is to understand that i´m not a 100% aware of what happens especially to my head and I think that its very important that they wear all the protective stuff even thou they think it doesnt look that cool. I think that it is looking cool. I never wore it because I didnt think it was cool, i was just afraid that it made something that i wasnt, that it gave me extra strength. But I think kids grow up with it much more and helmets are so much cooler and lighter now anyway. We never had that around when I was a kid and no one wore helmets so we got used to riding like that. But I think that´s the wrong way. And it is my goal now to make people understand how cool a helmet really is and how it saves your life. And going back to Pekka, we wouldt be talking to him today if he wasn´t wearing his helmet. He is an inspiration and his helmet saved his life and it cant be expressed more that people need to be smart with what they do. This is a very dangerous sport especially when you are progressing so you really need to be smart and aware.
Do you think kids understand how dangerous this sport can be at its worst?
Yes and no. Yes they are aware because they may have slammed themselves and when you slam and get injured you take that with you the next time you ride. So i think that awareness is there. On the other hand I think kids are easily inspired by what other people do and especially you guys have a lot of urban skiing here and urban skiing is very dangerous but it looks very simple. So when guys like Nipwitz make it look so easy, every kid thinks they can do that. But they need to understand that it takes a long time to get where they are at.
How do you see the relationship between park skiing and big mountain skiing. Is there any?
Well I´m a pretty good guy to answer that because i grew up as a mogul skier and then became a big mountain rider but I always shaped parks and always loved jumping and always loved the half pipe. I think the best skiers on the mountain are the ones who can do everything and i know Finland doesn´t have big mountains so its a bit harder for you guys to embrace what big mountains are about. Especially inherit dangers behind powder riding and avalanches. But now there is such a cross between what people do and i go back to Candide now because he opened up the whole game when he won all the disciplines in x-games and then became one of the best big mountain riders because he took his style to the mountains. So i think there is a big cross over for that and it really helps our sport.
What does skiing give to you?
Skiing gives me the sense of who I am. I love the sport and I know its corny to say that you would die for what you do and I don´t want to make it sound like that romantic vision because it really isn´t cool to die in what you do. And I think that skiing opened up a lot really amazing things in my life and taught me so much to be who I am today and I would say before anything else I am a skier. And when you say I´m a skier it means something and it should mean something. Because being the last 23 seasons up in the mountains it made me who I am. And my family is super proud of that and I´m also proud of that. It means a lot to me.
Any last words?
I really want to say thanks to Kosti Puurunen and Sappee for the Finnish open. Also thank you for me being to able to tell the Finnish kids my side of what i believe in and I want to thank the Finnish kids because of the experiece I have had here every time I have come here. Because it´s not about coming to a new country, it´s about learning about new people and really it has made me a better person just being here and I want to thank especially that little dude who touched me so much by thanking me for coming here.