Interview by Jeff Schmuck

Hey Thomas, how's it going?

Great thank-you!

As most people know, you're part of Legs of Steel, and are the crew's 'secret weapon', or unsung hero in a way. Tell us a little bit about yourself for everyone out there who may not know that much about you.

I'm 25 years old, from Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany and have been freeskiing for 10 years now. I love all kinds of freeskiing and its diversity. That's why I've competed in almost every European competition over the years, including, the European Open, Red Bull Linecatcher, Red Bull Playstreets, etc. I enjoy competing, but filming backcountry is the most exciting part of the sport for me. You're in charge of yourself, you have to plan and organize trips, find spots, build jumps, and deal with tons of unexpected things, but in the end, you're finally allowed to ski! All the filming I do is why I prepare myself a lot for the winter. You have to be in good shape to go out all day, every day for a whole season. And believe me, if you film, you're always charging as hard as possible!

Photo by Pally Learmond

What's the story behind you, Bene Mayr, Paddy Graham and Tobi Reindl forming Legs of Steel?

Well the story is actually pretty simple. We'd been skiing together at competitions and on film shoots for Aestivation over the years and had been enjoying it a lot and grew more and more close. We are four totally different kinds of characters, but we share the same passion for backcountry skiing and pushing each other. So in order to ski together more often, we decided to move to Innsbruck and use that as a home base for planning and organizing trips and shoots. After that happened, we had a few beers one night and came up with the idea to name ourselves 'Legs of Steel', just because...although it might have been after a gym session (laughs).

Photo by Pally Learmond

You mentioned Aestivation, and before co-founding Legs of Steel I know you also helped get them off the ground. Tell us about that, along with why you wanted to move on to LOS.

I'd been filming with Aestivation and even before that for some Völkl Team DVD's and always enjoyed it (and I'm still close friends with them), but after a few years it was time for me and the guys to move on and find our own spot in the circus.

Photo by Klaus Polzer

You managed to make it through last winter injury-free, which is quite a feat now a days. What were some of the highlights of your season?

I personally had a great season, even though we had to work really hard, as Europe didn't get too much snow. It's definitely hard to plan a season of filming if you don't know who in your crew is going to be able to ski at that time, so I was pretty much the last man standing in the end. For example, I had to go to Kaunertal before the park shoot in the spring and try the jumps all by myself (laughs). That shoot was definitely a big highlight, and was not only a season highlight, but a life one, as we're going to be telling our kids about it and will make sure that they tell their kids about too! (laughs) Another big one was the trip to Monashee Cat Skiing in BC. I'd never skied in such great conditions and terrain with no one else around. It was awesome!

Photo by Bryan Ralph

Speaking of the park shoot, that segment was without question the holy shit moment of the year in ski movies, where 13 of you hit a three-way jump at the same time. Just how scary was it to be a part of that?

It was very, very intense, that's for sure! You could definitely see people flying next to you. When we were shooting for our first film, The Pilot, we had a jump in the same spot that was the size of the medium jump in the park shoot during Nothing Else Matters, so the big one was definitely what you would call a booter! (laughs). All of the jumps we did were the closest rapid fires I've ever done, because we started right after each other and then split up before hitting the jump. It was really sick and a great shoot with great friends that we'll never forget, and I'm glad that everyone was so stoked on it!

Photo by Klaus Polzer

Talk about how much work went into making Nothing Else Matters, and how much it helped having Andre Nutini on board as a full-time director.

At only 22 Andre is already a very talented filmer, an amazing editor, a highly creative person and on top of it all a great friend. Producing a movie and filming in the backcountry is very intense and nerve racking, but it also tightens your friendship, so we're stoked to be working with him!

Photo by Pally Learmond

On top of everything you have going on in skiing, you're currently studying sports science in school. Talk about why you chose that field, how it relates to your skiing.

I really don't like the fact that injuries in freeskiing are simply 'part of the game'. A lot of freeskiers spend their summer doing rehab instead of recharging and developing themselves and their bodies. It's bad now and will probably get even worse in the future, so I want to change that, and help people prepare themselves for freeskiing and to be able to do what they love for many, many years to come. I've been on pretty much every shoot we've ever done and therefore have been there when many of my friends have gotten injured, and it's of course never fun bringing your friend to the hospital. I'm convinced that a large amount of the injuries in our sport are simply unnecessary, but there's of course a lot of pressure on you when you're a professional skier and injuries are often the only excuse for a 'time-out', and there's a lot of studies on those kinds of topics that I'm interested in. 

Photo by Pally Learmond

Looking more to the present, what are your plans for the rest of the season, and what can we expect from you and Legs of Steel this year?

I'm really looking forward to the rest of this season, because conditions have been really good so far in Europe, so we've got some big plans and are very motivated. We have a few trips to Canada lined up along with some shoots in Europe, all of which I'm really stoked about. My personal goal is pretty simple, to be able to ski in Alaska, either this winter or within the next year. Legs of Steel is a great opportunity to make that happen and I think it shows the kids that you CAN realize your dreams if you set your mind to it. Everyone has to deal with what comes your way, and the best thing you can do is to be patient, take advantage of good luck, and most of all make the best of the opportunity to be able to do what we do.

Photo by Bryan Ralph

Any thank-you's and shout-out's?

A big thank-you to my family and friends and to my girl Eva. Big shout-out to all my boys from Legs of Steel and everyone who has helped us get to where we are, and of course, to all of the Newschoolers out there!

Thomas Hlawitschka Season Edit