When we left off, Mike had just finished talking about pride and the brands skiers support. At that point we switched gears, and I decided to ask him about something else I wrote on previously: How good kids are these days, and how mind-boggling it is to think about what future generations could accomplishÖ
As Iíve already mentioned, the talent young guys have these days is immense. What are your thoughts on the potential talent level of the generation your son will be in?
It scares the crap out of me, it really does. The sport is already at such a high level, it scares me to think about what youíre going to have to do in another 10 years. I personally think that weíre going see a shift in whatís normal for a pro skier. One of the reasons Iím really excited about what I saw this year from guys like Andy Mahre and Eric Pollard is that theyíre using the mountain more creatively. Theyíre not using it more dangerously, theyíre almost using it in more of a safe way by trying to be more creative and unique with what they do. I think that has to be the future. We canít go bigger, we canít go faster, we just canít do more. Just about everyone I was shooting with this year went down hard, including myself. A week after the Back 9 I was done for the year. I tweaked my knee and it was over. It wasnít a spectacular fall, but I was skiing backwards in powder, and thatís not a normal thing you know? The levels that weíre pushing things to, if you make a little mistakeÖ Look at Marc-AndreÖ
I visited Marc-Andre in the hospital, and seeing him in that bed makes it all REAL. With these guys skiing like video game characters, if they get badly injured you hear and read about it, but it never really hits home unless itís actually in front of your eyes.
Itís horrible. One thing about being old, and you canít ever know until youíre there, is that every year that stuff wears on you harder. Every year you have to overcome more fears. When I was 18 I wasnít scared of anything. I would jump anything, totally fearless, no problem. Especially after I saw a Warren Miller movie. If you could have put me on skis an hour after a Warren Miller movie ended, I probably would have killed myself. But now, especially having a family and kids, this stuff plays in your mind and itís a big thing to overcome. The older you get, the more you have to exorcise those demons and try to figure out a way to deal with it. Because when I see Marc-Andre Belliveau lying in a hospital bedÖ That could be me just as easily as it was him, and then I start thinking about my kids growing up with a daddy who canít walkÖ It makes me really think about what Iím doing, and think if this is what I should be doing.
The thing about Marc is that his skiing was not much different from yours. It was just one split-second decision, wrong chute, game over.
It could have been me, no problem.
Itís interesting that weíre on the subject of invincibility, because you seem to be impervious to everything that would normally slow a guy like you down. Age, injuries, sponsor troubles, relevance, criticismÖ Nothing fazes you, at least publicly. How do you do it?
I think the biggest thing that I have going for me with my career is that I keep myself busy. Believe me, no matter how much success Iíve had, and how many goals of mine Iíve achieved, I always feel that I have something to prove. Whether itís some kid on a website saying Iím a has-been with no style, or itís one of my sponsors saying ďHey, we think that youíre old and weíre going to give you a 40% pay cut this year.Ē Iím just like, ďThatís bullshit man, Iím going to show youĒ I think my biggest personality weakness is that Iím a bit of a work-a-holic. But at the same time itís that stuff that helps you not get bogged down in the misery of being old and struggling to keep up. One thing I keep telling myself as my career goes on is this:
If you look at the people in our sport who have the most haters, they tend to be the people who have made the biggest waves. Tanner Hall has a ton of haters. Johnny Moseley probably has the record number of haters, but you know what? Johnny Moseley could be the best skier ever in our sport. He is so freaking good, trains so little, and throws down so hard, that if he actually applied himself in our arena he could kill everybody. The guy is that good of a skier. Heís viewed as a sell-out, but at the same time people have different priorities in their lives. Do you want 14 year old kids in New Jersey to think youíre the coolest thing ever, or do you want to be surrounded with super hot chicks? Jon Olsson said the best thing to me a couple of years ago when I asked him why he signed on to J.Linderberg and was wearing pink leather suits. He was like, ďWell, I could be signed on Oakley and cruising around like all the other guys at this contest wearing the same baggy clothes and trying to be cool, or I can wear this stuff and hang out with super-models in Milan.Ē
Haha, youíre renowned for your positive attitude. Do you think thatís helped you too?
Oh for sure, when it comes to longevity, you have to be true to yourself so that people actually respect your opinion. You canít just be a Yes Man and suck up to your sponsors and say, ďSalmonís great! Salomonís great!Ē Iíve been critical of Salomon publicly before, but when I go to the company Iíll try to be constructive with my criticism. I wonít shit all over them and tell them they suck and theyíre the worst company ever. Iíll be like, ďHey guys, we need to change things, and we have to figure out a way to do it quick so that we can start making cool stuff again.Ē You have to be authentic, you have to be somewhat diplomatic, and you have to just love skiing.
I moved to Whistler 18 years ago to get skiing out of my system because I thought it was a phase I was going through, but Iím still here, and I love it just as much. I woke up this morning and there was a dusting of snow on Whistler Peak, and it still gave me that fuzzy feeling inside.
