When Tom Wallisch left his native Pittsburgh for college in Salt Lake City in 2006, he was a skiing nobody. But thanks to his park-rat work ethic, some You Tube videos, and a style that Bobby Brown calls "flawless," his anonymity didn't last long. The kid who grew up skiing weekends in Maryland quickly established himself as one of America's top park skiers. Now 23 and two semesters away from graduating college, Wallisch has won major slopestyle events from the Winter Dew Tour to the Dumont Cup to the European X Games. We caught up with Wallisch on the tail end of a month at Mt. Hood to talk about triple flips versus doubles, the world's most creative skier and what defines an innovator. In his words:
I think really good style isn't something you can work on. It's more repetition. People who I feel like they have really good style, they've done all the tricks so many times that their level of comfort in the air is so fluid and comfortable, it looks like that's what they're meant to do. I think that just comes from a lot of practice, working to get every arm in place and every hand where it needs to be, no flailing.
I hope we never see a quadruple flip. I think even triple flips are kind of pushing it. I wouldn't say it's impossible, but I'd say it's pretty ludicrous. My stance on the whole thing is I feel there's still a lot more to be done on the double side of things and everyone's pushing too quickly for more flipping rather than uniqueness and grabs and unnatural spinning. I feel it's gone from a spin-to-win contest to who can flip the most. Instead of: who can do all four direction doubles, and up to 12 and 14.
I haven't tried a triple yet. I haven't found a jump good enough that I'd like to do one on, and there's still a lot of doubles I want to do first. We only started doing double corks because we'd pretty much done all the single cork tricks. I feel there's no reason to push into triples until we've done all the doubles, and there's still countless doubles left.
I'm a pretty good B average [student]. 3.1, 3.2, getting by. It's not easy to do with all the traveling, but Cs get degrees, that's all my mom ever says. If I get through it, I get through it, right?
We had seven kids living in a seven-bedroom house on University Street before we got kicked out. Kind of our own little ski frat going on -- not as lame as a normal frat, just a bunch of ski homies. It was easy; you'd find at least five people going up to the mountain every day.
Most creative skier? I'd say ... I don't know ... I guess for each discipline, there are different ones. Like the urban scene, Will Wesson is one of the most absurdly creative, insane people I've seen. In the park, Mike Hornbeck and all kinds of other guys who don't have the comp results, come up with things that are totally different than anyone else. And Bobby. He's an innovator in all technical park jumping, because it's unbelievable how damn good he is at landing and going upside down for insane amounts of time and just knowing where he is. In the backcountry, Sammy, Sean Pettit, lots of people are doing unique stuff, like our style, backcountry freestyle.
An innovator doesn't have to be doing anything in particular, just something that other people aren't doing. It's crazy how many people out there are so bored of seeing the same things that other skiers have done, that they just come up with all these crazy ideas.
I want my skiing to make people want to get out and ski. That's definitely one of the coolest things to have kids say to me that my videos or this edit that they watched made them switch from snowboarding or made them want to get in the park more or try this trick.
What'll win X Games big air in five years? I'm sure it'll be a triple. And I'm hoping it's a triple with a tail grab, because that'd be real tight. How about: Forward triple cork 16, right-hand tail grab. Yeah. That's gonna be winning. For sure.