5 questions: Tom Wallisch

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 9:29 p.m. MST

This Pennsylvania native began skiing at age 3. He quickly found the terrain parks and began finding his way into freeskiing by participating in rail jams and big air contests. The 24-year-old moved to Utah six years ago to attend the University of Utah, where he is just a couple of credits shy of his business administration degree, and discovered the Greatest Snow on Earth. He juggles college courses, throwing huge tricks in movies and competing at the sport's highest levels. He's won six of the sport's top prizes, including a gold medal in the Winter X Games slopestyle ski competition. When he won two weeks ago, he earned the highest score in the event's eight-year history. He will be in Utah next weekend to compete in the Dew Tour Championships, and thus far, he's won every Dew Tour event.

Q: A different skier has won the gold in the Winter X Games Slopestyle competition each of the eight years it's been held. What does that say about your sport?

A: It's definitely a cool thing. Unlike halfpipe, which is always the same, so it's easy for someone to excel at it and dominate all the competitions, slopestyle is different every course, every event. Different courses fit different riders' strength so you get more variety and people aren't able to dominate every course.

Q: You were injured most of last year, but this season you've won every contest you've entered. Why so consistent, especially coming off an injury?

A: It's definitely a good season for me. I gotta lose at some point, so I appreciate winning, but it's definitely a fun thing. People might expect a lot from me, but my season is based on pushing myself and doing what I want to do. Winning the X Games was a huge win, so to me the pressure is off entirely. I have a couple competitions, but I'll be doing some filming.

Q: How will freeskiers be assimilated into the U.S. Ski Team's programs?

A: It's a very new process. We actually this past fall, using a ranking system that we skiers came up with AFP ... they picked the top five Americans and brought us onto the team as the U.S. Slopestyle team. As the sport goes along, they'll probably change the team up, bring new people on. I think (the sport) is just going to grow ... as we approach the Olympics.

Q: Are you frustrated with all of the questions about the safety of Freestyle skiing since Sarah Burke's death last month?

A: I'm happy the questions get asked. I love to answer that question. She was one of the friendliest, most generous people. She lived and loved every day of her life. What happened to her was a very, very uncommon, tragic accident. It's very rare, that kind of injury and could happen doing anything. That kind of fall, you could have that walking down a slippery sidewalk or playing any traditional sport. I don't think she had any regrets. People are going to continue to get into the sport and we've done a lot to make it safe.

Q: Slopestyle was accepted into the Olympics last summer. Is that a double-edged sword for a sport that thrives on innovation and grass-roots creativity?

A: It's definitely a double-edged sword. We're definitely in bed with (FIS officials) now. There are some worries in our industry that we'll lose some of what it has. Some of my biggest influences are from a sport that would never be in the Olympics, skateboarding. It's all about being free, being out there and doing what you love and not worrying about regulations. I've never even had a coach. I don't need to be told what to do, when to work out. I just learn from my own mistakes, ask my friends what's up. But over the next few years, we'll be working with all of these governing bodies, and it will be challenging. But we're prepared for it. We welcome it.

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