George Rodney: Uncertain, Determined

The next great big mountain skier is young, tough, and skeptical

This interview originally appeared in the January 2015 (44.5) issue of POWDER. PHOTO: David Carlier

At the finish of the Fieberbrunn Freeride World Tour stop in Andorra last February, someone handed George Rodney a beer. He dropped a knee, drained it in seconds—because that’s what 21-year-old college kids do—and jumped up as the judges delivered his first winning score. With huge airs and clean landings, the run was classic Rodney. One month later, after winning another competition in Alaska, the freshman stood on the podium at Verbier, Switzerland, as the tour’s overall champion, joining the likes of Candide Thovex and Loic Collomb Patton on a short list of skiers who have taken the overall title in their rookie season. The Denver, Colorado, native always wanted to ski big mountains for the movies and began competing in high school to get noticed. But after taking home overall titles on the junior and adult circuits without recognition from production companies, he started to doubt the traditional route to a film career. While studying at the University of Utah for a degree in parks, recreation, and tourism, he also began questioning the sustainability of modern skiing. Rodney is 22 now and he admits he doesn’t have the answers. “He’s young,” says Drew Tabke, the only other male American FWT overall champion. “But he’s a throwback to the spirit of past generations of freeskiers that got this whole crazy circus started in the first place.” Rodney’s faith in this path is not without reservations, but it is deeply rooted in a belief that the tour is his key to a career in skiing. —Clare Menzel

In Haines, I laid into a turn that I thought was going to blow up in powder but it was a little firmer than I expected. I’ll never forget that feeling and image of being backward and hauling ass into a spine.

Growing up ski racing, I’m stable on skis. That’s the reason why in Alaska I was able to save myself from a devastating fall and get control back fast enough to hit another big cliff.

If I come down from a run and know I’ve given it my all, that’s my peace.

I want to do this whole professional skier thing for as long as I can, but I don’t want to always be doing the death-defying stuff. I want to stay in the industry and have an impact.

After winning the tour, I thought a lot about my decision to come back to school. Opportunities are so much greater with a degree.

If I wake up and I don’t want to go to class, I tell myself, ‘Get up and go to school, and then you won’t worry about what you’re going to do about a career when you’re done skiing.’

In class, we talked about different types of recreation, about excessive consumption. It made me feel a little guilty. I really looked at myself this last winter and how absolutely un-green the tour is. Every time you’re in a helicopter you’re all stoked to do this, but you’re almost taking away the opportunity to do it in the future.

So do I not do the tour that’s been in my mind since I was a little kid? Do I graduate, get a cabin, and skin and ski and have zero impact? I’m still figuring it out. It’s the hardest thing…Why am I doing this? I don’t know, really.

I’m trying to get into the video side of things. It’d be cool if it was like back in the day, when the competitions were more of a direct gate into the movie industry. It seems like social media is the way now, almost like you could help yourself more from doing social media than doing competitions. I wish it was more the other way.

I’m not the biggest user of social media, but that’s the job. What flavor of shit sandwich do you want? Instagram posts sound pretty good.

I like competing more and more every year. Having one shot to throw down all that you’ve got. If you want something that bad and do everything you can to get there, it’s going to happen. What I have right now, and what my sponsors are really stoked on right now, is the tour.

I’m so young. Why not use this time to travel around the world? I didn’t sleep in my bed in Salt Lake for four months last winter, and did what I love most with like-minded people.

Rodney will compete in the first stop of the 2016 Swatch Freeride World Tour in Vallnord-Arcalís on Friday, January 22. Look for continued event coverage at Powder.com.