The luxury of being David Wise
In January 2015, David Wise easily could have completed a run that likely would have netted him a fourth XG Aspen gold medal. But that's not the way he approaches skiing. Instead of stomping a tried and true routine, he attempted a progressive, first-in-competition trick.
"I've never been afraid to look bad on a pair of skis," Wise says. "Some guys only do tricks they're good at. I'm okay working on things, even when I don't look good." With three X Games SuperPipe gold medals in six appearances, Olympic gold from 2014 and the 2015 AFP halfpipe championship, Wise usually looks good regardless. He's also at a point in his career where he can use one of the year's biggest contests to experiment.
At XG Aspen 2015, the then 24-year-old attempted a rightside double cork 1440 mute grab in the middle of all three of his runs. He landed each try, but not cleanly enough to maintain momentum; his following tricks were affected. He placed fourth, missing the podium for the first time since his 2011 rookie appearance. And he didn't care.
"I approach contests with the mindset of, 'What do I want to do on skis? Where do I want to take the sport?' I didn't need to throw the right double cork 1440 or such a unique run. I could have scaled back, but that wouldn't have been satisfying. I was looking to do something new."
Wise realizes that not everyone can opt for progression over perfection. "Judges are having such a difficult time ranking riders that if you make a mistake, it makes their job easier," he says. "Other guys don't have that freedom [for mistakes] and have to play it safe, and I think it sometimes stifles progression."
Wise stomped the rightside double cork 1440 at 2015's final SFR event in Tignes, but he's once again planning for more in Aspen. "I'm going to try and spin a different direction on every hit I can," he says. A clean pass might earn Wise his fourth SuperPipe gold -- the most in XG history.
In April 2015, Wise's older sister Christy, 28, was involved in a watersports accident that almost took her life. A combat/medical rescue pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Christy¬ -- who flies an HC-130J -- was paddle boarding during a Florida vacation when she was run over by a motorboat. Her right leg was amputated above the knee.
"The fact that she's alive and is going through the hardest time she's ever gone through, I'm in shock and awe," Wise says. "She's not getting caught up in the negative, just, 'This is what happened.' I just spent quite a bit of time with her. I admire her mentality and attitude -- she's a fighter. She's not only functioning, she wants to get back in the cockpit. I guess it shows you what the human spirit is capable of. I'm honored to be her brother."
While other amputees have returned to flying an HC-130J, Christy -- a former ski racer -- would be the first female with an above-the-knee amputation to do so. She already has been in a flight simulator, and three weeks ago she returned to jumping out of planes. Christy has attended XG Aspen for the last two years. If she can get leave, she likely will attend again in 2016.