Note: this article is taken from the archives of the Newschoolers Digital Magazine, Issue #1. Posted as is for glory.
The funny part about this issue of Newschoolers is that in a way... what used to be newschool is becoming oldschool. I find more and more kids I'm talking to these days who haven't seen 13, don't know what degenerates was, haven't seen Global Storming, or don't remember how important Freeze Magazine was to our sport. I've had to face the facts - times are changing and things are progressing at a rate so rapid you can't get a full perspective of it without looking back.
Felix Rioux and I were having a few beers after work one evening at the Newschoolers / IF3 office, talking about just this issue. We were discussing what one athlete embodies not only the image of newschool skiing, but also the soul. We both agreed, frankly there is not a single person on this planet who is more newschool than JF Cusson. The funny part is that really when you boil it down, he's been off the scene for longer than a lot of people reading this have been on it. I mean shit, when he was making a "comeback" in 2001, I was some snot-nosed High North camper giddy because I got his autograph.
I wanted to catch up with JF and see what he was up to today. If you've never met him - you're missing out - he's a well spoken and intelligent individual. He's gotten to world class status in two sports already, and is headed for his third.
Though the term "newschool skiing" is pretty much fucking lame as shit these days... Newschoolers has become a brand that embodies the skiing movement that we all live our lives by. Newschoolers is everything that the revolution led by JF, Vinnie, JP, Mike D and Shane has become.
Aint nobody more Newschool than JF motherfucking Cusson.
Doug - How was your summer?
JF - I've been teaching golf all summer. Gotta pay the bills.
Its fascinating to see how much things have changed from back in the day. Guys who were big pros back in the day settling into different lives and such... How does it feel to go from that non-reality of massive pro ski life to what people would call more of a normal life?
Its tough at the beginning, because its like your bubble is popping. You've been working so hard on skiing, the tricks and your physical conditioning, and suddenly boom. Its like you did that all for no reason and you can't do it anymore. I like Golf because you can improve until you're 60 years old... compared to skiing where you reach your peak at 24 / 25. Then you gotta go chace the avalanche, and I'm not a big fan of that.
Come on you did a lot of BC stuff.
Yeah I did... but its a lot of work and commitment. You really, really need to have the passion. I always liked better going skiing with my friends. I never really got that work ethic. Really though, its probably the fact that golf got into my life. I found something new that captivated my interest, and stole my passion for skiing.
So you would consider yourself retired from Professional skiing?
Yeah no waiting for 40 minutes waiting for the signal from Felix to drop.... only fun.
Right - you can lose sight of the fun of the sport under those conditions
Totally and that's what happened. When it becomes a job, that's when you lose the real spirit of it. You know my best memories is when I was like 15 with Vinnie Dorion, just popping new tricks at Mont Saint Sauveur. I had more fun then, even compared to when I won the X-games.
What do you think about the direction sport has taken?
It would be hard to say its not a good direction. On top of having very good style and very high degree of difficulty, people do everything perfectly with style and huge. For sure right now its pretty much the improvement is going to come from the way they build the jumps. Everyone has their tricks perfect with perfect landings... and they're going to need to build bigger jumps with better landings. They're going to have to start building jumps with super low impact on landings... like what Jon has been doing for a couple of years with his jumps. He set the new standard for building jumps. Its similar to the aerialists in classic freestyle... very steep landings that are all soft. They can go extremely high and still make the landings. Of course... their sport is going to die pretty soon.
Yeah its crazy... you see doubles coming up, now triples... how far can is possibly go?
Its probably been 7-8 years that I've been thinking its been maxed out and its going to reach a plateau. Every year there's something new coming, and so I'm going to quit on calling the plateau. There's no Plateau Doug, you'll be seeing a quint 6 years from now. That's it.
Do you think that it will get too dangerous and have things banned?
