Sammy Carlson has a lot on his mind. He is quickly becoming one of the most recognized and well-liked skiers in the business, but like many pro skiers still has his critics. Rather than shying away from them or shrugging his shoulders about it, Sammy wanted to take the time to do something different than his peers. At the age of 18, he’s shown a level of maturity beyond his years by wanting to be proactive in asking for an opportunity to address those who think of less of him than he deserves. On top of that, he wanted to drop the news about the new summer camp he’s in the process of starting, and chat about his opinions towards the attitudes of other pro skiers, his plans for the future, and his frustrations towards people hating on him, Tanner and the sport in general on this very site. – Jeff Schmuck
Where you at right now?
I’m staying in Vail, Colorado right now and skiing Keystone, and am going to head over to Breckenridge when it opens and crash with Josh Sherman, the snowboarder. I’m staying with Spriggs right now and it sucks because he’s so fucking tall for everything in the house. I can’t even reach the glasses, I gotta jump up on the counter to get them. So hold on, I gotta do that because I want a glass of lemonade…
…Okay I’m back. Man, if I was only 5’9 I’d be set. How tall are you?
Really? I thought for some reason we were the same size.
Fuck that, you’re like 5’2.
Bullshit (laughs). Everyone says that dude, and I’m like 5’6 or 5’7 easily, and I’m growing. I’m just in my prime (laughs).
I’m totally putting this in the interview.
Seriously, I feel like I’m in my prime right now with my body.
Yeah, how are your muscles doing?
They’re doing good, I’ve been working out so much, like twice a day. I don’t have anything to do right now, because I’m done school so I have nothing to do so I just sit at home and think, well, I might as well be at the gym getting strong for the season.
Uh-oh, you go to the gym twice a day? Some kids might hate on you now and call you a ski jock, haha.
Yo, fuck that, I don’t go to the gym and lift weights. When I go to the gym I just laugh at all the big dummies with the huge energy drinks and protein shakes. I just do stuff with the medicine ball like core workouts.
So does Keystone have a park yet?
They’ve got a bunch of rails set up and then all down the run there’s a bunch of gaper gaps and you can triple and double them and go so big over them. It’s super fun and it just feels so good getting skis back under my feet.
So what are you planning on getting up to this year?
Man, I have so many plans. I definitely want to get into some more powder this year. Watching Believe and Idea was so sick and it got my stoke on to get into more powder. I did so many competitions last year that I didn’t have time.
Yeah, I noticed in Yeah Dude and Seven Sunny Days that you didn’t quite the have the backcountry stuff going on that you did in Ski Porn.
Yeah, I was bummed about that. I did so many contests, in fact I think did every contest last year. Another thing I was super bummed on was I went up to Whistler with MSP and did a bunch of urban rails and cool stuff like soccer goal post jibs. Then I sessioned this jump they built for me for a couple of days and I did all four 10’s and some 12’s and did a double cork 10 and the filmer ended up burning all the shots when he was changing his film in the sun. I don’t know how it happened really, but I think it ruined my segment.
That was on the jump they built for you in the middle of winter right? Not Jon’s jump at the end of the year.
Yeah, I remember seeing that jump and everyone in town was talking about how they built it for you and they saw you hitting it and that you were throwing down hard and how stoked they were to see your footage. And just now I’m realizing there were no shots of that.
Yeah, it was so much fun but then they couldn’t use anything for the film. I was so pissed about that.
So are you going to do less comps this year and film more, or try to balance the two a bit better than last year?
Well I’m going to film with Tanner a bunch this year so I’m stoked to get on that program, and I’m going on an Oakley trip to Retallack at the beginning of January to get some pow skiing in. But up until then I’ll definitely be training in the park to get ready for X-Games. So yeah I’m definitely going to try to balance things a bit more. I’m definitely going to focus on the X-Games and hopefully I do super well so I can just have a good filming season after that.
You and Tanner weren’t exactly the best of friends a few years back. There were some issues there right?
