All photos: Red Bull Content Pool
Slumdog Illionaire, JOSS, World Records, X Games... Simon Dumont is one of the icons of freeskiing for a number of reasons. In this extended interview, a relaxed and humble Simon opens up about some of the most memorable events in his own skiing career, that were actually memorable in freeskiing in general.
Hi, Simon. Long time no see! So let's get straight into it, what made you do the ‘comeback edit’ with Tom?
It wasn’t really planned to be any sort of ‘comeback’ or anything like that. My main reasoning was that I’m starting this podcast: Ascension, that dropped on the 17th March, and I wanted to create a little bit of hype. I figured the best way to do that was to ski a little bit, so I just went and did that. Drew Lederer —a filmmaker—was there and he asked if he could follow me for a couple of runs. We then put a little minute-long Instagram video together and I was like: ‘that’s actually kind of fun’. I saw Tom the next day and we made a joke about making an edit together and it just started kind of happening. We just skied three days together and skiing with Tom, he just has this ability to get people to do some crazy stuff. I don’t know, it’s just infectious —not of the Corona-virus-type— but there’s just something about his mentality and his excitedness for skiing, that kind of drew me in.
The new edit that broke the internet...
So it’s not a comeback, just a one-off edit?
To be honest I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. I literally did not think that I was going to ski, film or do anything of that nature, ever again. If you’d have told me last year that I’d make edit I would have called bullsh*t and I would have bet any amount of money that it wasn’t going to happen. It did happen and it was nice because it was warm, I got to ski in a tshirt. It was just spring skiing, I had no agenda, I didn’t HAVE to do anything, it just fully reminded me of my adolescence.
Did you know that 'Resurrection' is already the top-rated video ever on Newschoolers?
That’s so crazy. I was talking to Tom —in that first podcast that we did— and we were saying that you just never know what’s going to hit. I could have the sickest quarterpipe record and I could do all these amazing shoots, then you put like a park edit and people go crazy over it. You just never know what’s going to hit.
Your JOSS edit with Tom is obviously a classic. Have you guys stayed in touch through the years?
Oh yeah, we both live in Park City so we golf in the summer and definitely stay in touch. I’m still pretty connected with a certain group of skiers. I mean those were all of my friends, I knew most of them since I was like 15-years-old, so a lot of them are my really, really close friends.
...and the original
Was it intentional that you were wearing those Oakley pants as a throwback?
They were the Oakley Air-Raid, my pro-model. It wasn’t intentional, but when I decided to step away from skiing,
I pretty much purged everything that I owned. I sold my big 5000sqft home in Colorado, my dirtbikes, my snowmobile, all my skis and gear. The only thing I kept were a couple of pro-model suits - still in the packaging - just for some sort of nostalgia. So when I went back out skiing, it was based more out of necessity, because I had nothing else and they were the most comfortable pants I had, so I guess it all kind of worked out!
Speaking of throwbacks, your ‘rivalry’ with Tanner Hall was the stuff of TV legend! You guys were actually friends though, have you kept in touch with him?
Not too much, I’ve reached out a couple of times and we’ve seen each other in Park City a little bit and caught up. He’s actually skiing in British Columbia at the moment and when he gets back, which will hopefully be in a month/month-and-a-half, I hope to sit down with him as a guest on my podcast. We’ll hopefully clear the air a little bit about our ‘huge’, media-driven rivalry. It’s cool to see him still so excited about skiing. I like to see that some people can still do it for such an extended period of time and enjoy it, but I got too burnt out. That wasn’t my journey.
I was actually with Tanner, in Kläppen last spring -with Armada. He was the guy on the Armada team who lapped the park until close every day. He never seemed to take a break. I guess that hunger is why he's still going strong!
