Interview by Elle Forchielli
The U.S. Freeskiing Open has traditionally been the place for the sport's unknowns to drop bombs on the industry. However, it's not so common for an Open winner to skip from podium to podium for the rest of the season, as TJ Schiller has done. Unheard of until just this winter, TJ has followed his U.S. Open Slopestyle victory with a bundle of finishes many pros only dream about assembling in one short season: second in the Open Big Air, third at the Red Bull Big Air, third at the WSI Big Air, fourth in the WSI Superpipe, and a showing on Iannick B.'s team at the Orage Masters. At this rate, TJ is fast on his way to becoming skiing's next household name.NS: So, who are you?
TS: I'm TJ, I'm 17, and I'm from Vernon, a small town in central British Columbia. I won the slopestyle at the U.S. Freeskiing Open and got second in the big air. I recently hit up Europe, and now I'm doing some filming down in the States, and just getting my competition on...
How'd you get your start in freeskiing?
My buddy, Josh Bibby, and I were both really stoked on it. We did a lot of freestyle, and our coach was down with it, so we focused on big air and slopestyle, and did well.
How'd you get hooked up with Armada?
JP [Auclair] saw my promo video and told Anthony [Boronowski] to check me out. I skied with them on the glacier that summer, and they hooked me up in September.
So, about the Open. What were you thinking about on your way there?
I didn't get too much training before the Open. I knew I had my tricks down from last year, so I pretty much had to focus on my competition state of mind. I just wanted to focus on my run and stick with my plan from what I had in the beginning.
What did you think of the competition?
Slopestyle was good, but the big air was 100% better. The head-to-head format really built it up. It was intense. I sketched my cab 12's, though. I was focusing too much on spinning and popped too early, losing height.
Second is still pretty good.
Yeah. I've never had so much fun in two days.
Did you think that you were at the same level as the other competing pros?
I knew I was up-to-date with what they were doing last year, so I was a season behind. I thought I had a pretty decent chance of doing well, like top 10 or something.
But then you won.
Yeah, it was pretty funny. It was my life goal and I did it on my first try. Now I gotta set a new goal.
You mentioned at the Open that winning hadn't sunk in yet. Has it now?
A little. I try not to think about it; I don't really want it to sink in yet.
So what was it like after winning at the Open... fame, fortune, women?
I got some dough, but then I just had to get mentally prepared for Europe.
Don't tell me you didnt get any in Europe.
Ok, I won't yell you.No girlfriend?
Naw, I'm never home. I have my ways though.
Please, enlighten us. How was Sweden?
Some pretty cool shit went down in Sweden. But traveling overseas sucks. Especially if you get stuck in the middle seats between old people on a transatlantic flight. But in Sweden, Jon [Olsson] took me out, and we partied pretty hard. The whole environment was just so chill; you meet so many cool people.
Is it true what they say about Swedish women?
Oh my God, it's ridiculous. And there's no competition; Swedish guys are pretty fruity. But Jon's the Swede master; he's so damn famous. People were always running up to him, it was insane.
What about the skiing?
Yeah, the skiing in Sweden isn't that great. But what they built at the Red Bull Big Air was so sick. The table was perfect, and the hip was just crazy. Everything else was kind of gnarly. The competition itself was okay; the qualifiers were cloudy, and it snowed so it was pretty slow. You couldn't really connect the table and the hip, but the table was perfect, soft landing. Everyone was stomping their stuff. A lot of cab 7's and 5's went down. Holy shit, Laurent Favre was going off! He was the first guy to shred the hip straight over fakie. He did a cab 5 first try, then a cab 7. So much style and stomping the shit out of it.
Do you think those in charge made a good call with canceling the finals?
It was such a good call. In finals we about six different weather systems come through in 20 minutes. the next day was perfect, though, they should have had it then. It was awesome anyway, we just sessioned the course all day. Everyone was really going off.
What did you do after Sweden?
After the comp, Jon drove Simon [Dumont], Rory [Bushfield], and I to Norway. He's got this crazy, little Volkswagen. I stayed in this really small place in Hemsidal with Dumont. I mean, if you sat on the toilet your knees touched the door. It was kinda funny, but there was absolutely nothing to do. Skiing was good, they had a sick quarter pipe and we sessioned it for four days straight. Went big, learned some new tricks.
Image courtesy TJ Schiller Click photo to go big
How was hanging out with Simon Dumont?
It was cool, that kid's crazy. He charges like no one else. He's got some kind of Napoleonic complex; he has all this uptight energy that he just unleashes on the hill. He kills it all day, non-stop. But after Norway, I was just stoked to go home for a while.Then Cali?
Yeah, I was in Cali for two weeks with PBP and Chris [O'Connell].
Did you head over to Heavenly for South Shore Soldiers?
That shit was nuts,the entire Cali/Nevada area is sickter. When we were at Northstar I hooked up with the Mack Dawg crew and just sessioned this course with them all day. I think it was one of my best days skiing, just because I was able to shred with the best snowboarders in the world.
Can you tell us anything about your future movie segments?
PBP. They're making a movie I think.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully I'll be working at some camps this summer. But next year, I want to repeat this year, but better. I hope to do some more designing, like create something for one of my sponsors. Not a pro-model or anything, but even just some apparel. That's what it's about now, everyday clothes. I'm stoked on companies like that.
And what would you be doing if you weren't skiing?
[Laughing] I ask myself that every day. I'd probably be some NS.com geek.
Were you a geek in high school?
Yeah. Straight up.
Your buddy tells me you're a good-looking guy. Care to comment?
Sponsors, family and friends.