Yeah. He didn’t know me at all and I’d never met him, and I was just messing around one day while my Oakley team manager was filming and I flashed the C-Crew sign, and it ended up in Teddybear Crisis, which surprised me because I didn’t even know I was going to have any shots in that movie. So Tanner got all bugged about that and thought I was dissing him when really I was just messing around. So it was pretty much a misunderstanding that we cleared up once we actually met and started hanging out, which was good because he’s such a good guy and such a good person to ski with, and we always have a good time skiing and partying together.
How are things with Salomon right now?
Pretty good, I really like the skis and they’re listening to me a lot more about product input and letting me work with them on it, so I’m stoked on that. And I’m going to be talking to them about a pro model soon. I haven’t really talked to them too much about it but I definitely want to bring it up with them sometime in the near future.
Speaking of which, you had a couple of other companies try to sign you when your contract expired with Salomon last year. Just for fun, do you want to tell some of the kids who made you offers?
Yeah, I’ll tell, I don’t see what the big deal is. I definitely talked with Line, and me and you had some good talks about that at the time. I was definitely stoked on the idea, because Line is a super cool, core company and that’s what it’s all about, so I’m stoked on them. And there were a couple others that I don’t really want to name, but in the end I stayed with Salomon because they’ve treated me so well and it just felt like the right thing to do.
What’d you think about the Pete thing?
It’s pretty crazy. He’s skied for them for so long so it was a bummer for sure, but it’s all going to work out for him.
Yeah, he’s on Nordica now right?
Yeah he was skiing on them at Icer and I didn’t ask him too much about it but I think Monster wants to do a cross-promotion deal with them so he can have Monster/Nordica skis or something.
Sick. It’s good to hear it’s working out for him, he deserves it. So you’re in the process of trying to start up your own summer camp at Mt Hood right?
Yeah, definitely. It’s going to be the sickest camp ever. All skiers, no snowboarders and a super core vibe for skiers that are just down to shred and not worry about all the partying. I don’t know if it’ll be this summer or the following, because at this point there might not be enough time to get everything organized and all, but definitely by either this summer or next there’ll be something up at Mt Hood. So everyone’s going to have to keep their eyes open for that because it’s going to be sick. There’s not really too much information about it right now as it’s too early to say who will be coaching and whatnot, but it is going to happen.
You have a name for the camp right?
Yeah, it’s going to be Freestyle Northwest.
You’ve been doing a lot of work with Nike down in Oregon over the past few months right?
Yeah dude, Nike is so sick. I’m so stoked on them. They just did a team camp this summer and invited a whole bunch of their athletes and we went boating and toured around Niketown and had so much fun.
Tell everyone about Niketown (Nike’s world headquarters) in Portland and how sick it is.
It’s a whole other world, it’s hilarious. You guys should google Beaverton, Orgeon and then look for Niketown so you can see how big it is. It’s seriously looks as big as a city. It’s so funny. I cant remember how many buildings there actually are, but all the buildings are named after their athletes, so there’s the Lance Armstrong building and the Tiger Woods building, and right next to that one they have an exact replica of the 18th hole of the Masters course at Augusta. And everyone that works there is super cool. I think they get like an hour or two a day of activity time because there’s always people playing soccer or swimming and doing all sorts of sports.
I heard that Michael Jordan has his own parking spot there, and he’s never actually driven there himself but that if anyone parks in his spot, they’re fired.
That’s funny. I parked in Steve Young’s spot one time and was thinking, there’s no way Steve Young is going to come here right now. I wonder if they wrote my license plate number down (laughs).
A lot of kids are talking shit on Nike for sponsoring you and getting into skiing and saying that they’re just trying to cash in on the sport and that they don’t actually care about it. What do you think about that?
Well first off, they’ve put together a commercial about skiing that’s going to start airing on MTV in three weeks I think. So that’s going to be so good for the sport because so many people who wouldn’t normally see what’s going on in skiing are going to. So they’re definitely into it. They just signed on TJ Schiller and Jossi Wells too. They’re not trying to snatch up all the best riders, they just want to get some cool guys to be on their team and represent. They’re definitely going to start getting more involved in skiing in a huge way this year. We’re going to do a Nike trip to Austria with me, TJ and Jossi for a whole month and do some cool backcountry stuff. And Riley Poor who used to work for MSP just got hired as the team manager, so that’s sick.
