Interview by Mikko Hietala
As we grow up, we latch onto idols, people who we look up to for certain reasons. The respect we have for them can help us form our own opinions, pave our way through early life and become the person we are today. While many of these idolized characters are our elders, who have already seen a slice of life and offer us guidance, some of our idols can also be our peers. In skiing, one of those people is Ahmet Dadali. Developing as a person and a freeskier alongside the fast growth of the newschool scene, he has been a remarkable and passionate member from the get-go. Time has passed and made its mark on all of us, so how have these years affected Ahmet? Read on to find out.
You have been a member of Newschoolers for years and the community has seen you grow as a skier. Do you feel that having grassroots support helped you become more well-known and do you think similar support can still exist today with the immense amount of different skiers and styles in the movement?
I have been on Newschoolers for 10 years now – damn, time is really flying. When I first joined in 2002, there were less than 10,000 people on here, which seemed like a huge number of skiers to me. It was easy to meet people and ski with them around the East Coast and have homies you've never met in the West through Newschoolers. Now there are over 180,000 members, so if anything the grassroots support coming from here should only be more powerful than what it was. With the large growth though, I feel like there’s less love for each other in skiing and more (focus on) judgment, which can be very degrading to skiers trying to make it. But shit, you throw a video up and thousands get to view it, in that aspect it definitely helps a lot.
You took part in Level 1 Productions’ Superunknown contest and while you were a crowd favorite, you didn’t end up taking the win. How did you originally end up filming with the company?
Well, what people don’t understand about the Superunknown contest, and what appeared obvious after this year’s edition, is that if you win you don’t automatically join the "crew" – you just get an opportunity to shoot at the spring park sessions and become known. What’s cool though, is that even if you don’t win, you don’t necessarily lose. The Level 1 crew now saw what you can do, and now you’re on their radar. For me, I didn’t win, but (Josh) Berman hooked me up with Spy Optics and was able to see my skiing. So the next year I moved out from New York to Utah, met up with Kyle Decker, whom I originally knew from Newschoolers, and filmed a segment with Rage Films for ‘Enjoy’.
Decker told Berman what I was up to that season and it clicked, and I got invited to the park shoots at the end of the season and it was on from there. So Superunknown isn't a ‘make or break’ opportunity and that’s what the people who are getting so stressed over who won and who didn’t have to realize! There were so many ill skiers in the contest this year, it was unreal, and not all of them could win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few end up filming with Level 1 in the future.
“…and he can also shoot confetti out of his left nipple.”
You’ve always been a vocal member of the skiing community and becoming sponsored and idolized hasn’t stopped you from airing out your opinions. Has anything you’ve said about the skiing world and its inner workings ever gotten you into trouble with fellow skiers, sponsors or film companies?
I believe that if you’re a pro skier, it shouldn’t make you have to bite your tongue on your opinions about skiing, I mean, that’s the sport you love! How do you keep quiet about it when certain things are killing it, at least in your eyes? So I've never regretted anything I have said that was controversial and I have picked up heat for certain things, but only from Newschoolers really, which I frankly don’t take to heart. Thinking about it, I have laid low a little after certain comments. Maybe I'll start a new 14-pager soon! (laughs)
You have been the honorary item of large debates and discussions when it comes to being a role model for skiers, utilizing skiing apparel wrongly in powder and representing the industry correctly. Is the 'gangsta' image and act we see the real Ahmet, or is there more to the picture?
We don’t need role models in skiing; we need free skiers in skiing. Most professionals skiers will know that it’s not only because of skiing ability that someone will make it in skiing, but a lot of it has to do with how that person differs from the hundreds of other talented skiers out there. So being your own person is important, and you can’t make everyone happy, so I welcome the hate for not zipping my jacket all the time – it’s my way of being original and if someone doesn't like me for not following the beaten path then I don't need their love.
I hate to disappoint everyone, but I don’t think I'm "gangsta" – I just prefer baggy-ass clothes to tight, rap to country, and middle fingers in the camera to smiles. I'm not from the ghetto nor have I ever slightly mentioned anything along those lines. I come from a white trash town and am proud of it.
Ahmet loves skiing. Sometimes love hurts.
I Hate NY was one of the best amateur film crews in the last decade, a collection of skiers such as Andy Parry, Will Wesson, Ross Imburgia and yourself. Your highly anticipated film ‘Pterodactyl Blood’ unfortunately never became a reality, so what happened, and is there any possibility of the crew getting together in the future and finishing what you started?
Don’t forget Giray (Dadali) and Erik Olson. And man, you don’t know how bad I've wanted to do what you just said! We still all hang out pretty regularly. Every one of us is living in Salt Lake City so it’s obviously been in the talks amongst us. Shit might have to happen next year. The real question is, would it be ‘Pterodactyl Blood’ since it never actually dropped or ‘Pterodactyl Blood II’?
The main reason why it never officially dropped was that we didn’t have all the footage that would’ve been necessary for a decent length movie and a lot (of material) was lost in the midst of the year’s filming process. In other words, we were unorganized (laughs). But we did release a few little segments, I think there was a street rails one and a Mammoth one from the end of the year. But like I said, maybe in the near future.
You were recently on a skiing trip in Turkey, your father’s native land. Have you visited Turkey often and how did it feel to go skiing there?
Like you said, my pops is from there so most of his side of the family is still out there. I've been to Turkey quite often in recent years, but only in the summertime. I've wanted to go out there to ski as long as I can remember and I finally got the opportunity to go this year. We didn’t go to the biggest or best mountains so we pretty much just got a little taste of it, but the skiing there is no joke. The skiers on the other hand are a different story (laughs). Most people never know that you can even ski in Turkey, but there was more snow out there as a base around the town than I've seen in any ski areas around the US. It’s definitely a trip to be continued with Level 1 next year, I’m sure.
