Yeah that’s right, we’re sick of reading about who all your favorite skiers are in the forums and hearing you argue about it, so now it’s our turn! Well actually, we’re not sick of it at all. We love hearing your opinions on who’s the best of the best, but we were starting to feel a little left out. So in an effort to create more good discussion and debate and be a little less Wizard of Oz and more Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, the NS staff has decided to step out from behind the curtain and take the time to tell you who we think is the best. Many of you may not agree with our choices, or will be flabbergasted that we would leave someone out, but as opposed to listing a hundred skiers or going on and on about everyone who deserves credit, we narrowed it down to three or four each. Whether it’s because we think they’re the most talented, innovative, creative, inspirational, stylish or important, these are our favorites…
Jason Mousseau - Trees have always played an integral part in Jason's life and have kept him company on many ski outings. Here he is seen in his natural environment searching for new strains.
The Gagnier Brothers - Growing up in Quebec I know how hard it can be to pursue a skiing career. We have to deal with some of the smallest hills, the worst snow conditions, icy and rutted landings and one of the shortest ski seasons around. All these factors considered, there is still a huge freeskiing scene in Quebec and tons of kids throwing down in the park. If you don’t land, someone will land on you, and the same can be said about trying to make a living being a skier in Quebec. The Gagnier brothers have managed to do so with their creativity and unparallel park skills. If you’ve ever seen a segment of either of them you’d agree with me. Super tweaked grabs, totally unique rail skills, original urban tricks and the ability to spin both ways with the utmost style are a few characteristics they posses. They don’t care what others think and aren’t afraid to try something new and this is what gets me excited to see what they’ll throw down next. Antoine is one of the most underrated skiers I can think of, and that doesn’t phase him but fuels his passion to progress the sport. Charles on the other hand has had tons of success in the competition scene, landing on the podium of the biggest events every year with insane tricks like his switch 12 at the US Open. Pick up BEAVER TALE by Mystic Land Productions to peep Antoine’s epic jump and rails skills, or SAVE by Plehouse to see Charles dominate the scene as always.
Eric Pollard - Where do I start? I love Pollard because to me he is the most unique skier in the industry. Whether it be his skiing, art, film segments, or ski design, you should expect one thing from Eric, it will be extremely original and progressive. His out-of-the-box way of thinking and creativity is seen in every aspect of his life, and his style and originality have revolutionized the ski industry. His skiing in IDEA has changed the way I look at the mountain and got me so stoked on the notion of truly freeskiing and treating any terrain as your own limitless playground. His ability to design his own skis has allowed him to pull off insane butters and switch landings in the pow, and he does so in style with graphics which are a step ahead of the competition. Eric’s style is the easiest to watch and just flows so well, as he makes the near impossible look not only effortless, but graceful. Next year Eric will not only be changing the way people ski and look at the mountain, but changing how this content will be available to the public. In collaboration with the guys from IDEA, he has started his own company called Nimbus which plans on releasing video updates/segments throughout the winter months showcasing their trips and sessions, along with a feature DVD called Finding Yeti. So start begging your parents now, since this will be on everyone’s wish list.
Tanner Hall - Where is Tanner most at ease? Throwing huge switch hits in the pipe? Steezing out jibs in the park? Making the gnarliest urban rails look easy? Launching huge backcountry pow jumps and pillow lines? Straight lining massive peaks in AK? The answer is none of these. Tanner is most at ease whenever he clicks into his bindings and prepares to drop in. Tanner does all this with insane amounts of style, has dominated every aspect of our sport, and in my opinion is the most well-rounded skier out there. To the outside world, he is the face of freeskiing, and to many new and old freeskier alike, Tanner has influenced and inspired more kids than any other athlete in our industry. His segment in 1242 is what got me hooked, and he continues to deliver with killer segments every year, outdoing himself this year with what I believe is one of the top films of the year, BELIEVE. Even though he rides for some of the biggest companies out there, he still does his own thing and is living his life the way he sees fit, and this is why Tanner is one of my top picks.
Chris O'Connell - Beers N' Roses
Andy Mahre - Being third man on the totem pole usually isn't usually an enviable position, but when the guys in front of you are Eric Pollard and Pep Fujas, exceptions can be made. I was thrilled when I heard Andy would be part of last years IDEA crew, and I was even happier when I got to see the finished product. Guys with unique skiing styles like Andy's rarely get such attention in widely distributed films, especially at this early a stage in one’s career, and he did a great job with the rather large opportunity he was given. I also like to see such creativity and genuine fun remain in an activity for someone with such an involved history and family background in skiing. Andy will probably be doing his thing - whether it be racing or switch 3s in the backcountry - no matter what the state of this sports industry, and that's just as real a contribution to the sport as being a comp skier and getting into the X-Games...but Andy's done that too I guess. Damn.
Josh Bibby - I don't really know Bibby at all, but his segments are always at the top of my favorites list each and every year. With everyone on backcountry skiing's nuts these days, it's actually refreshing to see some new skills developed in the park. I could watch him butter and jib all day long, but maybe that's because there seems to be such a premium on footage of him. Now that he gets to make his own skis I'm pretty curious to see what's going to go down this year.