Oh really? That is sick, Riley is good shit.
Yeah dude Riley is the coolest dude ever. I’m so stoked. He’s got some big plans and he gets it, so it’s going to be really good.
There were rumours floating around at Vegas last year that they were thinking about making skis in a few years.
I haven’t heard anything about that, but you never know with them I guess.
So there’s been some bullshit floating around this site over the past month or two about you that I know you want to talk about.
Yeah, I read that thread on there about me throwing a bowling ball. Did you read that?
Yeah I read it.
Yeah, that kid that made that post, I don’t know what he’s talking about. That’s the one thing that bugs me about that site. There’s a lot of kids on there that act like they know what’s going on but they don’t. A bunch of them actually do, but then there's a bunch of them that make stupid threads like that one, and it’s lame and it really frustrates me. The story there is we were filming up at Keystone and me, Abma and some guys from MSP went bowling and were having a good time, and I always throw a bowling ball like that down the lane. Big deal. Tell me you’ve never done something like that at a bowling alley Schmuck, I know you have (laughs).
I’ve done much more questionable things at a bowling alley than that (laughs).
Yeah, exactly. I mean you can do much stupider things than throwing a bowling ball down a lane. I’d like to say to everyone on Newschoolers that if you haven’t done something silly that doesn’t hurt anyone like that, then you’re not living. I was just having fun like I always do.
Well he got ripped on pretty good because like a lot of people said, you are one of the most well liked people in skiing right now, and that’s the truth.
Yeah and that kid on the site said that I was rude to that guy, and you know me Schmuck, you know that’s not me. You know I’m a respectable person, and it really bugs me when people say otherwise. I’m just so stoked to be in skiing and doing it professionally so I’m pretty much always having a good time. I’m not caught up in everything that’s going on for me like some other people are, I’m just super stoked on what’s going on, and my parents do a real good job of making sure it doesn’t get to my head.
Yeah, there’s a lot of athletes out there right now at your level that are different than you and are a lot less respectful, and I think that’s part of the reason you are so well liked and such a breath of fresh air.
Yeah, and it’s crazy on the web and on Newschoolers, and that’s what’s been bugging me so much lately and a huge part of the reason I really wanted to do this interview. People like Tanner and the true people that are pushing the sport are getting hated on super hard by kids on the site. I mean, I know there are a lot of big names in skiing that have lost touch of why they’re really in the sport, and they’re just trying to go about making money and that’s all they care about now. But people like myself and Tanner and others would like to see the sport go back to the way it used to be when it was just about skiing. People hating on Tanner is super lame because they don’t understand how much he likes skiing and wants to help skiing. There was that huge thing at IF3 about how he got so wasted up there, which he did, and it sucks for kids to see him like that because I know he is a huge role model in the sport, but he’s just a person too.
Yeah, I was there front-and-center and I was wasted too. We all were and it was a real good time, but to me, what I saw was just Tanner having a damn good time with all his friends because he was so stoked to show his movie to the public for the first time.
Yeah, and what bugs me the most is that throughout that whole thread, not one person talked about how dope his movie was.
The whole hating thing seems pretty big in skiing right now. Skiing in many ways still seems like it’s still a few years behind snowboarding, and I remember four or five years back I was pretty tight with some of the big name guys on Burton, and they were always bitching about how much hating there was going on in snowboarding, and it seems like we’re following that trend. Where do you think it’s coming from?
Well I think like snowboarding at the time, the sport is branching off into a lot of different directions right now. There’s a lot of different styles of riding from park stuff to what Tanner was doing in Believe to what Pep, Pollard and Andy were doing in Idea, which was so different with no poles, which is a whole new style. So because there’s a bunch of new styles in skiing coming out, I think people aren’t used to it and are going to like one way more than the other so they’re just going to hate on it because that’s what everyone does at first. I think it’s a good time for our sport though, because it’s just getting bigger and more diverse.