I hope that’s not a smoke detector in the back.
Coming from the icy streets and hills of Western New York State, you have now become another victim of the backcountry syndrome. Is it just natural progression for all skiers to gradually start hitting more cliffs, charging lines and weaving trees when given the opportunity?
No, I wouldn’t say it’s the natural progression for all skiers. I'm not going to preach that backcountry is the overall high point of a skiing career or that you got to work towards being a big mountain skier – you have to progress in the way you like to ski. What's amazing about our sport is that there are quite a few disciplines that all fall into the category of freeskiing; you can ski in the streets all day, hit up powder, ski pipe or just ride park...it’s all freeskiing.
But for me, growing up skiing bulletproof ice on some days in New York, it would really bring the biggest smiles on our faces when we got five inches of heavy-ass snow. So when I moved out from there to Utah, you can imagine how much my face muscles hurt when I first got to see what skiing three feet of snow felt like. Pure bliss. I mean, shit is fun, so I want to spend my time there and on the streets to make my skiing as cool as it can be.
“And if you now look to your right, you will see the pure bliss.”
In 2007 you were invited to the Jon Olsson Invitational, as that year’s event was catered to give more rookies and fresh talent a chance to shine. How did you enjoy that as an experience and would you want to go back again amidst all this double and triple craze?
It was the first time I ever went out of the country, so I had a baller-ass time. I was young and suddenly partying with all these guys I used to watch in ski movies, getting wild. I mean, it was a hell of an experience and the jump was perfect. Would I want to go back now? Not really. Maybe to party some more (laughs), but it’s just not what I'm really into. It's crazy, that’s for sure, and I'm not talking shit at all, but I just don’t do that kind of skiing so it ain't for me. Here's something to piss some of you guys off though...I think the racing combination is whack.
You are one of the few professional skiers who has taken a serious stand against the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics. What about the whole affair goes against your thoughts on skiing to be anti-Olympics?
Tanner and I were actually talking about this just earlier today. There are a few reasons why I'm not a fan of skiing being involved. To start it off, they need us – we don't need them. They are trying to appeal to a younger crowd that doesn’t want to watch cross-country skiing, ice skating or curling. So I believe they are using freeskiing and snowboarding to get them higher ratings and more money in their pockets, which is something that we shouldn’t be a tool for. We don’t need that, we're doing fine with having the X Games and Dew Tour, and we can keep on creating big comps for skiing like skateboarding has done.
Secondly, it’s something that will affect a lot of film skiers. Ski companies are draining their budgets on that next big Olympic skier, and this puts a big damper on the rest of their budget that goes to sponsoring movies and sponsoring film skiers – I've seen this happening already. Yes, it’s true we don’t do it for the money, but it’s hard to pay the bills while trying to put together a film segment. Yes, more money will be coming into our sport, but more of that money is going to go right back into picking the next couple possible Olympic skiers. It’s a downward spiral of creating jocks.
Which brings me to the last reason: it goes against our nature! We were born off rebellion from the old way of skiing bumps, ballet, racing and aerials – a style of skiing where we won’t have a coach telling us how to ski, what to do or how to act. Instead, we wanted to show our own styles and ski in our completely own ways. With the promise of skiing in the next Olympics, it is encouraging more coaching, more ‘soccer moms’ turned ‘ski moms’, and more conformism to the ways of other Olympic sports. We don't need them, we don’t need gold medals for our country, and we don’t need fucked up judging on national television where the most whack 'future spin' prevails in front of millions.
There seems to be a clear divide between seasoned athletes who are either against or for the Olympics, with the more known and successful skiers making the push for the inclusion and creating organizations like the AFP. Do you think there’s hypocrisy in the whole situation or is competitiveness impossible to weed out even from freeskiing?
I think there are just a lot of people who want to be making more money. What do we need all these organizations for – AFP, FIS, USSA – point systems can suck my dick. Make that shit plain and simple like back in the day. We need more War of Rails-type competitions – both organized and judged by people who know the sport. There is obviously going to be competitiveness in skiing you can’t remove, but let’s not lose the soul of the sport with it.
Could this picture embody the soul of skiing?
Your brother Giray has been making a name for himself during the last few years. How is your relationship with him and do you see each other often or have time to shred together anymore?
He's always been killing it so damn hard, the difference is that he had a future in going to college, and I didn’t have any motivation for it, I just wanted to ski. I guarantee he would be where I am now if it were otherwise. We actually hang out a lot, we live only a couple miles away, and I’m pretty much his chaperone to the mountain half of the time, because his broke ass ain’t got no car (laughs). We hadn’t shredded together in years until this year, because the past few years I've just been on trips all the time and lived in a different state so it was hard. This year however, with my knee injury, I've been chilling in Utah pretty much full-time so we finally got to shred.
Brothers in arms.
Finally, do you have any regrets in your life, something that you would do differently if you could?
No, man. Having regrets should've, would've, fucking could've never got you anywhere closer to where you want to be!
I'll tell you something that has really been bothering me about skiing though, and it is the extent to which we take things so seriously. It is becoming absurd with the obsession I have seen on Newschoolers over "professionalism". This isn't just about the David Lesh escapade, but a combination of a lot of other things I've read. Freeskiing is meant to be unprofessional. I grew up in a time where we watched movies like ‘Burger Time’ and ‘Guatemalan Persuader’ – that’s what skiing is about! Please quit taking everything someone says or does so seriously, it makes skiers looks like a bunch of thumb-sucking nerds and tampon-packing pussies – another possible Olympic effect.
This interview will definitely not be liked by everyone, but as a professional skier I feel it’s important to voice my honest opinion about what I think about skiing and not bite my tongue to keep everyone liking me.