Interview by Brandon Ascher
Clayton Vila is 20 years old, from Block Island, Rhode Island. When I heard this I was quite surprised, as I don't know much about Block Island except that it is small, secluded and not known for its skiing. I remember that the first time I saw Clayton ski, flowing across a channel gap, it was one of those "who the f*ck is that!?" moments. It's been two years since then, and I don't think too many people have to ask that question anymore. Currently representing K2 Skis, Sessions Outerwear, Full Tilt Boots, Scott Optics and Keystone Resort, here's what Clayton has to say about his journey towards ski stardom, along with his thoughts on urban skiing, filming vs competing, and the overall state of the sport.
Photo by Connor Scofield
First off, explain to people who may not know where Block Island is, and what it's like living there.
It's a super small island about 15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Really small, only about 1000 year-round residents.
So how did you start skiing from a place in the ocean?
I don't really know. I would ski once or twice a year and when I was about 13 I decided that I wanted to get good. My family would take me to Sunday River because we had some friends up there.
So how did you start skiing more?
I took the Waterville Valley Academy program in high school, and moved to Campton, New Hampshire where I went to WVA for two to three months for all four years.
How was your over all experience there?
It was really sick. We got to go to school half the day and ski the rest at Waterville Valley's sick little park. It was a pretty ideal schedule.
Nick Martini filming Clayton for Stept Productions' new film, Weight.
How did you get linked up with Meatheads and Stept?
The Martini's, Tom Warnick, Cam Riley and a majority of the Stept crew skied out of Waterville, and it was Nick who actually got me invited to one of the Meatheads' park shoots when he filmed with them back in the day. Then once I finished high school I moved out to Boulder and started filming with Stept full-time and focusing on urban.
Urban is a very unique part of the sport, so how do you view it personally, and why do you like it so much?
I suppose I really enjoy the endless amount of creativity that can be expressed in urban skiing. Urban has always been around, but always as a side-dish in segments along with powder or park skiing. I feel as though there is so much more to be done with it that hasn't been touched yet because no skiers focus all their energy on it. I take a lot from skateboarding, and I want to create full urban ski segments that are up to par with the level of innovative technicality that exists in skate segments.
Will you be competing at all this year?
Yeah I may compete here and there, but I'm definitely going to be focusing on filming segments. I used to compete a lot, but then I realized that I didn't want to ski just to be judged and ranked by one person's opinion. Style's differ so much these days that it is barely comparable. Now I just ski how I want to ski, make movie segments, and let the people decide if they like it or not.
How did working with Poor Boyz come together? And how was that?
Pete Alport gave me the opportunity to show my stuff when he was filming in the Breckenridge area, and I guess they were into it. I'm so damn stoked to be on board with them, because it's pretty much been my dream to film with them as far back as I can remember.
Competing in The North Face Park & Pipe Open at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Photo by Rocky Maloney
What's on deck for this winter?
Same thing, new year. Going to film segments with PBP and Stept and go as hard as I can.
Any thoughts the state of the sport right now? Things are moving pretty fast with the Olympics and whatnot.
(laughs) Oh the Olympics. I'm stoked for the amount of recognition that skiing is going to get from it, but I'm definitely bummed about the image that is going to be created by it. I think the best part about skiing right now is the amount of expression and diversity that is happening in ski movies, and it's too bad that the general public's image of skiing won't be focused in that direction like it is in the skateboarding industry.
What type of image do you think it will portray?
I think its just going to portray competition skiing as the dominant part of our sport. I have a ton of respect for comp skiers, but I just think that it is lacking flavor these days, because the skiers are all skiing for a judge. But I don't know, maybe I'm just bitter because I wont be in them (laughs).
Clayton with Sean Jordan at Mount Hood. Photo by Connor Scofield
Who do you ride with on the regular, and what other skiers out there do you like right now?
I live and ride non-stop with the Stept crew, and spend a lot of time hitting rails with Cam Riley. We work very well together. I love what Phil and Henrik are doing with the sport right now, especially with the impact they are making in the competition scene. Parker White too, because the kid's style is just fire.
Anything else you want to say? Shout-out's, thank-you's, etc?
Yeah big shout-out to my Mom, Mike Powell at K2, all my sponsors, all my homies back on Block Island, and everyone else who believed in me.