Yeah, and because of that, I think we’re probably just going through some growing pains right now. That’s how I feel anyway.
Yeah, me too. I’ve been thinking about what you were saying earlier about how there are some big names in skiing that are kind of acting lame, and I think that’s whack, know what I mean? I know you know what I mean.
Yeah, I do, but I think there’s two sides to it as well. The reality is, a lot of the big name athletes are pretty young right now, and when you put that much money in young people’s hands before they have or haven’t developed certain maturity traits, or haven’t grown into a full-blown adult, and you send them around the world for free and they see different cultures that they might not be ready to experience, and everyone in each of these places wants a piece of them, you’re essentially allowing them and encouraging them to live that rockstar life, so it’s going to be tough for them to not let it go to their heads. It’s inadvertent and human nature in a sense, because they’re young and still growing up and experiencing a very different and privileged life than most people their age, and that can be a tough thing to handle at times.
That’s a good point, and some people are going to look at it different than others. Like, a lot of athletes are way more worried about doing ski contests. I just really started doing that last year I guess, but I did it because I wanted to help get my name out there and for my sponsors. I just wanted to establish a good name for myself so I could have a good and long-lasting skiing career. It’s so dope how many people are getting paid to ski, because it really is the sickest shit ever, and I definitely don’t want to lose that, but I do don’t all those comps because of the money.
Yeah, money is definitely not your top priority in the sport and I know that after knowing you for so long, and I’ve always felt it was one of the best things about you.
Yeah, I mean I’m stoked what’s going on with my sponsors and that I’m getting paid more, but I just got an agent that I’m super pumped on so now I don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff at all. That’s the only reason I really have one. So I can just focus on skiing, because that’s really all that I am focused on because that’s what I love. I’m really pumped on skiing and my life right now because it’s crazy to think about how just a few years ago I was that kid that was on NS all the time and wanted to be a pro skier so bad.
How’s it feel going from being that kid to where you are now, because maybe you don’t know this but I certainly do being a former team manager, and I’ve heard from a lot of other team managers that if they could have one person on their team, it would be you. Because you’re young, you’re talented and only getting better, and are mature beyond your years, and that a lot of people are seeing you as, and not to make a fair or unfair comparison, the next Tanner. What do you think about that?
Well I don’t mind that comparison at all, because just to even be compared to Tanner is an honor. I’ve heard that people have been saying that and it makes me feel really good. Sometimes I just sit back and laugh man, because my life is just so good and I have to. Like last summer I was 17 and I bought a truck, a Toyota Tundra, and it’s sick. My dad bought my sister and my brother trucks and I could buy my own. So when I was driving it off the lot I just had to throw my head back and laugh, and thought to myself, this is the craziest shit in the world man, I cant believe I’m buying a truck off of just skiing. And now I’m actually trying to buy a house in Hood River and I’m only 18.
You know, something else I’ve always been impressed by with you in all the years I’ve known you is that you’ve never taken any of this granted have you? Even for a bit. You’ve just enjoyed every second of it.
Exactly man, it really is the craziest life ever. I love skiing so much and that’s what it’s all about, and now getting paid to do it and to travel all around to the best places is just so sick. Wherever I go skiing now, it’s just always the best. I’ll be skiing in Japan or France and my parents haven’t even been out of the country and I’m 18 years old and have been to all these different places all over the world. It’s weird to me that I’ve been traveling around with Simon for the last couple of years and he’s been doing it for so long that he seems kind of past it, but I guess we’re just at a different level in our lives where he’s passed the stoked part and that’s where I’m at still.
How long do you think it will be before you’re at that point?
Well hopefully never. I want to ski forever and love every second of it. And when I’m done skiing professionally hopefully I can get a job as a team manager at Oakley or Salomon or Da Kine or who knows.
Do you want to be in the industry forever or do you think you will you move on one day?
Oh fuck no dude, I want to be in skiing forever and make a living off of it forever. That would be the coolest life ever and it’s what I’m going to do.
photo: Felix Rioux