Tom Wallisch might be new to the Winter X Games, but he's known plenty well by his competitors in Ski Slopestyle. He finished first in the 2009 AFP rankings, winning the last stop of the Winter Dew Tour at Northstar, California and The Dumont Cup in Sunday River, Maine in the process. He also took second place at the European Open in Laax, SUI, making him one of the most dominant slopestyle competitors on the planet last year.
Wallisch earned his first invite to Winter X in 2010 based on his 2009 results. He also started the 2009/10 campaign hot; he captured second in Slopestyle at the season-opening Winter Dew Tour Breckenridge stop in December. Not bad for the 22-year-old Pittsburg native who grew up skiing at Wisp Mountain -- vertical drop: 700 feet -- in Garrett County, Md. A weekend warrior with no formal skiing background, Wallisch's freeskiing career didn't even begin to blossom until he moved cross-country to attend the University of Utah. While most of his competitors launched their careers via the comp circuit, Wallisch took a more grassroots approach through the Internet -- he gained recognition and a small core following for his video segments on the website 4bi9media.com.
While a good all-around jumper, Wallisch stands out from his peers because of his rail skills. "Growing up on the East Coast, all I knew was rails," says Wallisch. He considers one of his career highlights to be the opening segment of Level 1 Production's most recent release, Refresh. "I am definitely excited about Level 1 and having the opening segment," Tom says. "I put a lot of hard work into it." One of his best shots is a 270 onto a 50-foot quad kink rail filmed in Ogden, Utah.
Historically, rookies have had a tough time at Winter X; nerves tend to get the best of athletes on action sports' biggest stage. No WX rookie has ever won Slopestyle. TJ Schiller fell victim to the rookie curse in 2005 when he was considered the new "it" kid, he finished sixth at WX.
One of the rare exceptions was Aspen local Peter Olenick, who earned his first Winter X invite a week before the 2004 event and, flying under the radar, went on to double medal (SuperPipe bronze, Slopestyle silver). Whether Wallisch follows Olenick's path and bucks the trend at Winter X remains to be seen. What does not remain to be seen, though, is that he's ready for his Winter X debut.