I first met Will last summer. He collected me from Zermatt Train Station and I promptly invaded his bedroom floor, a move which he took with characteristic good grace. In person he's quiet and considered. He won't waste words but what he does say is always worth listening to. Come to think of it, his public persona is more or less the same, he lets his skiing do the talking and it works. He's currently leading the Unofficial NS Real Ski Street Poll by quite some margin. I for one hope that result translates to success in the real competition.
He may lack the declaratory clothing choices and unconventional style of more in-your-face innovators. But he quietly goes about the business of finding new ways to hit stock features, doing more never-been-done tricks and greasing more impossible to slide features than pretty much anyone else in skiing. I asked him about Real Ski, his creative process and more. He produced the wise words below. Enjoy!
What's up Will! The first ever X Games Real Street Ski edits have been online a few days now. When did you get the call to tell you about 'the invite'?
I got an email out of the blue in early December while filming for Traveling Circus in Utah. I'd heard some talk about possibly doing this contest a few years back, but it never happened and I kinda assumed it never would, so I was very surprised when I heard the news.
So you had a tiny window to film a banger segment. That seems impossible, how did you go about planning the whole thing to get a part shot so quickly? Where did you end up filming?
We had roughly six weeks to film/edit and it was definitely a bit stressful starting off. In a normal season, I probably never do more than two weeks of street in a row without a break to let the body recover. I had previous spots on my list from past years, but you never know when, where and how much it will snow. Luckily, mother nature cooperated (for once) and we were able to be very efficient with our traveling, filming and budgeting. We checked many spots off my list, that I'd been looking at for years, while finding some new ones along the way. We owe a lot of thanks to friends for letting us crash at their houses, sharing cars, spots, helping shovel and filming second angles. All of these factors made it much easier for me to focus on my skiing and make smart decisions about what and what not to hit. Efficiency was definitely key with such a short time limit. We started in Salt Lake City, Utah, moved to Truckee, California, back to Salt Lake, then out to Denver, Colorado, back to Salt Lake one more time and up to Bozeman, Montana.
The insanity Will managed to come up with in just 6 weeks
What gives you the ideas to hit such different spots? Can you put into words how you approach skiing and filming tricks?
I try and keep an open mind when approaching spots, but I'm also very picky and critical. My friends and I have tried a lot of strange things over the years for Traveling Circus which enabled us to get a decent idea of what may or may not work. It's also given us a good sense of how to avoid major crashes and safely test the waters of the unknown. I get a lot of satisfaction out of the thought process you go through when trying something new. There's always plenty of surprises along the way, hopefully good ones.
Like many others, I definitely have a part of my brain that is always searching for things to ski on. Whether it be driving to the grocery store or walking in the park, I'm constantly looking for spots and always visualizing tricks in my head. With that comes the obvious questions: How to get speed? How much building needed? Bust factor? What's the worst that can happen and how to avoid it? etc... All of these come into play when I make my final decision of "Is it worth hitting"?
Since I personally enjoy to watching new and different ways of skiing, I always try to ask myself WHY is this feature worth hitting, what's special or unique and what does it bring that's a bit different from things before. Sometimes this leads to stuff that is just too strange or stupid, but it's FREEskiing so experimenting is a big part of the fun rather than just directly following in someone else's footsteps. Just like having only one flavor of ice cream gets boring, so does doing the same trick over and over.
How do you feel looking at the streets your way and doing tricks nobody else has even thought of will stack up against guys going for the biggest, highest and scariest spots?
I guess it's all in the hands of the judges and fans. I think it's important for people to be themselves and not try to change the way they ski for anyone else. There is a reason each rider was selected for this event and I think it's always good to do what you do best. There's nothing in judging criteria about size of features, just overall wow factor, technicality and creativity, so I think it's anyone's game.
You tend to stay away from using winches to get your shots. Is there a reason for that?
I have nothing against winches, just how they may change people's eye for features. They've provided speed for a lot of things I've done in the past. I've just sometimes found them limiting my thought process I described above. If you have access to a winch, it's easy to get carried away trying to find ways to use it. This search for only mega build type features makes it easy to ignore or look past some of the interesting ways of hitting other things. Instead of thinking long and hard about what you are about to do, sometimes you just end up building a big jump for something that turns out to be pretty standard. They are very necessary sometimes, but not always. I've found myself saying "we can't do anything cool, we don't have someone to run the winch." This is obviously a ridiculous statement if you just take a second to look around and think before you start building or skiing. Just like you don't need a RED camera or fancy gimbal or even a glide cam to film a smooth impressive shot(sometimes your arms and legs do just fine), you don't always need a winch to hit street features. Street skiing can be incredibly simple and low maintenance if you want it to be.
https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/799546/Will-Wesson-2015-Season-EditWill's 2015 Season Edit
A few years back, I recall you saying something along the lines of "as soon as skiing is judged to a criteria, it can no longer be 'freeskiing'." How do you feel that Real Street fits into the contest vs freedom paradigm?
I think it depends how you treat it. As long as you ski how you want to, I think it allows for a lot of freedom. If you get too serious about it and start trying to do tricks to specifically please others, then it starts to loose the original point of a video segment which in my mind is to showcase your personal style and express yourself.
Now that the contest season (ha!) is over, what's the next big trip? Is Traveling Circus happening this winter?
We will start filming for next season's TC's pretty soon. It's pretty hard to do as frequently as past years because a lot of us live thousands of miles apart now. It's harder to pick up and leave at the drop of a hat. A lot more money is needed to assemble everyone for an episode. I am currently planning a number of trip, are for sure.
You've obviously been skiing a ton of pow in recent film appearances, is that a product of riding with guys like Sami more?
I've always enjoyed powder, but only recently had the opportunities and time to film a little bit of it. I think it would be awesome add some weirdness to the pow side of things (Sami should be pretty good at this in coming years). I see a lot of parallels between the thought process of street and hitting natural features in the backcountry. There is no one correct way to go about it and plenty of surprises to keep things interesting.
Is there a Real Ski Backcountry appearance on the horizon?
For me? Haha definitely not. No way I could hang with those guys, they are way too good at what they do.
Random question: If you could swap skills with anyone in the world for a week, who would you pick?
Probably a professional surfer or skateboarder. Some of the things they do look so fun.
Anything else you want to say/get off your chest?
Thanks to my family and friends who have always supported my skiing and have a great season to everyone on NS!
Vote for Will in Real Ski Street: http://xgames.espn.go.com/xgames/real/14669736/wesson-14669958
Follow Will on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/willwesson/