BNQT Pro File: Mike Wilson
December 08, 2010
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Mike - give us some background on yourself.
I'm 24 years old and live in Lake Tahoe, CA. I'm a professional skier and I grew up on southern VT. I was a gymnast as a kid and I've spent my whole life jumping on trampolines and flipping and spinning. And I do flipping and spinning on skis for a living; that's kind of how I got into it and how I am into it.
So why rope swings?
The rope swings and base jumping and cliff jumping and stuff like that is a slightly unique anymore fun way of training for skiing rather than just skiing. I like jumping off stuff and the main reason I do it with rope swings all the time is because there aren't a whole lot of sheer cliffs in Tahoe, certainly nothing as big as I like, so because I can't just jump of something my only real option are either to create a diving board or platform, which is a pain in the butt, or zip line, which you're not going to zip line across Lake Tahoe, so a rope swing is a way to get me in the air, flipping and training for skiing.
Where in Southern Vermont did you grown up?
I grew up in So. Londonderry, VT, which is where Ross Powers grew up; who won the Olympics in 2002 and got bronze in 19998 in snowboard halfpipe, so snowboarding and skiing is pretty strong in that town and in that area. My parents got me into gymnastics in Manchester when I was a super young kid as a way to get rid of some energy, and so the flipping and spinning just came naturally to me.
So your parents were supportive of you?
My parents have always been super supportive of me and have never really pushed me. In fact have tried to prevent me from doing anything too gnarly
but at the same time as long as I know I can do it, my parents have always been there to support me.
Any aspirations for Olympic gymnastics?
Honesty I did it when I was so young and gave it up when I was still pretty young, so no, I never had any interest in gymnastics for that, and it's weird because people ask me now about the Olympics, but I'm probably the only kid in the world who has no desire to win the Olympics; I never really had that desire.
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So you say you learned to ski then snowboard, then you went back to skiing, how did that work?
I learned to ski when I was 2, then I switched to snowboarding when I was 6 and then switched back to skiing at 10. I guess I was just looking for something else to do, something else to try, I got kinda bored with snowboarding, and wanted to do something else. So I started to ski again, and I remember it was literally a couple weeks after I started skiing again that I got approached by LINE skis.
Oh yeah what happened?
It was my 11th birthday and we were in my dad's real estate office in Mt Snow and the guy who owned LINE came in with a contract to sign for a $1000 travel budget and $1000 cash. So my dad looked at me and said, 'You know if I do this it's going to change your life, you're going to be a pro skier." I said, 'Shut up dad, you know how much candy I can buy with that!!' So he signed it and the next thing you know here I am, a pro skier.
Did you dream of being a pro skier?
At the time the only pro that I had heard of or knew anything about was Ross Powers. I grew up in such a small remote area in Vermont there weren't a lot of pros that came through there. Ross Powers was the best snowboarder in the world and I knew him and what he was doing, but it never dawned on me that it could actually happen to me, so it's kind of crazy that it has.
So do you prefer skiing or more the stunt-type stuff?
No I'm still a skier and focused on skiing, skiing is the biggest thing. But all that other stuff is just for fun. I guess to understand that you have to understand me. I'm a super competitive person, so if you tell me I can't do something then I'm going to go do it. I'm also really into physics, so when I see someone do something I think, 'Whoa that was rad, how can I do that cooler.' So I kind of joke about it with friends. Then and they're like, 'Oh you can do this or you can do that ' and most of the time they're ridiculous ideas, but sometimes I'm like, 'Yeah I could do that safely.'
But you seem pretty focused on safety right?
Yeah, I work with a lot of people who are good at what they do, like, I learned rigging from rock climbing and I'm working with a FAA certified rigger who's helping me build custom parachutes and stuff like that. When you're working with people who understand flipping, spinning and air awareness it takes the danger out of it to a certain extent. I play super dangerous sports but I do everything I can to make them as safe as possible.
How do you overcome the fear of the worst-case scenario?
I struggle with it from time to time, I go back and forth. When I got into base jumping at 18 I talked with a lot of guys who sat me down and said don't get into base jumping because it's really dangerous, and two out of the four people who gave me that talk are now dead from base jumping and it's only been six years.
Like I said I play dangerous sports but what makes it fun is to do it and do it safely. You don't get into base jumping for very long and stay in it for very long if you're afraid of dying, you have to come to the conclusion that at some point something is going to go wrong, you're going to overlook something and it's going to happen to you.
I have a 92 year old grandfather who is deaf and can't speak and is basically trapped in his own body and I'm way more comfortable with the thought of dying at 24 or 25 doing something rad, than being 95 and trapped in my own body because that seems like hell to me.
Who inspired you besides Ross Powers?
Mike Nick hands down is the reason I'm a pro skier, he was in school in Plattsburgh in upstate New York and moved to my hometown and taught me everything I know about skiing and the fundamentals to learn all the tricks that I know. That kind of led me into everything else.
And then you moved out west?
Yeah I was hanging out in Utah right after I turned 18 and was talking to JT Holmes and he opened the door for me and took me skydiving and then a couple weeks later took me base jumping and a soon as I did that I was hooked on it. JT is always been a guy I look up to on a pair of skis so to have him teach me how to base jump was really rad.
So with skiing how do you see yourself fitting into that world?
I try to be the best skier in the world by being the best all around in the world. I wouldn't say I'm a pipe skier or a rail guy or a big mountain skier, I just would say I'm a skier.
Where can people see you do your thing?
Well there's ShreddyTimes.com which has a lot of my stuff, and then last year Poor Boyz Productions shot a tv show about me and my friends as we travel around the world. It's basically an action sports based adventure show with skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, BASE jumping, snowmobiling and all that. It's gonna be pretty cool.