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 accomplish…
As I’ve 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 you’re going to have to do in another 10 years. I personally think that we’re going see a shift in what’s normal for a pro skier. One of the reasons I’m really excited about what I saw this year from guys like Andy Mahre and Eric Pollard is that they’re using the mountain more creatively. They’re not using it more dangerously, they’re 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 can’t go bigger, we can’t go faster, we just can’t 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 wasn’t a spectacular fall, but I was skiing backwards in powder, and that’s not a normal thing you know? The levels that we’re pushing things to, if you make a little mistake… Look at Marc-Andre…
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 it’s actually in front of your eyes.
It’s horrible. One thing about being old, and you can’t ever know until you’re there, is that every year that stuff wears on you harder. Every year you have to overcome more fears. When I was 18 I wasn’t 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 it’s 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 bed… 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 can’t walk… It makes me really think about what I’m 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.
It’s interesting that we’re 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, criticism… 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 I’ve had, and how many goals of mine I’ve achieved, I always feel that I have something to prove. Whether it’s some kid on a website saying I’m a has-been with no style, or it’s one of my sponsors saying “Hey, we think that you’re old and we’re going to give you a 40% pay cut this year.” I’m just like, “That’s bullshit man, I’m going to show you” I think my biggest personality weakness is that I’m a bit of a work-a-holic. But at the same time it’s 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. He’s 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 you’re 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, “Well, 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.”
Haha, you’re renowned for your positive attitude. Do you think that’s 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 can’t just be a Yes Man and suck up to your sponsors and say, “Salmon’s great! Salomon’s great!” I’ve been critical of Salomon publicly before, but when I go to the company I’ll try to be constructive with my criticism. I won’t shit all over them and tell them they suck and they’re the worst company ever. I’ll be like, “Hey 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.” 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 I’m 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. I’m on Salomon skis and apparel as a skier, a product development guy, and as a marketing consultant. I’m 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 I’ll 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 I’m producing a twenty-minute team video for them every year, and I’ve got three years of that coming up. I’m also doing major marketing consulting for them because we’re trying to really rebuild freestyle in Japan. I’m 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.
I’m 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. It’s fun because with Whistler/Blackcomb I have to be in tune with the snowboard world too, but it’s pretty easy because a lot of the pro snowboarders in this area are friends of mine. It makes me stay in tune with who’s hot in snowboarding.
In the television world, I’m trying to figure out where I’m going, and whether I’m going to do it or not. I commentate for the X-Games, and there’s a new ski tour starting up this year called “The Ski Tour,” which is a four-stop big bucks network television deal. They’ve talked to me about doing the TV for that, and if that becomes a reality, I’ll probably do it. I’m also occasionally hosting Pontiac World of Skiing here in Canada, although I’m not doing as much of that anymore.
I’m writing less than I used to, but I’m still doing a little bit of writing for various ski magazines around the world. I’m not a very good writer, and it takes me awhile to get out something that I’m happy with. I’m just so busy now that it’s a big challenge for me. But I’m 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 didn’t think that was fair to anyone. Although I still do a camp in Chile once a year called “Ski With The Superstars.” Chris Davenport came up with the name, not me, but it’s a lot of fun.
Aside from that I guess I’m 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, “Forget all this computer work I’m doing! That’s what I want to do!” 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 wasn’t quite done though. He wanted to “set the record straight” about the X-Games, because he knows who is reading this, and how much heat he’s 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, “Mike Douglas sucks as a commentator.” What kids need to realize is that 98% of the audience has no idea what they’re 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 don’t need it. They could turn the volume off, and they can commentate it themselves because they know exactly what they’re watching. My job with ESPN is to be a translator for the rest of the world who are going, [in a hick accent] “Why the hell are them skiers going downhill doing them flippy doodles?”
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 we’re too inside, and that we’re trying to be too cool. They say we need to translate better what’s happening on the screen. You can’t say, “There’s a switch 10.” The average person has no idea what that means. So I might say, “He did a switch 1080, that’s backwards to backwards, with three full spins.” We have to do that if we want our sport to grow. I think if we don’t, 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 what’s going on in our world for the common man. The only exposure some people ever have to skiing is when they’re 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 what’s going on, the better off we are.