People tend to think pros as untouchables who can ride it all from backcountry descents to the gnarliest urban. The reality is that most are just normal guys, who are extremely good at skiing the terrain that's on their doorsteps. But those skills don't always transition smoothly to other types of riding. Last winter Amplid team rider Kevin Salonius joined the brand's top tier team, the Cartel. Before then, his riding had been limited to what's available in and around Finland. To relieve some of his curiosity and to give hard working Kevin the Rookie Season of his dreams, Amplid sent him on a voyage of skiing discovery to learn how to ski new terrain and snow conditions from his team mates. I caught-up with Kevin to find-out more about the journey and Rookie Season, the four part series documenting his adventures.
Kev in his native environment
So firstly for everyone who doesn't know, tell me a bit about you!
Well my name is Kevin Salonius and I'm a freeskier from southern Finland. I live in a town called Kirkkonummi which is just outside the Finnish capital, Helsinki. I skied for the first time in 1995 when I was two years old and then I got into freeskiing sometime around 2008. I have been skiing for Amplid for two years now.
What's skiing like around Helsinki?
I think the ski and snowboard scene around here is really cool and pretty unique. We don't have any mountains here; the skiing here is totally different from places with big mountains like the Alps. It really shows how dedicated we are and how much love all the skiers and snowboarders have towards their sport. It's a thirty minute drive from my place to the local ski hill, which is called Serena Ski. I work in the the park crew there and it's where I go shredding with all my friends when I'm at home and not filming urban. Serena is only has 55 meters vertical, there are a couple normal slopes and one terrain park. The Serena park usually has around 10 rails and one big jump, because of the short slopes and fast lifts you can easily get a hundred runs in a day. What I really like about the scene here is that it is pretty tight-knit and it's a little bit like "everyone-knows-everyone", at least between the more dedicated riders, that's how I feel anyway. I think the good thing about living here in the Helsinki area is that there is pretty much unlimited access to urban spots, which is also why there are tons of riders into filming urban. So whenever there is enough snow in the city everybody is out there trying to film. Last winter in Helsinki there was only enough snow to film in the streets for around 3-4 weeks, so it was a pretty short and bad snow year. Even when it's bad we always find enough snow to make it happen.
You can take the Finn out of Helsinki, but... Kevin sessioning the big stair-set at the Absolut Park, Austria
Tell me about the trips you went on for Rookie Season and how it came about?
I was talking with Rich, Amplid's team manager, about how I'd only ever skied park and urban. He thought it would be a fun project for me to visit the other Cartel riders in their home countries and learn how to ride new terrain and snow conditions... a kind of learning on the job kinda thing. The plan developed from there.
In February I went on the first trip to Germany and Austria, I went to the ISPO trade show with Amplid and then in Austria we went to Flachauwinkl to ski the famous Absolut Park with Mac Minikan, then got some freeriding in at Zell Am Ziller with Andi Nitsche and Teddy Berr. In March I flew to Vercorin in Switzerland to ski backcountry jumps with Alex Neuhror and Julien Lange. We filmed with Yann Barthelemy from GPSY Feelin which was really rad. My last trip was to Spain and Andorra in April. I hung out with my good friend and filmer Borja Azurmendi and skied with Luka, Noah and the rest of the Round 2 crew. I also had the opportunity to ride my first international slopestyle comp.
What was your favourite trip of the series and why?
All of the trips were really fun and great times! The one trip that stood-out the most was the trip to Andorra with the Round 2 crew. Andorra is such a cool place to go skiing, especially in the spring. It felt like a pretty exotic place for me, as I landed in sunny Barcelona where they have beaches and palm trees and from there I then took a two hour bus ride up the mountains where there was snow like in the middle of the Alps! If I remember correctly we only had sunny days in Andorra during my stay and the temperatures were like in the middle of the Finnish summer. All of that combined with the Spanish culture and food was a great mix; it was so nice to hang out and ski there with a lot of my homies, old and new!
So much snow! Check out that kicker...
You got to meet the rest of the Amplid Cartel, some of those guys aren't so well known, especially in the US, so give us a quick overview of the characters, their personalities and their skiing?
During the trips I got to meet Noah Albaladejo, Luka Melloni, Julien Lange and Alex Neuhror from the Amplid Cartel. All of them are really nice guys and have positive minds and personalities! They are definitely some of my favorite people to ski with. They have their own unique personal styles and views on skiing which I think is really sick! Noah and Luka have really unique and clean style, Julien's got incredible ski control and consistent style and Alex has a smooth style and is always ready to send it. It was so sick to see all of them go big, I really enjoy watching them skiing!
