By Tim Mutrie
As the top men’s slopestyle skier in the land, according to the AFP’s current world rankings, Bobby Brown probably had an inside line on this week’s blockbuster news that slopestyle was being added to the Winter (Frickin’) Olympics, right? Nope.
“I actually heard about it on Twitter,” says Brown, in an telephone interview with Powder.com from Whistler, B.C. last night.
"Honestly, I thought there was no way it was gonna get into the Olympics,” he says, for the 2014 Winter Games, in Sochi, Russia. “I mean, I know someone who's closely involved with the process, but still I wasn't expecting anything. I was just blown away.”
Soon after the news lit up the Tweetdecks, Brown says his phone began lighting up, too. “I probably got 20 phone calls and text messages saying it was in,” he says. “It is insane. It’s amazing. It’s really gonna be awesome for the sport—as long as it’s done right,” he says.
In April, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to add men’s and women’s halfpipe skiing to the 2014 Olympics, and now this week we learn men’s and women’s slopestyle—skiing and snowboarding—are in, too. On the heels of the April announcement, the U.S. Ski Team (USSA) recently created a U.S. Freeskiing team for the halfpipe specialists. But as of yesterday Brown hadn’t heard from USSA officials regarding the undoubtedly soon-to-form U.S. Freeskiing slopestyle regiment.
“That’s a pretty cool thought,” says Brown. “I grew up skiing moguls for a few years and the U.S. Ski Team was always something I wanted to be a part of; so it’ll be cool to see what happens.”
Brown’s sponsors, on the other hand, were quicker to react the news. “I've heard something from every single sponsor,” he says, chuckling. “So people are already thinking ahead, but I'm trying to take it one step at a time. I'll plan it out and take the route that I'd like to."
Brown’s unbridled excitement wavered at times over concerns whether the Olympic powers-that-be will be good stewards to the sport of freeskiing, and especially slopestyle.
"It's gonna get the young audience interested in this sport we love. So when I read that Tweet, I was just unbelievably stoked. But you also have to let that go away and step away. … Pipe is so much easier to regulate: 22-foot pipe, you're gonna get five hits, it’s pretty simple. But with slope, everything's different.”
"And the IOC is the most regulating force in sports in the world. So it's gonna be tough to keep it core and legit; you don't want to see the sport ruined by that. And I don't even know what to expect. But I don't want to see the sport I love go down the drain because some people think this is good for the sport. But I also don't want to get the wrong message out there —I just want to see it done right. If it's done right, this is the sickest opportunity a skier could have in a lifetime,” he says.
This all begs the question: How do you do it right for the Olympics?
“Listen to the althetes, first and foremost,” Brown says. “I feel like everyone's like minded; sure, there’s some doing it because they can win money or whatever. But mostly every guy out there likes it because it's different, likes it because it's fun, likes it because it’s free, and we just can't let older people who don't know what they're talking about rule our sport. It's free, it's freeskiing, it's whatever, so we have to be in charge and they just need to listen. That's all there is to it.”
After discussions with other slopestyle skiers, Brown characterized the mood of his fellow slope skiers thusly: “Everyone's stoked, but everyone's skeptical at the same time: ‘Is this gonna ruin it, or is this gonna be great?’ But I'm optimistic, and I'm very grateful that I'm going to have this opportunity."
Brown says he knows little of the venue in Sochi, and he downplayed the sorts of gripes routinely aired by competitors at contests, typically about courses and/or judges, as having little to do with the larger discussion about keeping slopestyle true to its roots at the Olympics.
“Whatever, it's slopestyle, [the course is] gonna be different every time. If it's unsafe, sure, complain all you want. But I hate when people complain because a course doesn't favor their skills—air or rails or whatever. Slope is a challenge like that. You have this challenge to face and you gotta try to conquer it. You just have to show up with that perspective. And if the course doesn’t favor you, well, next year it'll be different,” says Brown.
"It is hard to find that balance, though, and it's totally different from halfpipe; in pipe you have your one run. But with slopestyle, you're just out there cruising, hitting the stuff that looks fun and that you can string together. And that's why the whole regulation thing is pissing me off, and sorry I'm getting heated here, but the Olympics just is so much about regulation—you train your whole life specifically for this one sport. But this sport [slopestyle] is so different—it's not like any other sport. So, man, I don't know how they're gonna do it,” Brown continues.
“But everyone around me—my dad and my mom, my little bro, my crew and team—they're all just stoked. But every one is thinking the same thing: Who's gonna do it, who's gonna judge, how's it gonna play out? So it'll be a little bit of a fight, I think, with the althetes fighting for what they'd like to see out there.”