Walking into guest services at Loveland Ski Area Tuesday, Nick Goepper looked like just about any other 20-year-old kid ready to hit the slopes for the day — eyebrow-length locks of curly brown hair, street shoes still on his feet, ski pants rolled up to the knee with synthetic socks covering his shins like a soccer player.
He put his boots down as he entered, reached out his hand and quietly introduced himself to each person in the room, as if he hadn’t just won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“Hi, I’m Nick,” he said with a smile and humble tone, politely nodding his head and shaking hands before sitting down on a couch and waiting for the rest of the group to arrive for the day’s event, a Red Bull ski-with-the pros day promoting spinal injury research and the Wings for Life foundation.
He sat looking at his phone while others in the room geared up, discussed the day’s approach and the 5 inches of fresh snow the ski area got overnight. He looked up. “Do you guys have any rails?”
Others in the group looked at him curiously. But for the kid from Indiana who grew up building rail features — year-round — in his relatively flat backyard, a powder day apparently wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.
“I love all aspects of skiing, but I love skiing in the park,” he later told the Daily.
A lot has changed for Geopper since earning a spot on the Olympic team and sharing the slopestyle podium with fellow American freeskiers Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy, completing only the third U.S. podium sweep in Winter Olympics history.
“It’s changed in a remarkable manner. It’s been really fun. I’ve had some amazing life-changing opportunities,” he said later in the day riding a chairlift. “More than anything I’ve just had so much fun.”
He described Sochi as an incredible experience, even though — with a hectic schedule — he didn’t have much time to take it all in.
“Sochi was cool. I didn’t get a whole lot of time to kind of like put out the vibe and relax,” he said. “We kind of got there, got into our zone, our contest zone, for like the first 10 days that we had practise.”
He described his days prior to competition as “eat, sleep, ski, waste time on the computer,” adding that he had a little free time after he competed.
With the Olympics behind him, there’s little doubt that Goepper will continue to be a big name in the freeskiing world. With his movie-star smile, friendly Midwest attitude and the increased attention freeskiing has received as a new Olympic event, there’s a good chance he could even be the next Shaun White.
Since making the U.S. team Goepper’s been on the “Late Show with David Letterman” show twice — once prior to the Olympics and again after medaling — walked the red carpet at the Golden Globes, made appearances on the talk-show circuit and even skied laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while being pulled by a car.
Before the Olympics finished he was back in New York City making appearances for a week. Then he spent the following week with appearances in his home state where he was the guest of honor at a parade.
Given the hectic schedule and the new-found fame, he said he especially enjoys having the chance to get involved with charity events. “You know I’m just trying to make an impact now with this cool platform that I have to do some good things.”
After taking some runs in the fresh snow at Loveland, the two-time X Games gold medalist finally got his chance to hit the terrain park and slide a few rails.
He said it was one of the first times he’d been back on snow since the February Olympics.
“I haven’t really had a chance to ski a lot since Sochi,” he said. “I’m so hungry and so motivated to get back on my skis.”
When asked if he minded his life taking on a non-stop feel, he said, “I love it. I’d rather be busy than hanging out.”
From Loveland Goepper headed to directly to the airport and to Los Angeles for a movie premier.