Words: John Clary Davies
When Jacob Wester was 13 he saw Shane McConkey, JF Cusson, and JP Auclair in ski films. He quit ski racing the next day.
"That's when I realized what I wanted to do," says Wester, the son of a semi-professional skier mom and semi-professional golfer dad.
Three years later, as a 16-year-old, Wester took fourth in the US Open at Vail, beating Tanner Hall in the quarterfinal, still one of his proudest accomplishments. The next day, he received sponsorship offers from Armada and Oakley. Wester changed his return flight to his native Stockholm, and never went back to school.
Now, after seven X-Games and ten years of competitions, Wester, an avid surfer, guitarist, and tattoo artist, is at a junction. Torn between filming powder skiing segments, which he's done all winter with MSP, and training for the 2014 Olympics, Wester checked in to wax veteran nostalgia on what's next for him, what's been hard, and the end of the rock and roll era of the sport.
My mom took me skiing when I was 6 months old. It was pretty irresponsible, but that's probably where I got my love for going fast. She always told me I was sitting on her back laughing my ass off.
I played golf till I was 16, but I didn't have the mental game for it. I'd get too pissed off and break clubs. My dad has forced me off the course a couple times.
It would be me and my friends on this local hill in Stockholm. I would go there after school every night all winter and it was a total, constant battle. If someone learned a trick, then someone else had to grab it or add a 180. It probably used to be a scrap yard or an old dump. It was like 200 feet of vertical, tops. We skied every night from 5 in the afternoon till it closed at 10, from December to early April. I once calculated that I did over 35,000 runs on that hill in five seasons, because it was such a short lift lap and I would cut the line every time, because I was a cocky douchebag.
I never felt like school was a good fit for me. I always had a problem with authority. I was learning things on my own way before I quit school. Now I would never regret it. It's opened up so much more for me than school ever would.
I don't really know what I want to do. Right now I'm kind of at this fork in the road. Should I go for the Olympics or keep skiing backcountry and try to really go for a filming career?
I just know that (the Olympics) is going to take so much time and education. I'm not 100 percent confident that I have that motivation and energy. The last few years I've been burnt out in the park, feeling like it's the same repetitive thing every season. There were days out there where I was hating life, which is an insane thing to say, because it's such a fortunate thing to be doing.
I want to just ski powder, actually. It's opened my eyes in a way all of a sudden I love this. I'm really into skiing again.
I've always had a lot of demons, especially when it comes to competing. Self-doubt and stuff like that.
If you don't spend 60 hours a week in a terrain park in December learning all your tricks that you need, then someone else will.
I still consider '04 to '08 the golden years, and then from there on it got too serious. Those years were great because it was more rock and roll. Everyone was single and nobody had a million dollar year from a sponsor that they had to represent in the best light possible. People would get drunk and ski and it wouldn't be a big deal. Now I see people getting in trouble for Tweeting the wrong stuff, apologizing for what they wrote on a kid's poster. That's just not necessary in this sport.
There's almost too much money in it, so people have to be professional and sportsmen. I feel like a lot of people are in it for the wrong reasons.
When I hear a coach yelling stuff to the halfpipe riders, giving them an earful of shit at the top of their run telling them to grab their next run, to not be an idiot. What are you doing? This is not why we do this. But that's what happens.
It's supposed to be a rebellion sport. That's what it's founded upon. I sound like such a whiny bitch now. I am so grateful for where park skiing has taken me, and I still enjoy the shit out of it at times, I just hate to see it taken the wrong direction.
I really want to see (skiing) in the Olympics, but for it to keep the hardcore roots and have some transparency—actually show us for what it is, portray us as rebels, as crazy people that do generally weird stuff on skis and snowboards. It doesn't mean that we can't make money.