Mike Hornbeck on rails and Finland

Mike Hornbeck went all the way to Finland last year to shoot handrails with Level 1. Here's an exclusive, behind-the-scenes edit from that trip, the first of a series of four edits Level 1 is producing for ESPN. Recently, we spoke to Hornbeck about winches, his trip to Scandinavia and the future of urban skiing.

ESPN: Finland seems like a long way to travel for handrails. What gives?
I used to hate hearing about people going overseas to hit handrails. It didn't make sense to me growing up in the Midwest. Going to Finland last year was wild because I didn't know what to expect — turns out it really is one of the best places to go because you have time and the terrain in the city is ideal.

Word is some new tools have opened up a lot of new possibilities in urban skiing. What's up with those?
A winch or bungee will get you more speed into a feature without having to hike up a drop-in. That extra speed allows you to hit a lot more features a lot of different ways.

Do you always use those instead of a drop-in now?
I really like features that you don't need anything extra to hit — the ones you can just ski into. If there isn't a natural in-run, I like to use a winch. I only used a drop-in ramp once last year. I try to avoid a drop-in at all costs. I hate setting it up and then hiking up it.

Are you going back to Finland again someday? After so many crews have gone there, is there still any good stuff left?
If a trip comes up that I can make it on I would go back for sure. When I was there we had something to hit every day, which is productive. People have been there, but everyone has [his] own eye. The more you are out there the more you know what's possible and what's not.

It seems like rails get more technical all the time. How tech can it get?
Sometimes watching rails makes my head start to hurt. Tornado spins can be cool, but not on everything. There is a lot more that needs to be done in rail skiing. I think of it this way: If you are hitting a double kink what is going to be harder, a switch up on the kink or a nosepress through the kink?

Where do you see urban going in the future? Hopefully it goes every which way: Tech, creative, gnarly, etc. I hope people keep doing exactly what they want, regardless of whether others think it's "in" or "out." Otherwise we all look the same. Nowadays the park features are so good that it's hard to leave that perfect setup. Where I came from we never had the option. It was a PVC tube on the ground or you go find down rails, kinked rails, jumps, etc. Hopefully people stick with it because they love it, not just because it makes them well rounded and they can squeeze in a few rails before the next big contest.

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