Interview by Jeff Schmuck
How are you feeling Jossi?
Good man. My knee is a little bit sore after the last Dew Tour though, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good.
Speaking of the last Dew Tour, it was a pretty damn big weekend for you there. Tell us about it.
Yeah it was one of the most hectic weekends I've ever had I think. We had pipe finals mid-day, then had to boost over to slopestyle and do prelims right after, and then we had to get up super early the next morning for slope finals. So it was pretty crazy, but definitely one of the most fun weekends I've had. All the homies were there and I was happy with the way I skied, so I had such a blast all weekend.
photo: Rocky Maloney
Following your win last weekend and your second place showing at Breck, you're now top dog in the points standings in pipe for the overall Dew Cup. Does that make you feel pressured and a bit stressed going into Mount Snow, or are you thriving on it?
Well my mindset this year for halfpipe kind of changed a little bit. I took a bit of a break from it last year to rest my knee so my main goal this year was just to go out and land the best runs I could and not worry too much about the placings and pressure. And it seems like it's worked out pretty well for me so far, so I'm going to go into the third and final Dew Tour stop with the same mindset and just have fun and try not to worry too much about the overall standings. But it's definitely pretty cool to have the opportunity to be in the running for the Dew Cup.
photo: John Vandervalk
Like you were just saying, last year you took a bit of a breather from pipe and seemed like you were focusing more on slopestyle. What was your reasoning behind that?
Well I've had this knee problem called patellar tendinopathy for the past five years or so. The nickname for it is 'jumper's knee', and a lot of basketball players and soccer players and athletes who are jumping around a lot and kicking balls get it. It's a problem with the patella tendon where as soon as I bend my knees into a squat position I get excruciating pain. So landing forwards and backseat is the worst thing I can do. And last year it flared up pretty bad at the very start of the season when I knuckled one of the jumps at the first Dew Tour right before finals. It started flaring up right away so I iced it so I could do my runs, and then I went home to rest up before pipe finals later that night and within about an hour my knee had seized up and I couldn't really do anything. So that was kind of a bad start to the season and it plagued me for the rest of the winter. On jumps I could land switch and it was alright but in pipe if I popped a little too much and landed super low in the tranny I was done. So that was the main reason I focused on slope last year, because I really just wanted to look out for my knee.
photo: John Vandervalk
Which of the two disciplines are you more excited about?
It's kind of hard to say, because I've always been more stoked on slopestyle and have always seemed to focus more on that, because I don't really ski that much pipe apart from contests. But I've had some good results in pipe over the years, and I love competing in it, so it's really tough to pick one over the other. All in all I think it's pretty cool to be able to do both disciplines, because there's not many athletes doing that these days.
Yeah it seems like it's getting less and less as the years go on.
Yeah it is. I definitely think it's getting more specialized, so it's super cool for me that I can do both disciplines well and have fun at it. I love being an all-around skier, so I don't really know which one I'm more stoked on. I'm just stoked on the opportunities I have and to be able to keep coming back to X Games and compete in both events, because the atmosphere there is crazy.
photo: Nate Abbott
It's nothing new, but there was a tad bit of controversy over the judging in pipe at Dew Tour last weekend, with some people thinking Simon should have taken it, and others thinking it was rightfully your victory. What are your thoughts?
Well as I said before I just went out there to land the best possible run I could, and in the end it is up to the judges and we obviously don't have any say in it. I'm probably Simon's number one fan because I love the way he skis, and I love his attitude and energy towards competition skiing. He's one of those athletes that's out there to ski his best and he wants to be on top, and he's not going to let much get in the way of that. So I have a huge respect for him, and I felt his run was definitely a little bit more technical than mine, but I guess the judges just liked the fact that I had one more hit maybe. I was pretty surprised when I scored higher than him, but I guess that's just how it is sometimes. It kind of reminded me of the whole Tanner vs Simon deal at X Games, where Simon usually goes a bit bigger and Tanner goes a bit smaller but gets a couple more hits in type of deal. But I don't really let those sort of things affect me too much. I just go out there to have fun skiing and put down the best run I can, and whatever happens happens.
I imagine your victory in pipe and strong showing in slope must give you a lot of confidence going into X Games.
Definitely. I'm real stoked for X. This will be my fourth year there. Last year my knee flared up so I pulled out of pipe, and then I knuckled a jump in training for slope and couldn't walk on it for the two days before the comp, and then tried to do my run but it didn't work out very well. So after that I'm definitely stoked to head back over to Aspen this year and do my best, and it's nice to feel pretty confident going into it after Dew Tour, so it should be a fun week.
photo: John Vandervalk
What are you doing to prepare?