He hasn’t really changed at all, he still has that drive. I remember filming with him back in the day, it was like that even when we’d be shooting urban rails. We’d both get in the same mindset, the same when we competed. That was the thing with Tanner, I always knew that he was going to land a run and even though maybe on the outside we may have looked a little bit different, I feel that the way that we approached skiing was the same, just fierce determination. There was a rivalry, but it wasn’t a negative one – as portrayed by the media — it was more that ‘I know he’s the best and he’s driven.’ I knew what was going on in his head, because I’ve skied with him in the past he’s still super driven, hungry and determined to progress.
So, how much skiing do you still watch?
To be honest, I haven’t really been watching that much. When I quit skiing I bought a place down at the beach, in Miami, I just got obsessed with beach volleyball and I didn’t ski for two-and-a-half years. In the last five years, I’ve probably skied ten days. That edit, I skied more in one day than I skied in the five years previous.
Have you kept a close enough eye to have an opinion on the state of the game?
I watched X Games this year and I watched Dew Tour and it’s crazy to me to see how things have progressed. Like seeing the triples and all these tricks that are just so mind-blowing that I’m actually happy that I’m not a competitive skier right now, just because it seems so gnarly! Way more kids, way gnarlier and I hear there’s a lot less money at the moment. I know that a lot of people speak in terms of ‘the golden era’ but I’m pretty happy that I got to experience freeskiing in the time that I did.
Who did you use to enjoy watching?
I always enjoy watching Henrik. His style component’s just so amazing and his love for skiing is something that I can’t even relate to.
It was always cool to see someone like Colby Stevenson, just because I know that he’s struggled with some injuries. I see him over at the Olympic training facility, we work out together. To see him go through a lot of the struggles and injuries and then see him go out and just be super consistent and stylish. I guess the consistency was really impressive for me.
Halfpipe was pretty cool to see. For me, it’s hard to see people only ski Halfpipe. Halfpipe felt like such a ‘job’ and all the other parts of skiing were the fun parts. Seeing people just focussing on Halfpipe’s kind of weird to me. I mean it’s cool. Good for them and I support whatever people want to do. For me it’s hard to relate to though because during my era, everybody skied everything; you filmed urban, you did slopestyle, you did Big Air, you did Halfpipe. You used to do halfpipe then you did slopestyle and went and skied the rest of the year and did spring shoots and it was just part of the whole game.
Combining filming and halfpipe. Hopefully not something that is gone from skiing forever
While we’re on X Games, what did you think of the new judging?
As a spectator, I thought the new judging was awesome, because you got to see lots of skiing. The only thing was that it wasn’t really conveyed what the judges were looking for exactly. I didn’t know if you needed to land a whole run or not land a whole run. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but the cool thing about X Games is that they have the ability to evolve and progress with the sport. FIS would never change a rule, I remember when I was competing, somebody gave me shove into the halfpipe, for extra speed, and FIS said that wasn’t allowed. With X Games there’s just a lot of room to evolve with the sport which is really cool. Even though this year may have seemed a little bit weird, I think next year they’ll probably make it a lot more clear and I think that the right people won all the events, so even though I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on all the time, I think the right people won.
How does it feel to hold the Quarterpipe High Air World Record and what do you make of the attempts to beat it last year?
I think it’s a feat in in itself, I don’t care if anyone beats it or not. For me it was such a test of mental fortitude. Sure, there absolutely was a physical component, because of the amount of G forces you’re under when you’re pushing into that. To me though, the mental battle that I had to go through to make that possible, is something that changed me as a person. I always had this underlying belief that I could achieve anything I wanted to achieve. That quarterpipe was one of the first daunting tasks, where it made me doubt and put into question that underlying belief. To achieve something like that, solidified and fortified this fundamental belief that I had.
I knew Kevin (Rolland) was going to try try to break it, he actually talked me into doing an interview about it. I was a little nervous for him because I know how scary it is and know how much is on the line. There are really big consequences, like some World Records, some feats you can do where it just takes a lot of time and a lot of consistency, but this is like everything has to be perfect or things can go really, really bad really quickly. We saw that last year with both his and David Wise's attempts.
