This story originally appeared in the September issue (44.1) of POWDER. Marquee PHOTO: Nic Alegre
At 17, with only a high school diploma and a background in carpentry, Nick McNutt packed his truck and moved to Whistler, BC. Sticking to his roots, McNutt loaded that 2006 summer with construction jobs so he could use the winter to dial in his skiing. The work paid off. Now 26, McNutt is going into next season as the sport’s definitive switch skier with the momentum of two major ski industry awards—Breakthrough Performance at the 15th Annual Powder Awards and Rookie of the Year at 2014’s iF3. “He goes big and has such a creative way of approaching the mountain,” says Todd Jones, co-founder of Teton Gravity Research. “I think he reinvigorated that whole switch movement.” Yet in the face of rapid success, McNutt retains the quiet and introverted mindset of a kid who grew up in the East Kootenays. —Johnny Sudekum
My whole family pretty much skied every weekend, so it was always in my life. Before I could do it myself, I was that kid in his dad’s backpack while he skied. I also played hockey for a short while, but most Canadians tend to do that.
The longest I ever lived in one house growing up was probably three years. My dad was a contractor so we would build a house, then live in it for a little while, then sell it and kind of make a profit. We did that a few times until the market wasn’t so hot anymore.
When I wanted to have twin-tip skis, it was still so new. I think the Teneighty had just come out and they were $700 or $800. Also, where I grew up it was pretty hard to even find them.
The first pair of twin tips I owned were some old skis that my dad and I took a heat gun to so we could bend the tails. The next year I got my first pair of real legitimate ones.
When I was younger I was trying to push switch skiing because I thought it was difficult and different. Now I don’t think about it so much, but at the end of the season when I watch my footage, it all ends up being switch skiing.
In high school all of the standard classes were kind of whatever for me. It was just something I had to do, but of course it’s good to get an education. I took woodworking a few times, metal fabrication class, mechanics—I was always into those hands-on trade classes more so than English, social studies, history, stuff like that.
Just before I turned 18, I moved to Whistler by myself. I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew a fair bit about construction from my dad and started doing labor jobs. I’ve been there ever since, trying to take the winters off as much as I can and doing construction during the summertime.
TGR was definitely my big break, but I don’t really feel too much pressure. For a lot of people this probably seems likes it’s happening really fast. But it’s been five years that I’ve been trying to get out and film as much as I can.
Without Scott Titterington [of Progressive Youth Productions] so much of this would have never happened. Things fell apart with PYP—it wasn’t really financially feasible anymore—but he and I saw an ad for TGR’s Co-Lab and we figured, why not?
I didn’t end up winning Co-Lab, but I drove down to Jackson the following winter to ski with [TGR], and they’ve continued to invite me since.
You have to take social media for what it is. As much as it sucks seeing everyone walking around with their phones, it’s a pretty big part of how our brands get their products out to people. I wouldn’t be on it if it wasn’t for skiing, but it gets to a point where you have to promote the brands that are supporting you. It’s reciprocal.
My style is kind of high risk landing backwards. It’s not every time that I’ll put down a clean run. If you were doing those contests and had to rack up points over the season, you’d ski a little bit different. I’m not really interested in doing a Freeride World Tour or something like that.
I need to come away with a good season so I don’t lose my sponsors or let anyone down. But I feel like if I’m out there all the time skiing with cameras it’s going to happen.
I love the general stoke that everyone has for just sliding down snow. It’s such a funny thing to get excited about, and there’s an entire industry that’s all about getting hit in the face with snow. On paper it’s so youthful and childish, but there’s a reason why so many people love it.