words by Jeff Schmuck
I love phoning Ian Cosco. Not because I like bullshitting with him like two old men sitting in rocking chairs on a porch with a beer in one hand and a shotgun in the other do. I love phoning Ian because, instead of hearing a normal ringing tone while I wait to hear his half soft-spoken, half tired-sounding hello…his phone plays a hip-hop song. It’s a tiny miracle of cell phone technology that will likely cause all of us to die painful deaths from cancer or radiation in twenty years, but I don’t care, because it entertains the living shit out of me. The first time I called him I was strangely confused by why his answering machine message was a gangsta rap song followed by a quiet but excited-sounding, “Hey Schmuck.” Since then, although my perma-80’s metal-induced eardrums could be wrong, I’ve heard MOP, Mobb Deep, the Wu-Tang Clan and others I couldn’t even name, and I’ve never heard the same song twice.
It’d be easy enough to throw in some cheesy analogy that most writers would succumb to about how Ian’s cell phone ring is somehow reflective of his inner being, but really, it isn’t. This body of work isn’t intended to shock anyone, but to all the ladies and gentlemen, pre-pubescent boys and emotionally confused girls out there that don’t know him, Ian Cosco isn’t really that gangster. Ironically though, despite how well I know him, it was written down on my notepad to be one of the first things to ask him about, since that label has followed him around like a used car salesman. I fell short of popping the question though, as I pondered what I’m sure is a rule somewhere in some hood: gangsters don’t wear all purple and teal blue ski suits.
The first time I heard about Ian Cosco was right around the same time everyone else did; about four years ago, on this website. Back then, NS was like cocaine. Everyone was doing it, but no one wanted to talk about it. Ian on the other hand, didn’t give a fuck. He was logging many a long hours on the site, giving helpful information to kids who asked for it, and shit-talking those who asked for it too. It seemed quite the task to sign on without his screen name being at the top of the online list, saying whatever he damn well pleased to whomever he damn well wanted, and telling off anyone and everyone who was hating. Not much seems to have changed.
“People hating on other people’s style is the worst thing in skiing right now. I’m all about doing whatever I feel like and that’s the reason I do what I do. All the hate that’s going around right now is bullshit and people should just stop talking and do whatever they want. People hate on my purple suit and I think it’s the sickest thing ever. People say I act like a gangster when really I may dress like I’m from the hood but I talk like I’m a 13 year-old girl.”
photo: Chip Kalback
The first time I actually saw Ian was at the first ever Freshtival in Calgary in 2003. There he was, all five feet tall of him at the time, dressed just like he says he does in an all black jumpsuit, a black condom toque three years before anyone else, and a chrome, customized P-Crew belt buckle that shone like the North Star. Based on his appearance and what I knew of him from the site, I thought he was one badass little kid. About a year and a half later, I finally met Ian, and was one part disappointed and one part relieved that he wasn’t that badass. As I got to know him better over the years, and watched him get better and better as a skier, work the tradeshow floor at Vegas year-after-year with industry-types, and eventually be able to hold his own against the TJ’s and Jon’s of the world at events all over the globe, I began to see Ian for who he really is, a friendly, talented, hard-working, self-promotion genius.
photo: Chip Kalback
Ian was born in Edmonton, Alberta a city who’s greatest tragedy wasn’t the 1987 tornado that ripped the town a new asshole, but Wayne Gretzky announcing he was skipping town to play for the Los Angeles Kings. A tumbleweed’s roll away is the quiet suburb of Sherwood Park, where Ian grew like a bad weed alongside childhood friend Mike Riddle. Skiing wasn’t always in the deck of cards for Ian, as he began at the age of five and loathed it like a vegetarian does a slaughterhouse for many moons afterwards.
“My parents first took me skiing in Fernie when I was five, and I remember it being kind of fun, but I hated it. It was way too cold and I just wanted to stay inside. After that, I hated skiing until I was about twelve. Then my brother got into it and joined the Alberta Freestyle Club. I thought he was the coolest kid ever so I just followed him around.”
Ian then joined the club himself and ganged up with a now who’s who list of up-and-coming young playboys in skiing under the watchful and caring eye of the great Trennon Paytner.
“Growing up I skied with (Mike) Henitiuk, (Mike) Riddle, and (Matt) Hayward a bit too, but he wasn’t very good back then, haha. My first sponsor came after Heni got sponsored by Smith when he won the Whistler Open, and I convinced him to give me the local rep’s email address. I emailed him and he gave me a pair of goggles and that’s where it all started I guess.”
photo: Chip Kalback
Ian began to make his rounds on the increasingly stagnant freestyle circuit, before making the un-Mormon pilgrimage to the great central state of Utah, home of eight resorts within a half an hour of Salt Lake City, and Ashley Battersby. That winter he took a year off from school to focus on his skiing, but after a few too many back-and-forth incidents with the Mounties and Yankees at the border, decided it was time for some higher learning.
“I enrolled in Westminster College and am taking aviation. I’m really stoked on it and I want to be a floatplane pilot when I’m older. I’m going to have my private pilot’s license in two weeks, which is cool, but I’ll still have another three years of school after that, and I’m really focused on finishing up. I’m going to ski until my body is beat, but the pilot thing is eventually going to be number one. So realistically, although I’m going to do it for as long as I can, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to ski professionally because being a pilot is all about having hours and at some point you do have to retire because there’s a pretty young age limit.”
After a few semesters sitting in classrooms, Ian followed the herd to Vail, Colorado for the 2006 US Open in an attempt to take others to school. While there, Ian turned heads with not only his teal blue suit, but a birth into the semi-finals in slopestyle and silky smooth zero spins in the big air when everyone else was throwing switch 10’s. He credits that week as when he really started to get noticed, but Ian had made a name for himself long before that with a lot of the people who are going to read this.
“When I was spending all that time on Newschoolers, it was totally my intention to promote myself to everyone who was reading what I would post, because I knew it would help me. I wanted to promote myself and say good things, but at the same time I wasn’t afraid to talk shit. Whenever people would talk shit on my crew, I definitely didn’t worry about how it would affect my future. But most of the time in the main threads I would consciously sit there and try to think how it could help me and what I could write to help do that.”
Since then, Ian has filmed memorable segments with Rage, and will continue to work with them this winter along with Level 1. He’s skied in Japan and Europe and says he’d love to ski in the Middle East one day, along with Italy, “Because I’m Italian.” He is currently waiting to find out if he’ll be an X-Games competitor this winter, which he says, “Has always been a dream that I’m trying to get come true,” and has joined the growing throng of others throwing numerous doubles to prepare for that possibility amongst others.
He is inarguably the most prominent and active NS member to become successful in skiing, and isn’t shy to admit a lot of his success was due of the site.
“Newschoolers was fucking huge for me dude. I give a lot of credit to the site for the money that I’m making now, and I’m super grateful for that. I remember way back when it didn’t even have a log in page, it was just a spinning skier doing the mute grab and it had tons of pictures of John McMurray and shit. It was hilarious.”
Ian Cosco is an inspirational and somewhat rare example of an athlete who has used more than just his ability to throw tricks to get him where he is in skiing. He has used his brain. He has promoted himself when no else would, got himself where he needed to be on his own, and made a name for himself along the way. And his dreams of flying through the air in a different form aside, it’s hard to imagine that we wont continue to hear more from him for quite some time.
photo: Chip Kalback