Tanner Hall Exclusive
By Mike Douglas, 112 days ago
Three years ago, when Freeskier first profiled Tanner Hall, he had just come off his first X Games gold and had emerged as freeskiing’s newest superstar. Since then, Tanner has successfully defended that gold medal three times, become the most dominant pro in the sport, started a new ski company, produced his own ski movie, and inspired thousands of young people to buy a pair of twin tips. All of this, and he just turned 21. I’ve known Tanner since he was a 12-year-old grom bouncing off the walls at summer camp in Whistler. In that time I’ve seen him mature, and have realized he’s become a man of intense contrasts. He’ll completely dominate the field in a contest, then talk afterward about how he has so much to learn. He can be the most mellow and polite guy in the world, then snap if someone shows him disrespect. But behind the baggy clothes and hip-hop persona is a guy who loves the sport of skiing and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. In Tanner’s world, things are black and white, and that’s what has made him simultaneously the most loved and hated skier today. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, you may want to pay attention to what Tanner Hall has to say, because as one of the leading trend setters in this sport, he’s more often right than wrong.
MD: I had to call New Zealand to find you. Why are you in New Zealand?
TH: This place is the most untapped source in the world, man. I’m totally over going to Whistler and Mt. Hood in the summer. There’s no use to go those places when you have a place like Snowpark, NZ. I’ve never skied a park like this — perfect halfpipe, perfect jumps, perfect rails, perfect weather every day and the people are so nice down here. This place is the mecca for what we do and when the pow comes, it’s even better.
MD: I’ve only just heard about this place. Is Snowpark new or is it an older resort under a new name?
TH: It’s brand new. This is the third year it’s been open. Every year they get a little better. You gotta see this place for yourself ‘cause it has the best of everything. it’s definitely going to be the place to be in a couple of years.
MD: Are you down there just training?
TH: Yep. No filming, nothing. I learned a whole bunch of shit, man. I’m so stoked to compete now.
MD: You’re the best new-school contest skier to date. Is there a win that stands out in your mind?
TH: I would have to say the BMW X3 Freeski this year, because you just had to be on top of your game in every event. And, taking home a BMW as a skier is pretty much the ultimate. Then being able to give it to my Mom — that was one of the best contests I’ve ever been to.
MD: Is it getting harder to stay on top?
TH: It is, but as a competition skier that’s what I love. That’s why I’m in NZ and that’s why I’ve been taking it so seriously. I just want to set up a nice future for myself when I’m done competing so I have better opportunities to go do the stuff that I’d like to do.
MD: Are you starting to feel the pressure from the new guys coming up?
TH: Ya, but I’m stoked. I’m still young, so I don’t want people to think I’m falling off or anything like that. The pressure keeps me on my game. It’s not like I feel threatened by any of these little kids at all. I’m stoked for every one of them. I want to keep competing so that I can help make things better for the next generation, so that when they’re competing everything is going to be set up perfectly for them. I’m not just competing to make the cash. We want to make the contests better for the young kids coming up.
MD: Out of the young guys, is there anyone you’re really watching?
TH: Not really, because there are so many of them. It’s super-cool to see all the new kids, like Corey Vanular, Tanner Rainville and Matt Philippi. But what I’m really stoked on is my little homies from Whistler: Kye Petersen and Sean Pettit. I don’t think people know how sick these kids are and what they’re going to bring to the world of skiing. It’s almost scary to think about how good these guys are going to be when they’re 18. Out of everyone in the whole industry, Kye Petersen is the one I’m looking at who is definitely going to be all-time.
MD: What’s it going to take to win competitions in the next few years? Will you need to do a switch 1440 with a grab?
TH: No, no. Now so many kids are starting to spin to the right side. I’ve talked to Simon Dumont, Jon Olsson and the guys who are leading the comp scene about this stuff. It’s all about being smooth and bringing out good style on both sides. Being able to look good spinning both ways on jumps, rails and in the pipe, you know. But big air is basically a junk show and is always going to be about spinning hard.
MD: There are rumors that halfpipe skiing could be headed for the Olympics. Is that something you’d be into?
TH: I’d be psyched ‘cause of what’s going on right now, with the Olympics being so traditional for skiing. To me, the Olympics were so dull until snowboarding and kids like Danny Kass and Heikki Sorsa, with the big ol’ mohawk, got in there and made it less serious than everyone makes it out to be. If skiing got in like that, it would make the Olympics that much better, but we’ve got to remember who’s running it. We’ve got these people at the USSA who don’t want any good for us, they just want to use what we do to make money or whatever. If we don’t control it for the next couple of years, I see it as just a big aerials contest in a U-ditch.
MD: If it’s in would you go?
TH: Oh ya, for sure. My dream has always been Olympic gold. That’s why I started skiing moguls. That’s why I moved away from Montana. I wanted to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal. That didn’t happen. I’m definitely not bummed because I love where skiing has gone, but I am one of those people with Olympic dreams. If it gets in, the first halfpipe event would probably be in 2010. I’ll be 26 then and the perfect way to end my competition career would be with Olympic gold.
MD: With your busy schedule, are you still going to be able to get out there and ski the way you want to?