Charles Gagnier - Of all of Charles Gagnier's strengths, and there are many, it's his consistency which is most striking to me. No matter where I see him, Charles is always on point.Urban session, yep. X-Games, yep. US Open, yep. Sunset shoot with 20 minutes of good light, yep. In all cases Charles is at the top of the pack and in the first and last example, he'll session with a new trick, grind or grab like the Energizer Bunny. Comp judges may not have done Charles many (if any) favors but he's still always near the top of the podium in any comp he enters. Not to mention his ingenuity on rails is worthy of many more paragraphs of praise.
Candide Thovex - Candide is the man. I just like his style the most. His segments, his movies in general, the jumps he builds for his Invitational, his demeanor, he's pretty much got it all. Sorry to get all fanboy but when you guinea pig a hip-gap with a zero tail nobody's gonna top that for pure ridiculousness. Though I welcome others to try.
Jeff Schmuck - Lost in Translation
Eric Pollard - Eric is the most unique, stylish and progressive skier to grace snow with his presence. He has arguably inspired more kids (many of whom are now pros as well-known as him) to follow in his footsteps and help take the sport to new heights than anyone else. Skiing with Eric is like a drug. It is a euphoric experience, as he looks at the mountain in such a different and creative way that you are uncontrollably influenced to do the same, and the new found clarity it bestows on you never seems to go away. From helping invent style in the park to taking skiing in a whole new and exciting direction with his counterparts Pep Fujas and Andy Mahre, Eric is one of the most important skiers this sport will ever have.
Marc-Andre Bellieveau and Josh Dueck - Marc and Josh are the two of the most amazing people and skiers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Marc, a well-known pro-skier and TGR alumni and Josh, former head coach of the Silver Star freestyle club in Vernon, BC, who helped give wings to the likes of TJ Schiller, Josh Bibby, Joe Schuster, Justin Dorey and a host of others, are both paralyzed from the waist down after skiing-related accidents. Instead of throwing in the towel and letting their situations get the best of them, Marc and Josh held their heads high, widened their smiles, and got right back on snow. Both of them refused to take even a year off and began sit-skiing the winter after their accidents. Marc strutted his stuff in this year’s TGR release Lost and Found by dropping pillows and shredding lines that many would think twice about, and Josh is skiing faster than his hand-controlled sports car can go, and is currently working towards competing in the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver (an event I plan on being at no matter what the cost). Both have come a long way and taught myself and many others who sat in the hospital with them how wonderful life is, and no words can describe how truly inspirational the two of them are.
Tanner Hall - Tanner is the best all-around skier of all time. Period. Anyone who debates that fact just simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There are people that may ski big mountain and backcountry better than him, and there are people that may be progressing more in the park and pipe than him, but none of them can do everything as well as T. In addition to that, with the exception of Plake, there is no one, NO ONE, in the history of this sport who is more stoked on skiing and more stoked on helping skiing than him. He has done more for the sport than most people will ever realize or understand and sacrificed just as much along the way. I have had the utmost pleasure of skiing with Tanner and in 25 years on snow have never skied with anyone as downright good as him, and have never been in the mountains with anyone who has more energy and such a genuine love for skiing.
Doug Bishop - El Presidente
Eric Pollard - Plain and simple Eric is my favorite skier of all time. He has three main traits that get that award: 1) He’s unique. In a sport chock full of followers and people who are claiming they are “changing skiing,” Eric constantly pushes the envelope and doesn’t claim shit. Eric is always years ahead of the curve. 2) He has style. When everyone else was doing cab 10’s or double flips, Eric has always stayed true to the style course. Every time he does a trick it’s calm and calculated…the concept of hucking doesn’t even seem to enter this guy’s mind. 3) No attitude. Can’t say I know him that well, but I never get the feeling like he’s got an attitude at all. Just quiet and goes about moving in a new direction whether anyone is looking or not. I also really like the fact that he seems intelligent and diverse in what he does…
Antoine Gangier - If you’ve never watched this guy ride a terrain park you’re missing out. Antoine pushes the envelope of uniqueness to a whole new level in the park. Never gets any credit for it, never looks for attention and never listens to the haters, Antoine is out there innovating in the icy Quebec parks all the time. Super nice guy, and every time you see him do a trick you’ll think, “Oh that wacky Antoine Style…” and you’ll enjoy watching it. He was the creator of different grinds on rails/boxes and rarely ever gets credit for it. If you disagree just go find yourself an old copy of Assault – arguably the best park video of all time.
TJ Schiller - Though I never like it when this guy spins a 12 or 14 or whatever crazy contest-winning trick he’s got that day…when he’s in the mood for slow smooth style nobody can touch TJ. I remember first meeting him with his freestyle team way back before he was anyone, and you could just tell that he had natural talent oozing from every pore in his body. Every time TJ throws down a 180, 540 or some other corked/flipping slow-ass rotation I can’t help but drool just a little. The fact that he can lay it down on the big tricks to win contests doesn’t hurt either…but I give him my pick for his style when he’s not winning contests.