Freeskiing champion David Wise has been on the slopes for two decades, ever since joining Reno’s Sky Tavern Junior Ski Program at age 3. He won his first U.S. National Title in halfpipe skiing at age 15 and—now 23 years old—has taken gold in multiple X Games, skied around the world and hopes to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where halfpipe skiing will debut as an Olympic event. This past summer, he became the only skier on the Northstar Pro Team, joining ranks with teammates like Shaun White and Elena Hight. Born and raised in Reno, Wise still calls the Biggest Little City home; he currently lives there with his wife, Alexandra, and toddler daughter, Nayeli.
Can you talk about your alliance with the Northstar Pro Team?
Joining the Northstar Pro Team was an easy move. Professional athletes align themselves with certain brands and sponsors for a lot of different reasons. Money is, of course, a factor, but it is more important to align yourself with brands that you support and that have a good opportunity to support you. During this past season, I’ve gotten to experience the love and support that Northstar is able to give to their athletes, and it has been a great experience. Northstar is passionate about enabling their athletes to be the best in the world, and they do their part to make it happen. Couple that with the fact that they have the best parks and pipes around and the decision becomes simple.
Locally, do you have any ski idols or mentors?
I always looked up to (the late) CR Johnson. He was the first pro skier that I ever got to ski with in person, and he had a great attitude about the sport. As far as mentors, I have to mention Bob Howard. He was an unbeatable force and many-time world champion in ballet skiing back in the day. He has been a friend and supporter right from the start and has been generous about sharing his wisdom and experience.
What do you do when you aren’t skiing?
(Laughs) I do too many things when I am not skiing. My wife is always begging me not to pick up another hobby. I guess I just want to experience everything that I can. My current list includes mountain biking, trampolines, cliff jumping, fishing, backpacking, hunting, slacklining, softball and volleyball. And spending quality time with my family is always a high priority.
How do you balance training and competition with family?
In my opinion, life is just one big balancing act. Traveling all the time to compete and still being a good husband and father is not easy, but something I take seriously. I have to remember to be as passionate about my family as I am about skiing. After all, what is more important in life: the things you do or the people that you love?
Wise, wife Alexandra, and daughter Naeyeli
Your thoughts on halfpipe skiing’s Olympic debut?
It is really cool to be a significant part of a sport that I have watched grow for most of my life. I am truly proud of how far the sport has come, and I could not be more excited to see the sport make it to the world stage. Skiing has made me who I am today, so to play even a small part in the sport’s history is an amazing honor.
You’ve said it was when you stopped caring about getting gold medals that you started to get them—is that still true?
Yes, what I realized is that gold medals or money or any other form of success is not going to make you happy by itself. I realized that I already had been given more than enough to be happy: a loving God, a loving family, great friends and something to pursue that I was truly passionate about. I no longer needed anything to be content, I just needed to embrace what I was given, and any form of worldly success beyond that was just a bonus. When I started thinking like that, I no longer felt immense pressure at the top of the pipe; I just felt excited to go out and do what I do best.
Can you describe the thrill of winning gold?
Winning gold is an almost indescribable experience. As a competitive athlete, it is important to focus on what you are doing at that exact moment in time, not what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. So my experiences of winning gold are like this: I focus so hard on my runs and executing them well that it is not till after the competition is over that I realize that I’ve actually won. All of a sudden, you have achieved your biggest goal and everyone is cheering for you. It is pretty surreal.
What are your Olympic expectations? What should viewers expect from you?
I like to draw a line between hopes and expectations. It took me most of my life to realize that I have very limited control over what happens, so to expect certain things would be foolish. The only true expectations that I have for the Olympics are that the freeskiers—whoever they are—are going to put on a good show. My hopes are that I will be there to represent both my country and a sport that I am proud to be a part of, and that I will be able to do the best that I am capable of. As far as what viewers can expect from me, I am naturally an innovator. You can rest assured that I am already working on new things that I hope to unveil at the Olympics.
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