In times like these it’s hard to consider many of the originators of our sport young, when baby-faced kids like Corey Vanular, Sammy Carlson, and Jossi Wells are running around destroying shit like they’ve been throwing dice for a decade. What these kids are accomplishing at their ages was once unthinkable, but it also seems ridiculous to me that many of the pioneers of our sport are now considered old, even though they’re still young by any standards but our own. Think about guys like Eric Pollard (23), Tanner Hall (21), Phil Belanger (26), and Jon Olsson (24). They have all been pivotal figures in our sport since its birth, and all are now considered old, or at the very least elder statesmen.
Unlike skiing, most major professional sports can predict the longevity of an athlete with some degree of accuracy. How long will an average running back last in the NFL? How long will a starting goalie last in the NHL? With some quick research it’s not hard to find out. When it comes to freeskiing though, our sport is so young we have not really been able to discover the true longevity of our athletes. We can only guess.
So what is shortening a professional ski career these days?
The most obvious thing that limits the longevity of a professional skier is injuries. It’s a major concern for any professional athlete, and we all know our bodies can only take so much punishment. But for every Evan Raps, there is a J.P. Auclair (who is almost 30) and has turned in two of the best film segments of the last two years, despite a list of injuries longer than most of his peers.
Another thing that can slowly kill a career is not being able to keep up with younger, more talented, and more relevant skiers. Take Brad Holmes for example. Most of you probably don’t remember the time when that guy was sick, so it may come as a bit of a surprise that he was once the height of extreme. Some argue he still is, but I’d argue he’s a perfect example of someone who was amazing, but was surpassed by a younger generation, and now is just no longer so sick or relevant. I mean, even Nordica dropped him. Try typing his name into this site’s search bar and read what comes up.
Perhaps our current professional skiers will one day be limited by age?
-Seth Morrison is just past 30 and still wrecking shit in top form, as anyone who has seen Show & Prove will agree.
-Mike Douglas is almost 37, and he triumphed over an elite field stacked with talent half his age at the K2 Back 9 this year.
-And we can’t forget Shane McConkey, who is also a few months away from being 37. Despite six season-ending injuries in the last ten years, he’s still skiing Alaska like he’s 25, and re-defining how we think about skis in his spare time.
Where does this all lead? To the point.
While a lot of skiing’s new stars aren’t even old enough to drink, I’m looking forward to seeing what guys like Eric Pollard and Tanner Hall will be doing when they’re 30. To me it’s as unthinkable as being in 2001 and trying to imagine where our sport is today. I’m also equally looking forward to how much farther guys like Shane and Mike can take their legendary careers, perhaps showing us there is no limit to what we can do if we love something enough.
Nobody is old yet, we’re just getting started, and there are a lot of exciting times ahead.