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King of Slope: The Tom Wallisch Interview

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We’re sitting here with Tom Wallisch, who just took the overall Dew Tour Cup for Slopestyle at Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah last weekend.

SK:  Tom, this summer, preparing for this winter, did you do anything different?

TW:  Hm, not really. I kinda do the same thing every summer: ski as much as I can when I can, and then when I’m off snow, do other fun activities. I don’t really hit the gym, it’s not that kind of vibe; I’m more about riding the mountain bike, going skateboarding, going for a hike, or just doing anything to get outside and have fun. I’ve been really lucky this year, not having any weird injuries or anything—last year I caught an edge on this stupid box and broke my shoulder blade—so I’ve just been healthy and lucky and things have been going really, really good. [smiles]  

SK:  Where are you at with school right now?

TW:  Ah…[laughs] I like to consider myself a “super senior.” This is my sixth year going to school at the University of Utah. It’s getting a little repetitive being that person who’s advertising, “I’m still in school,” but I’ll get through it! I’m just going in the fall, and it’s hard just doing three classes a year, but I’m close. I only have five classes left, so hopefully this coming spring or the fall after that I’ll be graduating with a degree, which I’m definitely stoked on.

SK:  What’d you do to get prepared that last week before Dew Tour in Breck?

TW: I just tried to be on my skis as much as possible; I spent a ton of time this November, December and January just hot-lapping all day, as many hours as I could get in—whether Park City at night, or driving out to Colorado for some jumps—just staying on my skis to feel comfortable, feel smooth, and just feel excited about skiing I guess. And it’s definitely worked out.
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SK: Yeah, it has. Getting that first win at Breck kind of set the pace. Did anything change after that, or was it just same old Tom?

TW: Well, it’s so awesome to do well at the beginning of the year. Even after winning just one contest, I could have missed the finals at any other event and still been stoked, skiing all the different courses

and getting to film the rest of the year. Being healthy and getting a win in early puts you in such a good mood that the pressure kind of falls off. You can ski without worrying as much about doing well, and that just means you ski smoother and more relaxed and you end up doing even better.

SK:  Killington Dew Tour is one cold-ass place. Does that have an effect on you? How different is it to compete in a cold environment?

TW: The cold isn’t really as much of a factor for me as the wind or the snow quality. Being one of the smaller guys in the field, with big, baggy clothing, when it’s windy or snowy, it gets hard for me to clear the jumps. I’m just not that fast. I guess I need to get some tighter clothing and put on a couple lb’s [laughing]. But when the weather’s good, cold or warm, and I can clear the jumps, I’m fine. You can bundle up, you know. I’m from the East Coast, I spent a lot of time up in Vermont when I was living in PA, so I’m used to skiing in the cold. Wind and snow is what gets me.

SK: After Killington was X Games, and they do such an awesome job building that course. Did you come out early? When were you able to get crackin’ on that course and dial in your run?

TW: Probably only the final day of eliminations and finals. They had them on the same day, eliminations in the morning and finals under the lights. It took a little while; the jumps were super tight this year, big fun jumps, but only two rail features and they weren’t true technical rails like I like. They had a container…then a wall to a transfer…so it took a bit, probably not until the practice before the finals was I able to really dial it in. I figured out that I could get to the top of the wall ride, and I had my jumps, but I really didn’t really have a rail line, so I actually kind of ad-libbed it in the finals. I got a good score, which was great, especially for having nothing really planned.

SK: Highest score ever awarded for slope.

TW: Yep.

SK: Was that just icing on the cake? You won, but did knowing that you had the highest score ever thrown down give you extra stoke?

TW:  Well…it’s good for media and the press, but for me personally, I don’t know. Every year it’s a different circumstance, you know? Every contest is different, the scoring is different…I don’t think by getting that score I did any better than Candide [Thovex], or Tanner [Hall], or Sammy [Carlson] or any of those guys that have won in the past. I mean, it’s cool to talk about I guess, but each day is different and I was just happy to end up on top.

SK: So with gold at Breck, gold at Killington, X Games gold, and now taking silver and winning the overall Dew Cup, it’s got to be a great feeling, right?

TW: Definitely. Dew Cup is something I’ve been wanting to win for a while. This is my third—wait—fourth year competing at Dew? I won in ’09, I’ve won a couple stops here and there, but I’ve never been able to pull together a whole season like this, stay healthy, and win the Cup…and to win it here in my home state is amazing. [holds up the massive gray Dew Cup trophy] Plus, it makes a very good chalice for drinking your choice of beverage.
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SK:  So a lot of kids might see you out there with all these sponsors, and you win some cash at these contests; what do you do with your winnings?

TW:  Ha, well, I try to be smart. This is a short-lived job; you can’t be a professional skier forever, and I’m thankful for the friends and family that have been helping me be smart with investing. I have some different stocks and bonds, and a retirement fund, and I’m looking into buying a house here in Park City. I’m just trying to spend wisely so I can continue being a ski bum for the rest of my life. [grinning] We’ll see how that works, though. It’s hard.

SK:  You’re one of the big names on the Skullcandy team. How does music play a role in your day to day?

TW: Oh man, it plays a huge role. I’m always out there with my Icon's or some FIX buds under my helmet. I don’t ski with music at contests, just because I like to stay focused and hear what’s going on around me, but I definitely love standing at the top of the run and hearing that Tupac – All Eyez On Me come on, the world’s watching…okay, maybe not the world. Maybe a couple hundred watching at the bottom? I hear that and I try to drop in and ski like that—good flow, making it look fun and easy.

SK:  Right on. You were a kid once, sitting on the couch watching X Games and things like that. What would you say to kids who want to achieve the same things you’ve achieved? Kids maybe in the Midwest, or back East, or even in ski communities like the Rockies and the West Coast?

TW: I think if you want to be a pro skier, you just have to get out there and ski. No matter how small or big your local mountain is, or what gear you have, you just gotta get out there and ride what you have. You can come from anywhere—looking at me, coming from Pennsylvania, or Nick Goepper coming from Indiana, all these small hills where you can still have a great time and learn the essentials—it doesn’t matter.

I always tell kids to definitely stay in school. You need to have a good head on your shoulders; you can’t just come out here and huck yourself, you have to be smart about it. That’s what it takes. Get out every day on your skis, stay healthy, be smart, learn slowly, don’t try to come out and do a double flip your first day. The longer you ski and the healthier you stay doing it, you’re going to learn that much faster and better.

SK:  Solid advice. Any shout-outs?

TW: Skullcandy team, obviously pretty much the best team ever…and, I dunno…4bi9 muthaf*cka! [laughing]     

SK:  Nice. Congratulations Tom.

TW: Thank you.

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Interview & Photo Credit: Jimbo Morgan


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