No - I don't think so. That happened before because it was controlled by FIS, and we all know they're as bunch of 60 year old dudes that don't know shit about skiing...so that's why they do the same tricks 25 years ago. I think that the skier that we have right now, like Bobby Brown and Tom Wallisch are so much more talented than the aerialist guys... they don't get really hurt. They have that super air sense, and on top of that they'll build better, bigger and smoother jumps. For sure next year on the big air you'll see triples. I remember I was judging at the X-games and at the big air, all the snowboard judges were with us. They went fucking nuts... Like what the fuck is going on, all these skiers stomping the craziest tricks. You could really see in their face that something crazy was happening right now. Just the way it goes my friend.
Its so hard to judge because its always new, and you don't know what to expect.
How do you judge? When you are judging something like the X-games, what do you look for to assign a high score to?
You know we used to say "I'd way rather see the smooth cork 7 with the perfect grab" But now they do the perfect smooth grab, huge and in a triple 1440. Its all there - you need to look for perfect landing, perfect style and perfect execution. It comes down to who does everything perfectly at the right moment.
Who do you think is the hottest skier on the planet right now?
I think that Sammy Carlson is killing it in the park and starting to be very good in the back country. Sammy has reached where Tanner was before his injury. But then again, Jossi Wells is killing it on pipe and slopestyle... so its tough to say. Same with Tom Wallisch - I'm sure when these guys start to ski in the back country, in two years they're going to be killing it.
Does the sport now represent the ideas that you guys set out when you first started the whole thing?
Heh.... yeah for sure. I remember when Me and Vinnie started doing that, and after with Douglas and JP... my main goal was that I wanted the respect from Snowboarding and from the viewer - the people. Snowboarding was always getting that and skiing had problems. This is finally changing.... Though still at the X-games, snowboarding still has the first spot, but I think it will probably change pretty soon. We still are a little under-respected, but this is just coming from our history. The historical image of the skier is fading away slowly, and we're heading in a great direction.
Where do you see Freeskiing being in 20 years?
For sure you have to realize that skiing's fundamental concept is having fun. When you see all those young kids training for racing with the tight suits, these kids are usually pushed by their rich parents or organizations. I don't think these kids are having as much fun as the kids are having in the park. For sure I think that the more and more kids are going to want to do freestyle instead of racing or mogul skiing... or whatever. So you would think that Freeskiing is going to become the main market soon. You have to remember that its only been barely 10 years. Its already reached that point we were going for. You realize that maybe 15 years ago, they were just starting to build the snowpark, and skiers were not allowed to go in.
I remember one day me and Vincent were at Mont Saint Sauveur, and you know there was a big sign with a skier picture with one of those red crosses through it, stating "no skiers allowed" of course me and Vinnie poached it. We watched two snowboarders hitting it, and they both landed on their head and crashed doing straight airs.
Me and Vinnie we looked at each other and decided Ook lets do a shotgun, throw some 7s." and boom we fuckin' stomp two 7s. The patrol guy was waiting for us, and he fuckin' clipped our tickets. And I'm like "are you kidding me? That retard can't even do a straight air and are landing on their heads, but he's allowed to jump. We just stomped two 7s and we're not?"
Starting from there 15 years ago to where we are right now, its massive.
How does it feel to look back on that 15 years and think - I fuckin' made that shit happen
Yeah for sure, I mean I'm starting to realize it right now, since I can barely do a 360 anymore. But its hard to describe when you're creating something like that the feeling you have. Its a feeling you can't find again by any means. Its done - it was a pure feeling that lasted for 40-5 years and then that's it and its the crazy evolution that lives on. But creating it was indescribable.
(Admittedly we clipped a bit out of the middle, as we need to keep the time short we ranted about whether kids today read anymore)
The whole landscape of the way people consume media is drastically different. I remember when there was Freeze, Freeskier, Powder and all those other mags that sucked. Once a year a couple of videos came out, and that was it. You'd think - Yeah! I got all 3 ski movies that were out this year.
