OVERACHIEVER - TJ Schiller wraps up an impressive season
TJ Schiller broke into the competition scene with an unexpected win at the 2004 U.S. Open slopestyle and has since been atop the podium at almost every major event he has entered. He began this season with a mission to prove last year’s results were an indication of things to come and not an anomaly. He not only accomplished his goal, but far surpassed it, winning the U.S. Open big air, the Gravity Games slopestyle, the World Skiing Invitational slopestyle and placing 3rd in the Jon Olsson Invitational. In addition to total domination of the competition scene, Schiller filmed across the globe with three separate film companies, a task that even he admits might have been slightly overly ambitious. He plans to train hard this summer with his sights set on a 2006 Winter X Games gold and a solid film segment for both this season and next. We caught up with him after the Orage Masters at his brother’s house in sunny San Jose.
Schiller in Tahoe
What are you up to right now?
TJ Schiller: Playing Tiger Woods on my brand new PSP at my brother’s place in San Diego. He just got a job at Yahoo and started making bank so he’s got a new car and dope pad. He’s always been so supportive; he takes pictures of me and always tells his friends about my skiing.
Do you hit the links in real life or are you a pure couch champion?
TS: Hell yeah, I play as much as I can, but unfortunately I don’t get to go out as much as I’d like. I only played about 7 games last summer. I play with my friends and do the beer golf thing but I really like playing with my dad. We usually play for money and it’s much more serious. I used to have a handicap of somewhere around 10.
How do your parents deal with your new career as a pro skier?
TS: They are really supportive. My dad was a little uneasy about the whole thing at first, but when I came home with my prize money from the [2004 U.S.] Open he finally really understood that this was a viable way to make a living. I graduated half a year early to ski and they knew right away that I was working really hard for what I loved. Now my dad is pretty much my business agent and my mom deals with all my travel arrangements.
Do you have any plans for college in the near future?
TS: I don’t even want to think about it right now. I’m in such a fortunate position, better than I ever would have imagined, and I think I need to take advantage of this lifestyle as long as I can, just keep enjoying it. I have been saving all of my contest winnings and plan to hit the contest scene hard for next season and save up a lot. Sometime down the line I’ll need to figure something else out, maybe work on starting or joining a company, get an industry job or go back to school but for now I just need to take advantage of my position.
What are you plans for this summer?
TS: I’m going to be coaching at Momentum. I’m pretty excited because I was a digger there for a few years but I think I’m going to take it kind of easy while I’m there as far as training. I’m going to Snowpark in New Zealand in the beginning of August and am hoping to get to stay for a whole month. That’s when I plan to start training hard. Everyone is going to be there… it’s going to be crazy.
Do you have any specific tricks on your list to learn?
TS: No, I’m just going to work on the tricks I’m doing right now and try to get those better, learn some new grabs and work on holding grabs as long as possible. I’ll probably do the same rotations, I don’t think anyone wants to start seeing 1260’s but I’ll work on some right side spins. I really think that next year the comps will be all about who holds what grab the longest and how hard they tweak. I’m pretty sure that’s how I won the Open this year. Everyone was doing 10’s just as big and clean as me but I held the grab just a little bit longer.
You pretty much killed the competition scene this year. What were you favorite comps?
TS: The Jon Olsson Invitational was definitely my favorite competition this year. The jumps were the best I’ve ever hit in my life; 80-foot tables with perfect kick and the longest steepest landings. You could go huge and land on the last foot of tranny and it would still be so steep and perfectly smooth. Everyone was there and we pretty much partied the whole time, not much sleeping. Since it was Easter weekend everyone from Stockholm was in town to party so it was pretty much non-stop and Jon took such good care of us. The whole city knows him and knows all the competitors. I lost my wallet at a gas station and the next day some random girl found it, recognized me from the event and brought it to Jon to give to me. That country has the most beautiful people in the world. I actually met a girl there that I still keep in touch with.
You also won the Bumps and Jumps this season. Do you have a mogul background?
TS: I grew up racing from when I was 12 and 13 and then competed in moguls ’til I was about 17. [Josh] Bibby and I used to ride Silverstar and we would ride everything. If we weren’t in the park where we learned to jump we were out somewhere just messing around, doing stupid tricks and learning to butter.
Is that the origin of Bibby’s pole flips that we saw at the Masters?
TS: Definitely. Bibby holds it down with the pole flips! The Masters was the perfect place to bust them out. That’s why the Masters is so fun; it’s the anti-comp. We [The Armada team] brought up a BBQ and beers and everyone just hung out. I took it a little bit easy, I figured since I was still healthy at the end of the season it would probably be good just to relax and have fun. It’s such a good way to end the season.
Nice, so what are your plans for next season.
TS: [Simon] Dumont and I are going to move to Utah for the winter, maybe Bibby too. We’re going to ski really hard all season. I am going to be focused on competitions but I still think that if I plan everything right I can put together a solid video part as well. I am going to choose one film company to film with because this year I tried to put together three separate parts for different companies and it ended up being too much. Out of 4 trips to Europe we only got shots from 2 because of weather and other problems. It’s hard because you really have to look at yourself and decide what kind of skier you want to be. I got into the sport because of competitions so I think it will be my main focus for next year. Then, who knows, I’ll probably save up some cash, buy a sick sled and spend my time filming in the backcountry.
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