Right now Chris Booth is in Wanaka, New Zealand, waiting for the World Heli Challenge to start. It's a rare moment of repose for the Australian freeskier, who in the last seven months took fifth at the Red Bull Linecatcher in France, traveled around Europe to film the webisode series Rip Raw, and visited Alaska and British Columbia before heading home to complete another semester toward his law degree. ESPN Freeskiing caught up with Booth to talk Kiwi club fields, career plans, and Olympic temptation.
You just spent at week at the New Zealand club field Temple Basin. How was it?
It was a very earthy and Kiwi experience. It was a good idea too, in hindsight, because [the World Heli Challenge] asks you to ski really aggressively in really big mountains and you need to adjust to that. You can't go up there and feel comfortable without having spent a fair bit of time in the lead up. So that's why I went [to Temple Basin] and it was exactly how I thought it might be. It was big and steep and I did some climbs, got my ice axe out and all that cool stuff.
You plan to finish your law degree at the end of 2012. Should we expect a career change at that time?
I'd like to do something that allows me to have the money to ski and have enough time to do it. That's going to be my next challenge, I suppose, but I'll always be contributing to this sport in some way or another at a more senior level -- organizing things, going on trips, helping out young people. I'll never give it away and I'll never step away from it entirely, despite whatever I do in the legal world.
When I've interviewed you at backcountry freestyle competitions like Red Bull Linecatcher, you always talk up the younger or less well-known skiers and share the spotlight. Why?
Every competitor at an event like that is somebody who has been talented at ski racing or moguls or even in the halfpipe or slopestyle, where there's a set up program of events and sponsorship and even Olympic credibility. And all of those people have deferred on all of those things to follow what they think is the ultimate challenge and what makes them the happiest. It's not people who crave spotlight attention, sponsorship, or money. And it's at this part of the sport that you find people who are closest to the core values of why we do it in the first place.
You've been sponsored since you were 13, starting out in park and pipe comps. Now you're a big-mountain skier, but is there a temptation to go back now that those sports are in the Olympics?
At the time, park skiing was exploding -- that's where all the best athletes, money and excitement were. I was naturally drawn to it and it opened the door to becoming a pro skier. But I never grew up skiing park and I just did it because that was the way up. I have always had a desire to ski big mountain terrain, and I have always believed that to be a much more engaging and sustainable pursuit. I thought about it for a long time, and it was tempting at moments, but in the end I arrived at the realization that the only reason I would do it is to be able to tell people that I once went to the Olympics, and they would be impressed by that and think I was special. I have never sought mainstream recognition from skiing in that way, never compromised on the way I choose to do it, and that's why I still love it after 10 years as a pro.
Your webisodes Rip Raw came out this summer. What drew you to this project, and what did you learn from the experience?
The Rip Raw series, which is presented by Rip Curl, was a concept that longtime friend and producer Rob Norman and myself had discussed for years. Wouldn't it be cool, we thought, to have a project that is 100 percent our own to work toward? The feedback we received was really positive. I am now convinced that this is the most effective method of getting your stuff our there: You have full control, genuine contribution and immediate feedback. It connects what you do with people who love to see it.