That's pretty much what is boosting the progression right now. If Sammy is going to throw a switch triple rodeo, its on the Internet the next day. One week later there's three guys doing it. Back in the day you had to wait to see the movie, and then be like "man I'm going to try that trick!".
I think Its a good and a bad thing. Its bad for the creator because then it gives the option to everyone to copy him within a minute. But its good for the sport because everyone can catch up with the field and push the sport as a whole.
Who do you feel is the most creative skier out there these days?
Tom Wallisch brought in a new flavor to the sport in the last three years that has been really refreshing. For sure I watch the webisodes... whats it called.... Circus?
Yeah these guys are awesome. You know its another type of creation but its more unique, its more artistic...
Do you have a favorite trick that you have seen - of all time in your days on this earth?
I saw.. .who was that... it was a double cork with a true tail to a screamin' seamen. It was Strenio - yeah I mean for sure the screamin seamen was the ultimate trick back tin the day. Put it in a 360 and you're the man. Do a double screamin seamen... and now he throws it in a double cork 10 with a true 10. Makes me feel like a girl... gawd.
Its unreal. There was a time when a daffy was awesome.
Yeah, I mean its come so far... I remember back in 1991 at Mont Gabriel, Edgar Grospiron doing a daffy twister spread... I watched that shit on slow motion for three months straight.... Daffy Twister Spread.
Hah - think of the 360 Mute grab that Mosley did in the Olympics.... didn't you teach him that or something?
Oh yeah. I taught him to do it in La Plangne like two months before the Olympics.
He stole your shit eh?
Oh yeah... then he claimed it and named it.
Do you know that he's going to be on Skating with the Stars?
Oh my god. Oh shit. Well you know - thats Johnny Mosely. He's good with the public, and a little cheesy, so its perfect for him.
SO golf eh? Golf, and beyond. How has the career been going?
It is definitely harder than I thought. I don't mind the hard working though, because I'm really passionate about it... so its not work for me. I'm really starting to see the light. I've brought my swing to where it needs to be, so that I don't reach a plateau.
I think that if I work one more year on technical issues with my swing, it will be ready. Then its up to me how much I want to dedicate my time and my life to golf.
Are you a naturally talented golfer like you are a naturally talented skier?
Yes. When I first grabbed a driver I hit it 300 yards. I definitely had some natural skills, and thats what got me started. Right away I was very good at it, so I got those sparks and thought I'd see where this brings me.
It must be interesting having been the top dog in skiing, but then entering into a new sport and having to do the regional thing.
Yeah.. but it actually helps me. Golfers are cocky and narrow minded, and won't accept you. Because of my skiing background, they are going to accept me because of my past... because I'm cool ya know? : ) If I didn't have skiing background like that they'd hate me. So its definitely helping me through the process. Also the fact that I'm good with pressure is important - it gives me an edge, and it gives me hope.
Do you think you're going to make it to the big time?
Well like I say I think I have the potential, and I have the abilities. It depends on how much time I want to dedicate to this. Do I rather have a nice life in Quebec making decent money and having time to fish and go skiing.. or do I sacrifice all my life to golfing and have nothing else. Its all a matter of how much sacrifice I want to do.
Well maybe once you've won the PGA tour a couple of times you can retire.
Its hard to go back to that same process as I did with Mogul Skiing and Newschool skiing. Honestly though, thats all I know how to do. I don't see myself being team manager or ski rep.
Three times working yourself up to world class athlete eh? Thats no small accomplishment.
If you could give one piece of advice to all the young kids out there on becoming a pro skier?
I would say don't rush through the steps. You have to learn to walk before you learn to run. DOn't try to make it happen faster than it should be - thats when you get hurt. DOn't try to impress other people. Just do it for you, when you feel it. The game is so tight right now with so many good skiers, it comes down to injuries. I saw a lot of very good kids with talent who blew their career with injuries. If you have the will to get into the gym - go to the gym.
Don't drink, go to the gym, stay healthy, stay safe....
Wear a helmet.
(laughs) I can't wear a helmet. I hate it.