Well my knee is actually a little sore right now, so I've just been hanging out with my boy Tim Pierce, who films Winter of Wells. He just arrived in town a couple of days ago and we went up to Keystone today to start filming for the 2010 season. There'll be another six episodes during the Northern Hemisphere's winter, so I've just been filming with him so we can put out episode one before X Games, although like I said my knee is a little sore so we'll have to see how it goes.
Winter of Wells Episode 9 - Colorado Jibbing
What other competitions are on your radar for the rest of the season?
Straight after X we've got the third Dew Tour stop in Vermont, so I'll definitely be out there for that, and then I'm off to do some filming for a bit, and then I'll go to the Austrian Open, then European Open and European X Games, and then Dumont Cup and then JOSS. So a lot of comps (laughs). I'm really looking forward to Euro X Games, because it's the first time they've done it, and skiing is huge in Europe, so I'm interested to see how it turns out.
We've spent a lot of time talking about competition, but what are your plans filming-wise for this winter?
I'll be filming with Poor Boyz again and I think we're going to do another Nike 6.0 trip out in the backcountry somewhere to shred some pow, and then I'll definitely be doing all the spring shoots, which is one of the most fun times of year for me. And hopefully we'll get a Nike 6.0 park shoot going as well, but we're just trying to figure all of that out right now.
photo: Josh Anderson
As your career goes on do you eventually hope to go the route that so many of freeskiing's forefathers have gone and start shying away from competition so you can just focus on filming?
Yeah definitely. I'm going to be competing as long as I possibly can because I absolutely love it. I have a ton of fun skiing at competitions and hanging out with all my friends and feeling the excitement from the crowd. And I find I usually ski a bit better when I'm under a bit of pressure, so I love contests, and I'm going to do them for as long as my body lets me, even though my body is making me feel like I'm 80 years old right now (laughs). But I love the filming thing too obviously, because it's really fun to put a cool segment together and it's timeless. I haven't really put a full segment together yet but I'm for sure hoping to do that one of these days.
You recently made a pretty big sponsor switch on the outerwear side of things, leaving Oakley for Nike 6.0. What prompted that decision?
Yeah it was a huge move for me. I've been with Oakley for the last ten years and they supported me ever since I was little grommy, even before I was in the competition scene or anything. So it was definitely hard to leave those guys, although I am still with them for eyewear, but I'd always been a huge fan of Nike, and when my agent told me a few years back that I was going to get on them for shoes I was the happiest kid in the whole world. So when they approached me about coming on to join the outerwear program I jumped at the opportunity, and one of the main reasons for that was the smaller team. Oakley is always going to have Simon and Tanner and Seth and all those guys, where as with Nike it's a bit of a smaller team with just TJ, Andreas and I, and I felt like that might push me a little bit harder, so I couldn't be happier.
photo: Rocky Maloney
Here's something I've been wondering about on the heels of Jon's announcement of the JOSS teams. You and Russ are making up Team Down Under again, and you have to choose someone who's never been invited to X Games before as the 'rookie', which leaves arguably the only other two well-known skiers from Australia and New Zealand, you brother Byron and Lyndon Sheehan, out of the running, as they've both been in X. Who are you and Russ thinking of bringing?
Oh man, I haven't even thought of that! (laughs) Jon did tell me a while back that Russ and I would be invited again to be on Team Down Under, and he told us that we'd have to pick another athlete and about the whole rookie thing, but he did mention that he might open to bending the rules a little bit in our case for the reason you mentioned above and that maybe we could have Byron on the team. So we'll see what happens, but no matter who else is on our team I'm really excited to go back there, because I had an epic two weeks skiing with Russ last year and I'm looking forward to putting out another cool edit for everyone.
photo: Dan Brown
So in closing, a lot of people consider you to be one of the friendliest and most well-liked skiers in the game, and as a result there's a lot of kids out there who look up to you and regularly say you're one of their favorite skiers. So what advice would you give to all those kids out there who are looking to follow in your footsteps in the future?
When I was growing up skiing I was always the kid that wasn't quite the best. I was sort of the more courteous and cautious one who wouldn't try tricks unless I thought I had a really good chance of landing them. I tried to practice pretty good risk management and would never just huck myself. So I guess the best advice I'd like to give young skiers is to go out there and have fun and obviously push yourself, but don't feel like you have to progress at a hundred miles an hour to get there straight away. When you're skiing with your buddies and they're all trying new tricks and you're getting stoked it's the perfect time to progress, but you have to remember to think about it personally and if you really feel comfortable with the idea that you can land it. It's really dangerous sport and it's really easy to get hurt, so be careful, take it easy, and progress at your own rate.
photo: Dan Brown