Born and raised on the South Island of New Zealand, Sam Smoothy, 31, graduated from the tussock-filled slopes of Wanaka's Treble Cone to topping Freeride World Tour podiums across the globe. On a self-described sabbatical from the competition scene, the rascally Kiwi has spent the last two seasons filming with the TGR crew in Alaska and focusing on his own personal film projects.

I had my own skis at 2, but was in the backpack prior to that. Apparently, I was in the backpack in my first year of being alive. If dad crashed, I would get shot out into the snow, and apparently, that used to piss me off.

My parents were keen mountaineers back in the day, so they got into skiing as a form of transport, and I still think they love skiing more than I do.

I think growing up in New Zealand is pretty awesome for your skiing. Little place, real little resorts, but sick terrain. The weather is pretty fucking wild here, so you get good at skiing shit snow. My home mountain, Treble Cone, has a great style. Lots of gulleys and hips and things to air out of. It's a really natural freestyle kind of terrain, which is super fun.

I don't know if we can classify my time in North Korea as a ski trip, it was more of a two-man social experiment? My filmer/producer at the time, Will Lascelles, sat down and started spinning the globe and trying to find the weirdest place. So much has been done, it's hard to find somewhere new.

I think most of the highlights were culture-wise. The skiing could be sick there. It kind of made me think of American East Coast mountains, with flat tops but cool pitches down the sides. There were some cool ridgetop pistes that would be epic for Super G and GS racing, and some cool tree glades, but it just pissed down with rain the day after we got there. It was full isothermic saturation, which is kinda a good description for what happens to your brain when you're there as well.

You never really felt like you actually got to see what was behind the curtain, it was so governed what you got to see. Your rationale just fell apart. You could see that you were probably getting lied to by Western media, and you were definitely getting lied to by the locals, and you were just more confused by the time you left then when you arrived.

The biggest take away for me was that there are such good people there. They're fun to talk with, a very interesting and engaging people. There are a whole bunch of good humans there that are just having to live with this on a daily basis. Whatever this is, I still don't know.

It's not that I've retired from the Freeride World Tour, more taken a sabbatical to film instead of compete. What I liked about it most and what I really miss is just the people I was competing with and the camaraderie. They're kind of like the people you're going to battle with, you're not against them, you're all together.

PHOTO: Nic Alegre

The perfect comp to me is where everyone stomps their run, and I still win. With so many talented people, it's cool to travel to so many places around the world and pick up things off of them at each stop. The tour is all about being out in the hills with a great group of people and getting paid to do it for some reason.

The TGR Crew is such a bunch of rascals. They've been super welcoming to me, it's just kind of an out of control family. Even my first time at Fantasy Camp, everyone was just so open and welcoming. They'd ask what I wanted to ski, and I would think "I'm just the new guy, I'll pick up the drags" But they pushed me to ski what I wanted and to get out there, which I really appreciated. I never felt like the new guy at all, it just felt like I was finding my place.

PHOTO: Nic Alegre

I definitely think I'm more open to skiing mank (shitty conditions) growing up in NZ. Like, I'll definitely see a line and be really keen, and everyone else is like, "What are you talking about? There's no snow there." And I'll be like, "Aw nah, there's way more snow than what we ski closing day Treble Cone! And this time I'm sober!"

I would love to invent an extra six months where I can just vanish and go surfing and not be online and just go surfing every day. If anyone can work out how to add six months to the year that'd be sick. Although they'd have to do that and not tell anybody about it, cause otherwise, people would be trying to take me skiing for another six months.

I'm not really a big slogan guy. All those inspo posters kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth. I just like to be present. Just enjoying where I am and what I am and what I'm doing. There's way too much black and white in this world, even though that's all I wear. I think a touch of gray would do a lot of good for people in this world. Just try to be a good human.