I think David Wise’s record is a cool feat, I just don’t think that my name needed to be involved, because it’s two different things and even the internet knew that. I never want to take anything away from anyone, if people are out there pushing the limits, great, but to bring my name into that argument, didn’t seem to equate.
This is still so very fucked up.
You seem to have traveled a lot since you retired, what was the most eye-opening experience on the road?
I’ve traveled all over the world, but I’ve never really checked out the U.S, so I decided to take a weekend and go down to southern Utah. Then a weekend road trip turned into three months on the road. I was by myself, just exploring, not having an agenda and not having anybody tell me what to do, how I need to do it or where I need to be.
I just explored for three months. I went to Yosemite, all over Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon and yeah, pretty much the West Coast of the United States. It was a really cool experience. Then Iceland was amazing, and I guess the biggest thing that I’ve been doing –in my hiatus from skiing—is finding a new identity. Skiing and I were synonymous and I had no idea who ‘Simon the person or individual’. It was a long and arduous process to figure out who the hell I am, without skiing.
Were you traveling by yourself?
That roadtrip was all by myself, I met up with a couple friends in san Diego and I saw a couple of people along the journey. Most of the trip it was just me out in the middle of nowhere by myself and that was a pretty cool experience.
Your Instagram is covered with unbelievable landscapes, have you become a photographer of sorts? If so, what is your go-to camera/setup?
Yeah, I can’t believe I’m shooting photos. If you’d told me that I’d be doing that, I would have said that –once again—you’re full of sh*t. It all started with just an iPhone, just taking photos and I thought: ‘ok, this is pretty cool, I guess I can take good photos’. Then I bought a Sony A7S and I shot with that for a little bit and then I got a Sony A7R2, but that got stolen and now I have a Sony A7R3, I have 16-35mm f/2.8 , I have a Prime Zeiss 50mm 1.4 and I also have a 70-200 lens that I also shoot, but I haven’t actually shot my camera in almost eight months now, so hopefully, I’ll get back out there soon.
Did you miss skiing while you were taking your break?
To be honest, no. I didn’t miss it all, just because of the fact that our lives are finite and we’re all headed to the same place. We have a short time to spend on this earth. I’ve skied more than most people would in three lifetimes. As soon as I put skiing aside, the whole world opened up to me and I realized that there are so many other things to experience in this world, other than one tiny niche sport.
The other cool thing is, once I started experiencing other things, it’s nice to be a beginner again. That process of learning is pretty fun, I mean it’s frustrating and it’s humbling, but it’s really fun. I guess I have a pretty good ability to get good to certain point, rather quickly, so it’s been a fun journey trying lots of different things.
Do you still have any ski-related sponsors?
No, I’m a full recreation skier. I actually bought a ski pass for the first time in my life, to ski at Park City. The only reason I bought it is because I had a couple of friends, from Miami, come visit and day passes were so expensive, so it seemed more pragmatic to get a ski pass.
You started your career at 14 and you were still relatively young when you stopped. What made you call time on your ski career?
Just the last three years weren’t very fun for me, because I wasn’t filming, I wasn’t skiing in the spring, a lot of my really close friends had retired and I had eight surgeries in three years. I couldn’t walk, three summers in a row and then in the winter I had broken both my wrists, twice. I just couldn’t do it mentally. It just wasn’t fun for me anymore. I know I probably could have sucked some money out of skiing for an extended period of time, but if I wasn’t going to ski at a really high level and really push the game, then there’s no point in me really doing it.
You mention injuries and you’ve had more than your fair share of them. You’ve spoken in the past about how it takes longer to come back, as you get older, but do you still feel any off the old ones?
I mean I’m pretty healthy and I always focus on diet, exercise and any other modalities that help me with a better health stance. I still have a broken back, so I feel that and I’m pretty sore most days of my life. I don’t know any different so I guess I’ve adjusted to it.
