Realistically, it was his long history of competing in different ski disciplines that led Nicolas Salencon to the number one spot in Red Bull's Beyond the Line competition this past August. However, we’re going to go ahead and chalk it up to a steady diet of Argentinian beef and learning to ski on the humble slopes of the Andes. This winter, look for the 30-year-old Bariloche native on the FWT (his second year), and competing in the Red Bull Linecatcher competition. We caught up with Salencon to find out how he ended up breaking into the freeride scene and what it's like growing up skiing down south.
POWDER: Congrats on winning Beyond the Line! You've done Big Mountain before but the freestyle was a little bit of new territory for you. What was challenging about the freeride/freestyle combo?
I am not much of a freestyler, but I always loved jumping and spinning. These last years I have been practicing some new tricks, but more backcountry style—with natural take offs and landings, like jumping out of rocks, wind lips, and cornices. I know this is the evolution of skiing and if I want to stay at a top level, I have to know how to do at least some tricks. On top of that, it is so much more fun to jump a rock doing a 360 than straight! The freeride part was where I could get my points, so I concentrated on doing that, and then in the freestyle part I just did what I knew I could do and didn't get over-excited because of the comp.
Give us a little background—how did you start skiing, and when did you decide you were a life-long skier?
I started skiing with my parents. They were both ski instructors, so as soon as I could walk they took me skiing. Before that, my dad took me in a little basket on the slopes. I remember that I was always very eager to ski, and very passionate. It was my dream to become a professional skier since I knew you could be one.
I ski raced until I was 16, and was the Argentine champion several years, and had some good results in FIS contests. Then, unfortunately, I had to stop racing because of money issues, so I started climbing. I concentrated my energy into climbing and traveling, and became a little bit of a hippie. After that, I went to the French Alps, and when I saw the mountains there, I just wanted to ski them all! That's how I started more serious free riding, and getting into comps.
You're noted for being a strategic and smooth skier—who are your style influences?
I don’t know if I am a strategic skier. I am always going for it, and unfortunately falling more than I would like. I like many styles; I like aggressive big mountain skiers, but I also love the new generation that brings freestyle into the scene. For me, those who can combine both are my influence, or those who are having most fun no matter what their level is.
What was it like growing up skiing in Argentina? How does the community and culture compare to what you have seen in the States and in Europe?
Growing up skiing in Argentina is quite special because not many kids ski. Argentina is more futbol, rugby, tennis. Now that I have been in Europe and in North America, I realize how much opportunity the kids have. I mean, I know that in Austria or in France, you can ski almost every day of the year if you want!! That would have been my dream. There are each year more and more people following [ski media], and people are more interested in watching films from Europe and the States. With the Internet, it is easier, and freeskiing is growing fast. I guess that people like pros from other counties, like, Sean Pettit, Candide Thovex, and Mark Abma, film companies like Matchstick Productions, Warren Miller, and Sherpa Films, and brands like Atomic, Fischer, Salomon, Rossignol.
What do you think skiing in Argentina offers that skiing anywhere else in the world does not?
Where I come from has the best view and scenery I have seen so far, and the best meat.
Name: Nicolas Salencon
Home Resort: Bariloche
Years on the Snow: 28
Sponsors: Fischer skis, Pieps
Titles: 1st place Red Bull Beyond the Line, 6th overall Swatch Freeride World Tour, 3rd 2012 Swatch Xtreme Verbier