Ed’s Note: Clayton Vila, a K2-sponsored skier, recently released “The Creep”, an all-encompassing video part of his footage from Teton Gravity Research, Poor Boyz Productions, and Stept Productions.
Words: Clayton Vila
My sport, as I know it, is called freestyle skiing. According to the Oxford American College Dictionary, "free" is defined as "not under the control or power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes." The second part of the adjective is "style"—defined as "a manner of doing something." Combing the definition within the context of "freestyle skiing" is: "a manner of skiing in which one is not under the control of another; able to act or be done as one wishes."
I am not a writer. I am a skier. However, the reason I am writing this is to explain to people why I do what I do—I make video segments. However, my issue is that the average professional skier and typical up-and-comer are not focused on creating movie segments. They're focused on competing, and I believe this is limiting the progression of our sport.
For competition skiers, the definition of freestyle skiing doesn't apply. One enters a competition to win. To win, a skier has to satisfy a panel of judges. To satisfy a judge, a skier has to do exactly what they want to see to obtain a higher score than the others. What the judge’s scorebook considers to be as close to “perfection” as possible. But how do you define perfection in freestyle skiing? There is no perfection, so the circuit has to pay somebody to define perfection that day.
Competition skiing and making video segments have reached a fork in the road. They have branched off so drastically that each has become a separate discipline and sport all together. This a serious problem. I believe that every skier, competitor or not, should be at least somewhat focused on making video segments to show how they really wish to ski.
I admire skateboarding for their professionals' focus on making segments. If you look at the skater list for the 2012 Street League, you will find that all 24, with the exception of Chaz Ortiz and Nyjah Huston, established their career by creating a great video segment. More importantly, all 24 of them still dedicate a majority of their efforts to making segments. It is no mystery why their sport has progressed in so many directions.
It’s a huge, highly respected accomplishment to win an event such as Street League, but your video segment is what defines you as a skateboarder, to the involved viewers and from professional to professional. There are hundreds of professional skateboarders who only make video segments, and are, or have been, monumental influences to skateboarding without competition. Now, take a look at the Winter X Games ski slopestyle invite list. You will find that only two out of the 10 dedicate any portion of their career today to creating a segment in an uncontrolled environment. In halfpipe, zero out of 16. And no, a few dub 10s in a park segment doesn't count as a segment.
Competition skiing is sick, but as a result of the mass of skiers trying to impress the same judges following the same scorebook, everyone is going to ski in the same manner if they want to win. This is turning a sport that used to be about freedom of expression into a sport of robotic calculation. Competition skiing is getting more and more stale every year. It's often difficult to distinguish one skier from the other these days.
"That is a huge reason why I don’t compete," says Level 1 film skier Parker White. "My style of skiing doesn’t fit into that mold that X and Dew have created. Not only do I not fit, I also don’t agree that the style of skiing that has become so popularly commended is necessarily better.
"When Henrik [Harlaut] didn’t win Winter X Games Big Air with his never-been-done before [single corked] rodeo 1440 blunt… It’s far easier for judges to justify their scoring mathematically, which is why style and creativity becomes so unimportant in competition. In a segment, success relies almost solely on style and creativity," White says.
Ski movie segments have always been such a powerful inspiration to our sport. In order for a segment to be successful, it needs to be something that people have never seen before. Sometimes, one trick can be enough to make a segment valuable. Often, someone will do tricks that they could never land again. The point is the athlete needs to make change somehow for it to be notable. Whether it is through new tricks, new locations, new style—a great segment must progress the sport. This is why segments provide a superior level of progression. Furthermore, the segment's release is not the only time it has an impact on our sport. To a skier, they are timeless.
"When I was working at a Salomon Jib Academy, I was asking the kids trivia questions for product," says Nick Martini. "When I asked, 'Who won X Games Slope in 2003?' there was no response. Then I asked, 'Who had the opener in [Poor Boyz Productions' 2003 film] Session 1242?" and everyone raised their hand, saying 'Tanner Hall!'”
Ten years later, I still watch that segment, and skiers still do variations of five bunts just like Tanner. When a revolutionary segment is created, it sends the industry into a hundred directions, and these directions maintain for years, even decades.
I'm not telling competitors to stop competing. I'm asking them to refocus their efforts. There's so much badass shit happening in the film side of our sport. The more people who are trying to make a great segment, the more the companies will support ski movies, and the more styles of having fun on skis will be discovered.
To all you kids trying to make a name for yourselves right now, don't feel like being the number one competition guy is the only way to do it. To the professional athletes in our sport: Let’s stop focusing the majority of our efforts to just one of the thousands of ways to use your skis. Creating film segments has no limits. Let’s assure that our sport's future is endless. Grab your cameras, and go ski however the f*ck you want.