Why do you think these guys haven't received the attention they deserve from the global freeski community?
I definitely think all of them deserve more recognition, and to be honest I actually have no idea why they haven't received more attention in the skiing community yet. But more and more people are becoming aware of their skiing and I think all of them will get really big in the freeski community in the near future. I think they really deserve every bit of recognition they can get!
You told me that the first day of skiing in Austria was the first time you'd skied powder. So what's your verdict on the fluffy white stuff?
Yeah it was pretty much my first time skiing powder deeper than 10cm, hahah. It was such a cool feeling; it felt like I was floating in the air, like there was nothing underneath my skis! It was something completely new for me and it took me a few hours to adjust to the deep snow and to get a feeling of how to actually ski in deep snow. For sure, I did a lot of tomahawks and crashes in the first few hours. Skiing powder was definitely was harder than I thought it would be... it looks so damn effortless when you watch edits! But it was super fun and a really nice challenge, I enjoyed it A LOT!
Kevin, Teddy and Andy scout for lines in the expansive Zillertal Arena, Austria
In Switzerland and Austria you were really riding backcountry lines and jumps for the first time. Did it make you nervous? How did the nerves compare to riding urban spots?
To be honest I was actually a little bit nervous on my first backcountry run with Andi and Teddy. There were a lot of drops in all shapes and sizes on the face that we skied; it was really hard to actually see how big they were when we scoped them from the lift far away. You could compare the nervousness I had with riding a new urban spot for the first time, you're not sure if the urban spot is going to work out on the first hit which I think is comparable to hitting a new backcountry drop for the first time. It's the same with backcountry jumps, you're not really sure on how much speed you should take and what the landing's going to be like.
There was a particular step-up to step-down jump in Switzerland that really worked you. What's different about a backcountry set-up like that to what you might find in a terrain park?
Yeah I definitely had some problems on that spot, haha. I think that I'm just really used to skiing terrain parks, where all the jumps and rail setups are really well shaped and have solid landings. Then when you're in the backcountry building features it can be hard, armed only with shovels, to get the jumps and transfers to be really solid like a terrain park. I had some trouble with the landing on the transfer feature we built as I was not really used to soft and bumpy landings. Alex and Julien taught me that I just need to be confident and to keep my legs strong on the landings, like I have to fight the landing. I definitely think I started to get a better grip on the backcountry landings after I kind of figured out how it works, and seeing Alex go big on that feature helped me to understand how to do it right!
You went to Andorra to compete at the Total Fight contest. What was the vibe of the contest like?
The Total Fight contest was super fun and the overall vibe was really chill and relaxed. That's how it was for me at least. I tried to not put any pressure on myself, but I was for sure still pretty nervous on my contest runs. There were some guys there that really wanted to get on the podium and it was interesting to see how much pressure they put on themselves. There was a pretty competitive vibe between some of the competitors, but the prize fund at Total Fight is legit so you expect that!
Every year the field of competitors at the Total Fight in Andorra gets more and more stacked, but the vibe is always fun.
The level of contest skiing has gone loco in the last few years. Was it fun competing with skiers at such a high level?
It was crazy to see how consistent those guys were on big and difficult tricks. There were skiers like Nick Goepper, McRace Williams, Jesper Tjäder and Oystein Braaten in the contest, to name a few, so to be honest I felt a little out of place. I kind of had the "what am I doing here" feeling, haha. But I had a really great time skiing in the contest and it was fun to see where I would place without high expectations or pressure. I went with safe runs that I was sure that I would land so I was pretty stoked on how I did there!
Has the Rookie Season experience changed your ambitions in skiing?
Getting to ski powder definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of backcountry riding, so that is something I'm definitely interested in exploring more in the future. And I feel that skiing with all the new friends that I met during the last winter really has helped me improve my skiing and has grown my opinion of the international freeski community in a really positive way.
Hunting for spots in the small Swiss resort of Vercorin with Alex and Julien
Will we be seeing more of Kevin Salonius in the Alps in the future? What are your plans for the coming winter?
Hopefully! I'd for sure be stoked to get to ski some more powder and hit some backcountry jumps again this winter; I'm definitely interested to explore a little bit more of that type of skiing. I'm currently working on planning an urban project with photographer Stephan Sutton for this coming winter, I can't say too much about it now so more about that a little bit later.
Any thanks and shout-outs?
Thanks to my family, all my friends and all of the new skiers that I met last winter. And of course, a BIG thanks to all my sponsors for supporting my skiing! Peace!
WATCH THE FIRST EPISODE OF ROOKIE SEASON ON WEDNESDAY ON NEWSCHOOLERS