Over the summer iconic freeskier Seth Morrison took a moment away from training to sit down and answer some of my burning questions about skiing and the world surrounding the sport. Here are Seth’s thoughts on ski resort expansions and their environmental effects, leaving the park for the backcountry, the future of big mountain skiing, plus a few of his tips for learning back flips.
Evan Tennant: Do projected resorts, like Jumbo Glacier near Invermere B.C., and expansions into roadless area, like the ones proposed at Heavenly and Bridger Bowl, seem necessary to you?
Seth Morrison: I think growth for skiing is great. Look at resorts in Europe; they are like Disneyland resorts, going all over the mountains. I’m OK with it as long as there is some giving back to the environment that helps fix the destruction they incurred. Places like Aspen Mountain are giving back to the environment by putting solar panels on a mountain building and donating money to local environment agencies to help protect what is there. Seeing these places recycle and have summer trails closed for animal usage is small but at least it’s something.
ET: Where do you personally draw the line for the protection of the environment?
SM: In North America the resorts don’t seem as all over the mountains like resorts in Europe, which wouldn’t bother me here. The biggest part about the new resorts going in or an old ones being bought is that these companies are looking to make money off the real estate, more than the skiing. Skiing is just a draw to build homes. The more skiing the merrier, I say.
ET: You have watched the rise and fall of more than a handful of ski companies through the years. Which current upstarts do you see that have what it takes to succeed?
SM: Seems like in Colorado companies like Interwest have gone crazy buying old defunct resorts like Winter Park, Copper, Aspen, and the base area at Keystone. This giant has made these dumpy looking base areas at the mountains look great. They bring in a lot of money to the base areas and give good pass deals to people. More people that would not have had the opportunity to ski do now. Skiing is pretty expensive still, but the pass is not the biggest part anymore. Having more people come due to the lower pass price is very noticeable, more so in the traffic you have to drive in if you came from Denver. It seems to be working; they still get the vacationer, but they hit new markets with cheaper season passes.
ET: MTV Network’s “Vail Valley” chronicling the lives of some young friends living it up in Vail may film this winter. Would this kind of exposure help or hurt skiing?
SM: I think anything helps when people see it on TV. Look what MTV did for Cancun and The Palms. It creates a fantasy to young people and these places are all places people can get to pretty easily. I’m sure there will be more younger people there the following season to ski or spend the season there or somewhere like that.
ET: Freestyle skiing has now progressed far out of the park and into the untamed. As a godfather of this movement, what would you like to see up and comers throwin’ down?
SM: I would just like to see people move away from building jumps and use the natural terrain. Which means use what’s there, instead of building something on or round it.
ET: Do you spend much time inside the park anymore? If so, what tricks or features do you enjoy working on?
SM: I go into the park from time to time. Not as much anymore since the parks get open later and later where I live. By the time they are open, I am going into the backcountry since there is finally more snow out there and you can do more things. I find that when you are trying new things in the park you have a better chance of getting wrecked. So the soft powder is best for trying new things. I ride a lot of rails at the beginning of the season now since they are easy for the mountains to set up and they don’t require much snow in the early season.
ET: A spot in the Winter Olympics for halfpipe skiing would bring serious legitimacy to the sport. Does Big Mountain Skiing have a major hurdle in its progression?
SM: The big hurdle with Big Mountain skiing is exposure. The only way people can see this is by doing it or on a DVD. Most resorts have a resort channel and that gives people a chance to see it on TV on their vacation. That’s pretty much it. It’s more of a hidden part of the sport, which most skiers do while skiing at a ski area but on a smaller scale, of course.
ET: Supposedly, you learned the back flip at High North about six years ago. Do you have any advice for the non-acrobatic skier about learning inverts?
SM: Learn on a trampoline or diving board. Try on the tramp after you learned with ski boots on. If you have the chance even try it off a water ramp. On the snow, the best way to try is with a booter jump that you could do a 360 off. Having a soft powdery landing will help if you crash.
ET: Will we see Seth Morrison gunning for 120-foot cliffs anytime soon?
SM: I don’t look at the cliff as a 100-foot cliff. I look at a cliff and the snow and decide if it can be done that day in those conditions. I want to ski for a long time, not just for the day. Although most of the time you have to ski like every day is your last.
ET: Do you enjoy filming with the younger crowd?
SM: I like working with the younger guys; they are always looking at different things than I would. Skiing with the older guys is nice since they help push you into bigger lines. It’s good to get a mix of both during the season.
ET: How does it compare to the original extreme crowd?
SM: It’s nice to go with anyone with some experience out there.
ET: Have skiers changed?
SM: Yes, the skiers have changed. Before it was skiers from the extreme skiing circuit. Now it’s the best park guys, so there is some inexperience, but they are catching on.
ET: When you get a chance to pick a crew, a place, and a perfect day, where do you go and what do you ski?
SM: The crew would consist of strong skiers, both athletes and cameramen. People that are easy to get along with and that bring something to the trip would be invited. The place would be somewhere along the Pacific Coast from Vancouver up to Alaska. The snow is the best in this area and there are many helicopter companies. The time of year, January til May is the time, but the weather plays the biggest factor in what we do. If it’s cloudy it makes it hard to see since you’re above tree line. Then again it has to snow, but weather on the ocean is not the best.
ET: How do you feel about the reverse camber skis for backcountry freestyle? Will we all be mounting our skis duck footed soon?
SM: This is all new stuff. The skis are a different world. I think if you’re serious about the powder then you should get a pair and try them out.