TH: Oh, totally because right now there are so many kids out there and so many events that I want to limit myself to only four or five events this year. I’ve totally crossed off the U.S. Freeskiing Open, because I see that as a comp for kids who want to come up, get in the ranks and try to start their careers. I want to be smarter about where I go and what I do. The places that I do go, I’m going to take more seriously than ever.
MD: What was your motivation for leaving Rossignol and starting Armada?
TH: So many companies in skiing are the same traditional brands. That’s cool and I’m stoked that they are all coming out with twin tips and stuff for us, but if we really want our sport to go places, we need companies that are only based on what we are doing. Who gives a shit about just trying to make money? They’re all coming out and selling demo skis and race skis. Armada is going after world domination. Hopefully, in 20 years every kid is on twin tips and ski racing turns out like snowboard racing. It could happen, man. I know in Europe racing is big, but thank god we’ve got kids like Mickael Deschenaux and Candide in the spotlight alongside Alberto Tomba and Hermann Maier. I know racers are big but you can’t block out how big Candide is in France. We need more companies like Armada that are all about what we want and how we want it.
MD: Besides being the marquee athlete on Armada, what’s your role with the company?
TH: My role is to ski, man. Believe me, I’d love to be more involved. Sometimes my insight is shaded out a bit because I’m more or less the contest kid. I try to do whatever I can do to promote the product, whether it’s signing posters at a shop or just being out there skiing.
MD: Do you like the marketing and business side of it?
TH: Not so much. I think when I’m older I’ll be into it more, you know, when my time’s up. I don’t want to just ride for this company and then when I’m done skiing have nothing to do with it. Armada is my life, man. I want to make sure that when I’m 40 years old this company is still rockin’ and it’s huge, and everybody is still stoked on it.
MD: You have a new ski movie coming out called WSKI 106. Why make your own ski movie?
TH: I’m definitely a busy guy, but the more stuff you can get in, the better. I love this time of year when all the new ski movies come out and you get so stoked to ski. But you know what? For the last couple of years I haven’t even been watching ski videos. I’m not out there to dis Poorboyz or MSP or TGR, but what I want to see, I haven’t seen in a film yet. All I see is the same videos being put out every year with just better skiing. So this year I just want to bring in a different flavor, with a different kind of attitude. Something other people will look at and maybe spark a light bulb.
MD: What’s going to be different?
TH: I can’t explain it, but once you see it you’re gonna know exactly what I’m talking about. We don’t have any lifestyles of people just up on the hill in their clothes… just gay little lifestyles like every other movie. We took it real serious and shot super-nice lifestyle for everybody. We had Shane Nelson editing and he’s done short films for the Sundance Film Festival and stuff. When you see the segments by Kye Petersen, Sean Pettit, Rory Silva, C.R. Johnson… you’re just not gonna believe it. It’s a totally different, cool idea. We’ve got shoutouts from a bunch of musical artists. The C-Crew is on the come up, man, and that’s what it’s gonna be next year. It’s not gonna be Poorboyz Productions anymore, we’re starting C-Crew Productions. I just want to bring a whole different flavor to skiing.
MD: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
TH: Just being able to have a good relationship with my parents right now. It might not sound like a big accomplishment, but as a young kid I had a troubled lifestyle at high school and stuff. I guess everybody knows I didn’t finish high school. I love my parents more than ever for giving me a chance after I got kicked out of high school and never did good at contests or anything. I just asked them to give me one year ‘cause this is what I definitely want to do with my life. Now, me and my parents are at a level where they are the best people in my life.
MD: Are you a millionaire?
TH: (Laughs) No, not at all, but right now everything’s going really good because I’m taking all the money I’m getting from skiing and investing it into real estate. It’s cool to see your money double or triple in one year after you buy and sell a house. It’s fun to play in the real estate market. Me and my Dad have something really good going together and it’s cool how he has his knowledge and he takes the money I’ve made. He should be retired by now, but I think the life they gave me was pretty expensive. Skiing is definitely not a cheap sport. We are investing in each other and life couldn’t be any better right now.
MD: What do you think when you hear about racers like Bode Miller pulling down multi-million dollar contracts?
TH: I think it’s bullshit, man! They went through so much, for sure, but all they do is ski down one icy-ass run. Ya, they ski five events like slalom, GS, downhill, whatever, but it’s still just an icy-ass run that doesn’t really change. Put me in a downhill and I might not go as fast as Bode Miller, but I’ll make it to the bottom. Put any of those racers in the pipe and they won’t even go. People are so blinded by ski racing that they kinda block us out, but that’s why I want to do stuff with Armada, that’s why I wanna do stuff with WSKI 106, that’s why I wanna do all this stuff. We’re kinda in the shadow of the traditional race style, but times are changing. Sorry to all those racers out there, but in 10 years, you guys ain’t gonna be nothing, man. I’m not saying that Bode is a bad skier, because he’s sick as shit. But the way it works with the contracts and the big companies is bullshit.
MD: Has the success, money, fame or travel changed the way you think about the sport of skiing?
TH: Hell no, it’s just given me more opportunities to go do more shit. It’s so cool. That’s my advantage, because I’m an easy-going kid, I don’t care where I’m going as long as there’s good snow and it’s fun. I’m all about just being out there on my skis, ‘cause that’s what makes me happy.
If a tree falls in the forest and then springs back up as a joke, do the squirrels freak out?