For me, the biggest part of a lot of these injuries was the mental portion of it. I could always recover physically, but the mental part was so exhausting. To not be able to walk for like three summers in a row and watch everybody else going to do fun things. Then put all the pain killers on top of that and it’s just a cocktail of depression, anxiety and it’s just a tough place to be.
Which was the one injury that was hardest to recover from?
Any ACL or my ankle. All three of those ones, because it’s just a long recovery process. It’s a six month/almost a year process for each one of those. I did both my ACLs, I spiral fractured my ankle and tore all my ligaments, they were all just long and taxing.
You’re obviously into your fitness! How did you end up on the cover of 'Muscle & Performance'?
Haha, I have no idea! It’s funny how life works out, I never thought I would be on the cover of a fitness magazine. Fitness was my life because I had so many injuries. That’s all I was doing. I might be a psychopath because whenever I do something, I do it to the fullest. It just doesn’t make sense to me to do something just to do it. If I do something, I like to be really, really good at it and excel to the highest ability. So then my publicist was like: ‘oh, why don’t we try to get some exposure out of something that you’re doing right now?’
So what’s your favorite way to work out?
I’ve actually started doing ‘blood flow restriction’ training. Its where you cut off blood flow to certain appendages, you can lift less weight, with less time and still get gains. I haven’t lifted really heavy in probably a-year-and-a-half, but I’ve kept the same physique and I’ve still had gains.
If you had one exercise to recommend to skiers, to stay healthy, as they get older, what would it be?
I enjoy road-biking, just because it’s low impact. That’s one to do pretty consistently and regularly. For one, you get cardiovascular benefits and it helps with some strong quads.
I think heading into the season, it’s good to obviously do more functional fitness. Some plyometrics and actually more functional fitness, for what you’re going to be engaging in. It all depends on what level of skier you are. But you have to stay consistent. Just don’t stop moving, exercising and doing these things, because then it’s really hard to get back into a routine. Just find a routine, whatever that may be and stick with it.
I saw that you got into racing cars. Is that a long-term ambition and does the adrenaline match hitting a big jump on skis?
I always loved motorsports. I rode dirtbikes since I was three and I had a really good friend, named Chris Duplessis —a friend from back in Maine—and he drove rally. I was obsessed with just breaking gas. So I was hooked and then Red Bull brought me in to do some track stuff, I never pursued it any farther, but I love it. I’m obsessed with it and it’s nice because you have a car around you. I know that may just be an illusory idea of safety, but I feel a lot safer to have suspension than just my knees and my body as protection.
To bring it back to skiing, can we expect to see any more ski-related projects in the future?
To be honest, I haven’t really thought that far ahead. As I said before, I’m kind of a crazy person, so whenever I do something, ideas start turning in my head and as soon as I filmed that little edit with Tom, I was like: ‘huh, I wonder if I could actually shoot a real segment. I don’t know, we’ll see how the body feels and how everything pans out, but I think my next big focus is this podcast.
If you had one message for the entire NS community, what would it be?
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is to enjoy the journey. It sounds so corny, but for me, I always strived towards the goal and I never enjoyed the whole process of it. As soon as I obtained a goal, it was to the next goal, instead of just enjoying the whole process. I feel that’s where you really grow and develop as a person.
I guess the other thing would be, there’s this saying: ‘The thing you most need to find, might be in the darkest place, that you don’t want to look.’ When I stopped skiing and my life looked the worst it was ever going to be, I found the most amazing things in that dark, dark place. So if people are going through hard times, something will come out of it, at least in my experience.
Trademark Simon. We hope you do make this a comeback because we missed that style.
Trip: That would depend on who I’m with and if there’s good snow, but thus far St Anton, in Austria, has always been really good to me.
Trick: Either a cork 3 or anything where I grab blunt.
Track: Any old school hip hip. I don’t know if I have anything in particular, but anything from MOP, Wu Tang, Biggie, Tupac, Mobb Deep. Anything old school hip hop, I’m into.