Words: Greg Fitzsimmons
Style is a difficult thing to define, but it's undeniable when you see it (or hear it). The real writers—like Cormac—and musicians—like Miles and Jimi—personify style. A young jibber out of Aspen—while he's no Miles Davis or Cormac McCarthy—is personifying style, too. Aidan Sheahan's free-flowing and creative style is starting to turn heads. He's bringing jazz to the park.
"Aidan doesn't like doing the same stuff everyone else is doing. He really likes to be creative in his own way," says Torin Yater-Wallace. And, while staying true to himself and refusing to conform, last season proved to be a solid one for 19-year-old Sheahan.
"I started out the year with the mindset of doing a lot of slope comps, but that shifted as I realized I wasn't super into competing anymore and wanted to pursue filming," says Sheahan. "For me, the biggest part is the freedom. When I competed I felt like I was trying to fit a mold. As soon as I decided I was over the competing thing I feel like my style and skiing got a little more unique and everything became a lot more fun."
Things started happening for Sheahan as soon as the decision was made to move away from judging in favor of getting in front of the lens. He started off filming segments with Aspen-based Vital Films. "That was the only filming opportunity I had [early in the season], so I just tried to take advantage of it," he says. "Those guys kill it, they know what they're doing, and have some cool stuff coming out next year." And, then, he got a phone call.
"We're always keeping an ear to the ground," says Mike Hans from Matchstick Productions. "Aidan's name had come up in the past, Torin kept bringing him up. It's one thing to hear about a guy from team managers, but it's another thing to hear about the same guy from a skier, one who is on top."
So MSP invited Sheahan up to Whistler to film a park segment for their upcoming flick. He became part of a roster that included Jacob Wester, Russ Henshaw, and PK Hunder.
"It was the experience of a lifetime for me, because I've always watched the films and the MSP Whistler shoots have always been legendary. I was pretty stoked to be a part of it," says Sheahan. "They built a huge gap jump up there on 7th Heaven. I had never hit a gap jump so I was a little scared; actually I was terrified. All I could think about was that jump for the week or so leading up to it."
Despite the nerves, Sheahan threw down.
"We were definitely joking around telling him he had to hit the jump first, but Russ ended up doing it," says Jacob Wester. "Aidan seemed super nervous about the jump before we hit it, but after the first run he was like, 'that's the best jump ever!'"
"He's got some cool tricks that you don't see people do too often, like a flatspin/bio 1080 and 1260," continues Wester. "He's got his own kind of style which is so important in this age of conformity."
That could be in part because he's embraced meditation and yoga. "I really focused on keeping it smooth this year," says Sheahan. "I feel like the meditation and yoga helped me a lot with things in skiing that you don't really notice. It helped me to calm down a little bit. That was a huge step for me because if there was something I wasn't comfortable with in my skiing I was able to work it out. It's the small things like the takeoff, how you carve into a jump, how you approach a rail. Everything is defined by your body movement."
"He's such an incredible skier with a tremendous amount of talent," says Josh Nielsen of Patagonia, one of Adian's sponsors. "He brings a different flavor and style to the Patagonia team. But, more than anything, he's so quiet and humble. He's a real solid person."
Sheahan's cerebral approach has helped a lot, but it doesn't hurt that when he's home in Aspen he's spinning laps with Yater-Wallace on a daily basis.
"A lot of the times I'll be skiing with him on a normal day at Snowmass and I'll have the mindset of trying tricks that are commonly done and aren't very unique," says Yater-Wallace. "We're always on the lift every lap and he'll talk about combining different styles. He does these grab variations that you wouldn't think of putting together. Like, I normally do a double cork 10 with a mute grab but Aidan will think, 'Everyone does that grab, let's do something really different.'"
"I love talking with Aidan about skiing, it's just so refreshing," adds Frank Shine of Tecnica/Blizzard, another Sheahan sponsor. "So much of what drives him is uncovering a path through the ski world that will allow him to be creative. I'm sure everyone would say they're doing that, too, but Aidan really is living that everyday. You can see it in his skiing—every year he gets better and better and every year I wonder if anyone is having as much fun as Aidan."
We'll be seeing a lot more of Sheahan as he continues to "uncover a path." The new MSP film that drops this fall could be his proving ground..
"People will see the new Matchstick movie," says Yater-Wallace, "and be like, 'Wow, that was crazy. How did he do that?' Or, 'I've never seen that grab done with that trick before. That was sick!'"