For Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen, it’s been a whirlwind ride since the Winter Games closed in Sochi earlier this year. But between media obligations and ski trips, he said he’s also had some time to kick back and relax a little, too.
We caught up with Christensen earlier in the week doing what you might expect a gold medalist to do in the summertime. What else? Ski. He and snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg, a fellow gold medalist, spent Monday at Woodward at Copper tagging along with summer campers there for an on-snow — that’s right on-snow — terrain park session. Following the appearance the two jumped on a jet to go play at Woodward at Tahoe before making an appearance at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards in Los Angeles. Before leaving Christensen sat down with the Summit Daily to reflect on his Olympic experience, life after the games, training and what’s next.
What’s life been like for you since the Olympics? What have you been up to?
It’s been pretty crazy. Everything changed since the second the Olympics were over. I definitely tried to ski and stay away from all of the media so I didn’t overdo myself. I was able to do that and balance that out pretty well, made a few trips to New York which was really cool.
Other than the attention, how else has life changed?
I own two suits now. I didn’t own a single suit before the Olympics.
How have you seen freeskiing change with it being a part of the Winter Games?
There’s a lot more formality to the sport. There’s a lot more coaches around, people are taking it a little more seriously. I think everyone is being a lot smarter in the aspect of physical health.
Nothing’s been too negative since the Olympics. I don’t think it changed skiing in a bad way at all, which a lot of people thought it would. I think it was good for our sport. I think it just helped getting kids of all ages involved. There’s just a lot more structure to the sport now. People can really understand what it’s about.
Speaking of that structure, a lot of pros say they either don’t train or don’t like to call it training or practice. What’s your approach?
I’m the same way. I just try to ski as much as I can. Every day I ski is also training in my mind. At Park City, I’ll just go out and ski rails for five hours and goof around with my friends, have some fun. In that time we’ll learn something new. It’s not like I wake up and go out wanting to learn something. It kind of just happens; it’s very spontaneous.
So do you have any kind of process when you think about adding a new move or does that just happen too?
For jumping, definitely. Before I try a new trick on jumps, I think about it — for probably a couple of weeks — and I know I want to do it. A lot of skiers really visualize what they want to do. Sometimes you learn a trick spontaneously, right then and there. Like at the Olympics I learned my triple (cork 1260) pretty spontaneous (two days before the finals).
The Sochi course got kind of a bad wrap initially. What did you think?
When I first showed up it was really big and scary and the snow was really firm and icy. They worked out all of the bugs. By the time we had our contest, I thought it was one of the best courses I’ve skied on in my life. Definitely the biggest jumps we’ve ever competed on. It turned out being a lot better and a lot safer than everyone portrayed it.
What kind of changes did they make?
One big part was that the jumps were really big. They were pretty big step downs so you were falling from so high that the landings were just painful. I think they cut about 2 meters off the top of each lip. It changed the whole course. It took them a few days to do that, but we had six practice days before the contest. It gave them a lot of time to fix it.
Once they made the changes everyone loved it. People were being pretty tentative and reserving themselves early in the week. The second they changed the course everyone started doing the tricks they wanted to do.
Slopestyle also caught some negative publicity after the games as potentially dangerous. What do you think?
I think every sport at the Olympics is pretty dangerous. I wouldn’t say slopesyle skiing is anymore dangerous than downhill skiing, luge, bobsled, aerials, moguls ... We all know what we’re doing. In my opinion if you’re at the Olympics you’re keeping yourself safe. Accidents happen, but accidents happen in every sport.
How do you stay safe?
I’m getting a little older now. I definitely look through a course. I don’t hit everything first try. (I) check it out see what it’s all about. I definitely warm up to it and try not to do anything insane right away. Most of us have skied so much we have a really good air awareness. I think that’s key when your hitting these courses.
I think skiing as much as you can is the best thing you can do. It gets you confident on your feet.
How important is progression?
Progression is huge. I think one good thing now is that there are so many videos, and so many ways of safely practicing your tricks: trampolines, airbags, water ramping. What I used to do is watch videos online and see how the pros did it.
One huge thing for me is tramping. It’s huge for learning new tricks and your air awareness.
You’ve done some coaching now. How do you like it?
It’s definitely hard to not ski but it’s really rewarding. I taught a kid his first backflip the other day. Once he landed it, it was such a good feeling to help him through it.
What did you think of hanging out here at Woodward?
It was pretty fun. I haven’t been here in the summer before. It was cool to check out all the snow features they had. I’m always excited to meet the up-and-coming kids. They’re always stoked to be hanging out with me.
You’re nominated for an ESPY for Best Male Olympic Athlete along with Sage. How does that feel?
I’m pretty excited. I have my suit with me here. I’m pumped to put it on. I didn’t know this category existed. I though it was just best action sport athlete. It’s just going to be cool to go and I’m honored to be invited.
What’s next after that?
I’m going to try and chill for a while; hopefully going to go down south to Australia to ski for a few weeks in September. Then chill again for a while until the winter starts up.
Editor’s note: Sage Kotsenburg won the ESPY for which the two Park City natives were nominated. Skier and fellow gold medalist Ted Ligety also was nominated. Look for a Q&A with Sage Kotsenburg in Saturday’s Summit Daily.