SKIING's interview with Erik Schlopy, one of North America's top 25 skiers.
Name: Erik Schlopy
Date of birth: August 21, 1972
Age started skiing: Two
First ski area: Kissing Bridge
Home ski area: "I'm a skiing nomad. There's not one place I ski the most. I train, though, at Park City and Deer Valley."
Claim to fame: Early this season (Nov. 17), Erik earned fourth at Park City's opening World Cup giant slalom (his second career top-10 World Cup finish). His finish is the best GS result from a U.S. male in 16 years. Holds three U.S. titles ('00 slalom, '92 super G and GS).
Daring to be different: Erik quit the U.S. Ski Team after the '95 season and turned pro. Now he's back. "It's the path not taken. Julie Parisien tried it without success. Coming back from the pro tour to gain eligibility, I had to fund a full year of skiing by myself. I started at the back of the pack. I'm 28 and finally things are coming together for me. It's not flukish. I feel like I'm a contender. I feel like I've arrived as a World Cup ski racer."
What's the worst crash you've ever been involved in? "I broke my back in 1993. It was one of ESPN's top ten all-time crashes. It was at Morioka, Japan, at the World Championships. I went on a wide line, sat back off a jump, flew 220 feet, and landed on my butt. I had a compressed fracture of the vertebrae, my sternum cracked in half, I broke a couple ribs, punctured a lung, and bit half my tongue off, so it was dangling. I have a scar there, but it's functional."
What are your plans for 2002? "It was always in my plan to ski in the Olympics in 2002. I race slalom and GS, and when I get 400 World Cup points, I'm going to start doing the super G."
Do you have any pets? "Five cows, six goats, a handful of chickens, and a pig. I rent a house in Austria, so I'll feel at home when racing in Europe. Half the house is barn, so we're all under one roof. We spend 50 to 60 days there. I rented the house to create an environment in Europe similar to what the locals have. I don't want to be homesick and burnt out on road. I'll create a life experience on the World Cup. It'll help the longevity of my career, and hopefully there will be no burnout factor. Bode Miller splits it with me. The Ski Team supports it, but it's on our own dime."
Favorite beverage: Red wine
Favorite musician: Jimi Hendrix
Car: A Ford Aerostar all-wheel-drive minivan -- "It's called the Dream Machine or the Deathstar. It's for traveling around and chasing races. I'm selling it and looking for something a little bit racier."
Last book you read: I Know This Much is Trueby Wally Lamb and Crime and Punishment
Ski heroes: "Phil and Steve Mahre, no question about it."
Have you been in any ski movies? "I was a stunt double in Touched by an Angel.They had a script about the Ski Team. The guy who wrote the screenplay was a former jumper with the U.S. Ski Team. I'd love to be in a ski movie, a Warren Miller movie."
Do you have any hobbies? "Surfing. I've surfed New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Mexico."
Are you any good? "I could handle the equivalent of a black diamond. Well, maybe I'm intermediate. I do it because I love it."
What are your goals for 2002? "To race slalom, GS, and super G and to win two medals -- at least one gold."
Love interests: "I'm spoken for."
What's your take on the jibbing scene?"To tell you the truth, I was in the halfpipe the last two days. It's great. It's fun to watch although I don't consider it true skiing. It's more acrobatics than true skiing. You don't have to be able to carve a turn to huck big air in a halfpipe. But it's bringing excitement to skiing, and that's a bonus. Racing is the truest form of skiing and there's no doubt about it."