Meet the Real Ski 2017 contenders, judges
Real Ski 2017, the all-urban, all-video X Games freeski contest, starts Wednesday. Read on to find out more about the skiers, filmers and judges in the competition, and how the judges will decide who gets X Games gold. Kicking things off is Will Wesson. In 2008, Wesson co-created the "Line Traveling Circus" web series, which helped him rise to fame in the freeski world. He's spent the past nine years filming with Level 1 productions, and he's our first Real Ski (urban) defending gold medalist.
"I became a rail skier because I grew up in Vermont. Hitting urban features with friends was just a part of skiing for me in high school," Real Ski newcomer LJ Strenio says. "I began filming with Meathead Films and realized there was a lot of exploration to be done within urban skiing. While sometimes I find that not everything that I do is popular with the general ski community, I believe it is what has gotten me to where I am today, so I try to continue to ski how I want to ski regardless of style trends and popularity. I find myself wanting to do things that are either fun to watch or make people say, 'What WAS that?!' -- rather than wanting to do bigger and better tricks."
"Before I could even hold my own head up, I was in a backpack with my dad ripping turns at Park City," says Khai Krepela, who has filmed with PoorBoyz Productions, 4bi9 Media, Good Company and Level 1 productions before ending up in this contest here. "Growing up in a ski mecca, it's hard to understand how I ended up spending most of my time skiing in cities, but I linked up with a film company called Toy Soldier Productions when I was in my 20s. They introduced me into street skiing, and it became my main focus."
Tom Wallisch not only has three X Games slopestyle medals to his name (two gold, one silver), he is also the returning Real Ski Fan Favorite. "I've always loved filming more than competing, and having the opportunity to showcase the film aspect of our sport as a competition is awesome," he says.
"The best thing in my life was meeting my crew, The Bunch," says Magnus Graner, a Real Street newcomer from Sweden. "When I was 16, I [started attending] a ski school and linked up with them. Our passion for skiing and tight friendship took us into a flow that was unstoppable. In 2013, I went to the USA and won the Superunknown contest, and that was the start of my skiing career. Now I'm a super swervy Instagram and street skier that somehow just got into the X Games!"
X Games superstar Henrik Harlaut is one of the few skiers who regularly competes in high-level slopestyle and big air events and dedicates time to putting out a good video segment each year. "It used to be what everybody did, but things have changed," Harlaut says. "People are too caught up with having to specifically train for contests rather than seeing the advantage of filming for a movie as the best type of training, since you have to do everything perfect for film."
Strenio's filmer: Jake Strassman
"There are a lot of people out there who are good with a camera, but to film an urban segment in a matter of weeks requires so much more," Strenio says. "An urban filmer has to be a caddie, giving important information that could potentially keep me out of harm's way when considering a feature. They have to be somewhat of a coach, picking you up when you are down and struggling mentally with fear or a difficult trick. They also need to be down to shovel all day and all night, for weeks, in rain or negative-15-degree temps. "It's perhaps the most thankless and mentally, emotionally and physically difficult jobs requiring the strongest willpower. Between our past history and the fact that he has all of these qualities made Jake an easy choice to partner with. I'm lucky to have him!"
Wesson's filmer: Jonny Durst
"There's a lot of trial and error when filming a street part, and I trust Jonny's input when we make spur-of-the-moment decisions that can make or break our success," Wesson says of his Real Ski 2016 gold-medal filming counterpart, Jonny Durst. "I can rely on him to produce the best shot possible, allowing me to focus 100 percent on my skiing."
Graner's filmers: Andreas Olofsson, Gustav Cavallin
"Andreas and Gustav are my favorite filmers, members of The Bunch and some of my tightest friends," says Magnus Graner, pictured here with his X Games filming counterparts, Andreas Olofsson and Gustav Cavallin. "I'm really blessed to have such a unified crew."
Harlaut's filmer: Emil Granoo
"We've been good friends for a long time, so we know each other well," Harlaut says of his Real Ski filming teammate Emil Granoo. "I haven't shot that much street skiing in Sweden before, but I always wanted to, so it was a easy choice to bring him for the mission, since he's Swedish as well."
Krepela's filmer: Jacob Callaghan
"I've known Jacob for a few years now and have always been a fan of his filming," Krepela says of his Real Ski filmer, Jacob Callaghan. "I got my first chance to work with him last year when we filmed in Washington, D.C., and was really stoked on his work ethic and film style. After watching Ahmet [Dadali]'s part from last year's Real Ski I knew that he would be a great person to work with."
Wallisch's filmers: Kyle Decker, AJ Dakoulas
"Kyle Decker and AJ Dakoulas (not pictured) of Good Company are the guys behind the magic," Wallisch says. "I work with these two guys, and all of the Good Company crew, because we have fun doing what we love. AJ and Kyle kill it behind the lens and are some of the most fun people to spend hours and hours with. Aside from filming for Real Ski, we've been working together with lots of our other riders to film for our coming 2017 film."
Judge: Vincent Gagnier
Who: X Games 2015 Ski Big Air gold medalist and 2014 silver medalist. How he's judging: "How the skier approaches a feature and anything we haven't seen before, that is somewhat not too conventional, is part of creativity. Hopefully we will see some creative tricks that are technical and stylish. Add some big features to that, with good editing, and you got yourself a winner in my book!"
Judge: Evan Heath
Who: content manager for Newschoolers.com, ski-industry filmer for more than 10 years. How he's judging: "I believe that the technical difficulty and style for this contest outweighs the overall production. Coming from a production background, it is important, but the overall skill and achievements of the skier will be most important to me."
Judge: Ahmet Dadali
Who: X Games Real Street 2015 competitor who's been putting out street skiing video parts for nearly a decade. How he's judging: "I really look forward to seeing these guys ski with great style. I want them to be able to make difficult tricks look fluid, putting their own spin on each trick. One of the most important things about street skiing is the ability to see something where no one else does and create something new out of it."
Judge: Jeff Schmuck
Who: editor of Forecast Ski Magazine, communications manager of the Association of Freeskiing Professionals, head judge of the International Freeski Film Festival. How he's judging: "In addition to the level of trick difficulty, creativity and use of urban environments, the main thing I'm looking for is an edit that you'd want to watch over and over again -- whether it's due to wow factor or because it plain and simply wants to make you go skiing."
Judge: Josh Berman
Who: former professional athlete turned team manager turned owner/director at Level 1, which has produced award-winning feature ski films for 18 years. Started the Superunknown contest. How he's judging: "Style, creativity and a progressive approach to utilizing terrain is really what separates the top athletes in street skiing right now. It's what I'm focusing on most in judging this year's Real Ski entries."