I know you do a lot, from TV to marketing. [How much this man really does I did not anticipate.] Do you think you can give people an idea of what a guy like you has on his plate?
Well currently the biggest stuff I have going on is with Salomon. Iím on Salomon skis and apparel as a skier, a product development guy, and as a marketing consultant. Iím also working with them globally. I work with head office in France, with the American guys in Portland, and with the Japanese in Tokyo. This winter Iíll be producing and coordinating the shoots for the new Salomon team movie, which is a big job, although we team up with Matchstick and Poor Boyz make best use of our time. Also with Salomon Japan, I have a separate contract where Iím producing a twenty-minute team video for them every year, and Iíve got three years of that coming up. Iím also doing major marketing consulting for them because weíre trying to really rebuild freestyle in Japan. Iím currently pretty busy helping organize the Nippon Freeskiing Open, dealing with all the foreign athletes, the course designers, the judging, and all those elements. I also have a contract with Hestra gloves from Japan, and Kerma ski poles from Japan. I actually have a pro-model ski pole in Japan, so I work on designs for that every year.
Iím also sponsored by Adidas eyewear. When I was in Europe last week I went to Salomon, but I also went to Adidas and got together with the R&D team. We went through some new goggle and sunglass designs, and we went into the factory and I saw some of the processes used to make the product, which was very cool.
I have a consulting contract with Whistler/Blackcomb, where I help them with general marketing, and everything relating to the youth marketing, both ski and snowboard. Itís fun because with Whistler/Blackcomb I have to be in tune with the snowboard world too, but itís pretty easy because a lot of the pro snowboarders in this area are friends of mine. It makes me stay in tune with whoís hot in snowboarding.
In the television world, Iím trying to figure out where Iím going, and whether Iím going to do it or not. I commentate for the X-Games, and thereís a new ski tour starting up this year called ďThe Ski Tour,Ē which is a four-stop big bucks network television deal. Theyíve talked to me about doing the TV for that, and if that becomes a reality, Iíll probably do it. Iím also occasionally hosting Pontiac World of Skiing here in Canada, although Iím not doing as much of that anymore.
Iím writing less than I used to, but Iím still doing a little bit of writing for various ski magazines around the world. Iím not a very good writer, and it takes me awhile to get out something that Iím happy with. Iím just so busy now that itís a big challenge for me. But Iím out of the camping scene now, I did that for 15 years and it was great, but I burned out. I was starting to become a grumpy old man and I didnít think that was fair to anyone. Although I still do a camp in Chile once a year called ďSki With The Superstars.Ē Chris Davenport came up with the name, not me, but itís a lot of fun.
Aside from that I guess Iím just trying to hang out with my family, we have another kid on the way, and I hope to keep living the dream. Ultimately I would say that last year was the most successful year of my career, I got to go on seven heli-skiing trips. More than anything I like skiing powder, I would turn anything down for the opportunity to ski powder.
Do you think some day people are going to pay to go heli and cat skiing with Mike Douglas?
I hope so! Because after talking to Schmidt and Wong, I was like, ďForget all this computer work Iím doing! Thatís what I want to do!Ē No cameras, no other motives, just skiing.
Usually at the end of an interview I toss out a soft question like the one you just heard, something easy to answer that puts a big punctuation mark on the whole piece and leaves everyone feeling good. Mike wasnít quite done though. He wanted to ďset the record straightĒ about the X-Games, because he knows who is reading this, and how much heat heís taken over his commentary.
I went on Newschoolers.com after the X-Games last year, and there was some major abuse going on. I understand some of the gripes, and I hear a lot of, ďMike Douglas sucks as a commentator.Ē What kids need to realize is that 98% of the audience has no idea what theyíre watching. If I were to be cool and core to commentate to the whole Newschoolers.com crowd, I would talk totally differently. I would be way more inside, core, and calling tricks. The fact is they donít need it. They could turn the volume off, and they can commentate it themselves because they know exactly what theyíre watching. My job with ESPN is to be a translator for the rest of the world who are going, [in a hick accent] ďWhy the hell are them skiers going downhill doing them flippy doodles?Ē
The whole X-Games crew from Summer X and Winter X has to go through production seminars every year. We all get together and we have to sit through a full day of why we suck. Almost every complaint that comes our way from production is that weíre too inside, and that weíre trying to be too cool. They say we need to translate better whatís happening on the screen. You canít say, ďThereís a switch 10.Ē The average person has no idea what that means. So I might say, ďHe did a switch 1080, thatís backwards to backwards, with three full spins.Ē We have to do that if we want our sport to grow. I think if we donít, then kids who are that core should spray paint all their skis black so they have no logos, and never use the lifts. If we want our sport to grow and have better parks, better lifts, better mountains, and better opportunities, we need to reach a broader audience. My job as the commentator is to translate whatís going on in our world for the common man. The only exposure some people ever have to skiing is when theyíre flipping through the channels on a Sunday afternoon and randomly catch the X-Games. The better we can make that look, and the more we can make them understand whatís going on, the better off we are.