Course: Ski Journalism 201: How To Write A Pro Skier Profile
(Prerequisite: Ski Journalism 101, The Importance of Marketing People)
First off, keep in mind that a Pro Skier Profile is not about skiing. Do not describe anything to do with the actual act of skiing, such as experiences, sensations, technique, equipment, locations, terrain, etc. Instead, focus on What Makes Them Tick, and how they actually are incredibly interesting people with rich lives outside of skiing. This can be challenging since most pro skiers don’t have rich or interesting lives because all they do is ski, Instagram, trundle wheeled baggage around Salt Lake City International Airport, and rehab from knee surgery.
This is where the art of Ski Journalism comes in.
First off, always open your article en media res or “in the moment”, establishing that you, the Ski Journalist, are on location hanging out with the pro in question. Since touring is cool now, I usually use the “I’m skinning up a mountain with Johnny Shred” format for my intros. Then I can describe him and his pro skier bona fides as we skin along.
If you do go skinning with the subject instead of just making it all up like me, you can also shake the skier down for some new gear (“Bro, could you hook up a touring rig for me?”) and get valuable Instagram traction (“Testing next year’s Supershredder Skis on the north face of Mount Gnargnar with Johnny Shred! #nextlevel #pillows #sosickbro #SupershredGnarGnar2015”). Then you can hit up the grateful PR people at the Supershredder Ski Corp., score more free gear, and maybe get some freelance work writing catalog copy or doing PR for them later. That’s the art of Ski Journalism. You have to maintain total impartiality and objectivity about how hard you’re working it.
Once your narrative has attained the airy summit of Mount Gnargnar, it’s best to leave Johnny Shred there on the ridge, confidently perched over a precarious line and scanning the horizon with steely eyes. With the tension at its peak and the reader dying to know what will happen next (“Will Johnny rip it? Will he be attacked by wolverines, or burst into flames?”), it’s time to cut away and get to know what makes Johnny tick. At this point, we could examine what makes him interesting as a skier, like how he actually does it, or what kind of terrain he finds intriguing, or any of a million other things tied to skiing.
But we won’t, other than a quote that’s some version of, “It’s all about skiing with my bros, just being out there and having fun,” because now it’s time for the Redemptive Triumph of the Human Spirit. Human redemption of the spirit triumph. Triumphant redemption of the spirit human. Either way.
Once your narrative has attained the airy summit of Mount Gnargnar, it’s best to leave Johnny Shred there on the ridge, confidently perched over a precarious line and scanning the horizon with steely eyes.
Johnny Shred may well be a boring person off the hill. He might be a cretin without a single book in his house, a twit who says “yo” all the time, or someone who posts all-caps comments about global warming. He might go out of his way to kick puppies and fart in the gondola. That’s OK, because we’re going to ignore all of that, and find the ski journalistic touchstone that will encapsulate the arc of Johnny’s struggle to overcome life’s obstacles and self-actualize into the paragon of shredding success we see today. A death in the family is perfect, but even a blown knee can suffice if you play it up enough (bonus for adding even more cliff-hanger tension by describing the injury and the doctors telling Johnny he might not ski again).
Actually, now that I think about it, I would recommend that your narrative cut back to the summit of Gnargnar again, and have Johnny buckling his Supershredder boots while he flashes back to the injury and how the doctors told him that he might not ski again. Build up the emotional stakes to an unbearable level of tension.
So we describe the arc of redemption, the overcoming of obstacles, the self-actualization, and then wrap it up with something about Johnny’s non-profit foundation to help pro skiers with blown knees. At this point we can return to the precarious summit and Johnny can drop in to rip a totally uneventful run and then we’ll tie it all together with a single short punchy sentence like this one that not only provides the only description of skiing in the article, but also acts as a pithy metaphor for Johnny’s life and ultimate legacy.
Obviously there are other genres of Ski Journalism besides the actual pro skier interview, such as the pro skier travel feature (which may involve more than one pro skier), or the heart-wrenching yet inspirational story of a dead pro skier. But along with establishing close relationships with marketing people, the ability to execute a basic pro skier profile will be the foundation of your Ski Journalism career.
Next up: Ski Journalism 301 (Synonyms for stiff: the art of the ski review)