Halfpipe skiing is among the 12 new Olympic sports debuting in Sochi. Simon Dumont, 27, is known as the Godfather of that sport. He’s been competing in it since he was 13. But last weekend Dumont skied the last run of Olympic qualifying without throwing a single trick. The day before, Dumont tore his ACL, ending his hopes of going for gold in the sport he helped bring to the Olympics. He joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: Simon, were you tempted to skip that last run and just take the bow to which you’re entitled?
SD: I mean, I don’t know. If I was going to go out I wanted to go out on my terms. So I kind of went up there, and I did at least one halfpipe run without an ACL just to take in everything that I’ve done for so long. And then I just didn’t feel like taking a second run. Obviously I wasn’t willing to risk anything else, and that was enough for me.
BL: Halfpipe snowboarding was added to the Olympics back in 1998. Why has it taken so long for halfpipe skiing to be included?
SD: Our sport is still in its infancy, I guess. I would say I’m a second-generation skier. There was the first generation—the Canadian Air Force team—there was a bunch of Canadians that kind of were just over the moguls and the aerials and other aspects of the competitive ski scene, so they just went out, got blow torches, blew up the tip of their ski—made them twin tip—and just started hitting jumps, getting in the halfpipe, doing things like that.
And then contests like the X Games, which I’m at right now — I mean I think this is a contest that really put free skiing on the map and helped kind of create some legitimacy. And then we as a ski community created a thing called the AFP which is an Association of Freeskiing Professionals. It’s our own sanction. And it’s our way of, kind of, to legitimize our sport, create a little bit of structure, which we initially wanted nothing to do with, but we created our own sanction within our freeskiing community to create our own structure so we could hold our own integrity and look a little bit more legitimate to somebody like the IOC.
BL: I like the phrase a little more legitimate.
SD: You know we still are kind of the rebels. I mean I didn’t do ski racing, I didn’t do moguls, I didn’t do aerials—I never did any of that because I didn’t like the rules. I didn’t like the constraints. The cool thing about our sport is—let’s say a cork 900, for example. For the viewers who don’t know what that is, it’s 2.5 rotations, and you’re off axis. That means you’re not upright. There’s probably 100 different ways to do that trick, and every single person can choose to do a different way, and that brings in your own style; that brings in your own personality. I think that’s what really draws in a lot of people.
BL: You make an interesting point. We had to learn a new vocabulary when halfpipe snowboarding came onto the scene with tricks like the Double McTwist 1260. What terms should I be familiar with before I tune in on Feb. 18?
SD: It’s gonna be tough. It’s the job of the announcer. And we have a guy named Luke Van Valin who’s an ex pro skier. And it’s going to be his job to really convey what the tricks are and try to help people understand. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but I think it’s really easy for people to comprehend the amplitude factor, which is the height you come out of the halfpipe, and that’s what’s really exciting, and I think it’s going to draw a lot of eyes onto it.
BL: Our listeners—or at least many of them—are probably familiar with Shaun White, the most recognizable face on the halfpipe snowboarding team. Who should they be looking out for in half pipe skiing?
SD: There’s a young kid, Torin Yater-Wallace, he is my Target teammate, and he is 18 years old. I kind of see a little bit of myself in him. I mean I’m only 27 but I’m old for our sport, so it’s crazy to see these younger kids come up and just—I used to be that guy everybody hated because he’s so young and so good. Yeah, Torin Yater-Wallace is one of those guys on our American team.
BL: Simon, you had said before this season that this would be your only trip to the Olympics. Do you find yourself temped at this point to try and come back from injury for South Korea in 2018?
SD: You know, I just don’t know if that’s where I want my life. I’ve been skiing since I was 3 years old. Turned pro when I was 13 years old, and I’ve just been doing it forever, and I just wasn’t finding the next thing to kind of push myself toward, and the Olympics was that. I was already on the fence of, Oh, can I make it? I’m so worn out. I know that physically I have the talent to be there, but I just didn’t know if mentally I could do it. And then, you know, I’m battling all these injuries.
Maybe it’s just a sign that I got to kind of look to different things. And the cool thing about our sport, there are other aspects. If you know snowboarding at all, Travis Rice makes huge film projects. I’d love to do a movie of sorts. Just film and kind of enjoy what I’ve done for so long.