LJ Strenio, pro skier. Nix that, LJ Strenio, data scientist. One of Newschoolers’ own, and one of Newschoolers’ favorites is moving on from urban rails and trips in the TC van to crunching code and teaching machines to take over the world. Kidding on the last part… maybe - machine learning is his specialty. Nice AI only, please, LJ. His skiing career has embodied the ethos and membership of Newschoolers like select few others, which is why we’ve already started carving him into our own Mount Rushmore (it’s the side of Mr. Bishop’s house, don’t tell his wife). It’s this great energy, the banger content, and genuine personality that we’ll miss as he retires from skiing professionally and takes up a role as a data scientist.
The move comes after five years of grad school and getting his Master’s Degree. ”I didn’t even know what computer science was like a year before I started studying it.” LJ said, “Now I’m super excited about it.” He didn’t bite too hard on my journalistic attempt to connect the dots between skiing and his new role, but to me, this curiosity and subsequent dedication do look a lot like the way he approached urban skiing throughout his career. Pair it with some matter of factness that we’ve seen in skiing and his words now here, I’m ready to paint that picture still. “My body wasn’t going to support me forever. I finished my master's degree in computer science and I’m going to start using that instead of my skis now.”
LJ has brought us so many great memories over the years, and a catalog of segments and videos that run deep. From an X Games Real Ski medal to representing Newschoolers at JOSS and skiing through the jungle as a stunt double for Vin Diesel, LJ has accomplished a lot. Reflecting on his career LJ gets serious, which reminds us that behind the smile, he really did put his whole self into his work. You can tell that’s important to him, “You want your work to be validated, and all the time and effort that went into it. Legacy is actually super important to me. I want to think that I did something meaningful or at least affected our little niche sport in some way.” While he may be too close to it to see, we’ll be the first to say that he undoubtedly has left a mark.
The seriousness doesn’t last forever though, reminding us why we like the guy so much - he’s just like a lot of us here on Newschoolers. When he talks about living life as a pro, LJ is still in awe of what that meant. “Getting to go to JOSS and represent Newschoolers, and Jon knowing who I was. Skiing in Dew Tour halfpipe with Tanner Hall. No level of achievement will change how much those things mean to you. All of that stuff still seems crazy... Wallisch is a good friend of mine. I had a phone call with him the other week - he valued my opinion and asked for my advice on some stuff. In the back of my head I still can’t help but be like ‘damn, Tom Wallisch is hitting me up and inviting me on trips.’ It’s cool.”
Not immune to being starstruck by the lifestyle, but appreciating it all along the way - this great balance made LJ a fan favorite throughout his career, without even mentioning everything he achieved on skis. There aren’t many out there that ski like him, and we are sure glad to have enjoyed many good times.
When pleasure and profession mix, the latter has the tendency to dominate. You can hear it in the way he talks about his career, “To get everything that you can out of a passion, you do have to find that limit [of passion]. That’s one reason I love surfing so much. It will always be so pure to me. In skiing, I left no stone unturned. You know, Frodo can never go back to The Shire once he’s delivered the ring to Mordor, there’s no coming back. You can’t close Pandora’s box.
Not that it scarred me or anything, but I hope that someday skiing can be a very fun and casual passion again. Maybe I can share it with my kids or something (laughs). Not taking it too seriously anymore sounds awesome.” But at the same time, he can’t help but be LJ. When asked what his skiing will look like now he said “It’s going to look very casual… If possible, even more backflips. I’ve been making myself do a backflip every day. Because now I’m scared that I’m going to go full old man.” Sounds to me like the passion is still there, though we had to ask - any more urban in the future? He put it simply, but with a laugh, “Probably not.”
From everyone at Newschoolers, we thank LJ for his contributions to skiing and wish him the best in his future endeavors. We’ll do our best to hold him to his backflip-a-day regimen.