“I’m Matt and I currently ski for a living.”
How would you explain SLVSH to a weekend warrior? And what about a die hard freeskier?
Weekend warrior: We play H.O.R.S.E. with ski tricks. One guy does a backflip, the other guy must also do a backflip on the same jump, and if he falls, he gets a letter. First to 5 letters loses.
Die hard freeskier: We don’t know how hard a trick is for you, no one does. Just set a trick you want and see if the other guy can do it, too. Besides, judging technicality and style leads to, at best, confusion, but probably just monotony, rules, more FIS, and less private money in skiing.
Data is beautiful. Would you care to share some of your numbers with our readers? How many people is SLVSH reaching?
Less than Facebook, haha.
But more than say Freeskier?
I’d say they are comparable, websites only. We probably get more during a Slvsh Cup, they probably get more during contest season. But, Freeskier’s focus is a print magazine, so there is a lot of reach there. Our print game is lacking severely, haha. But, the fact you even asked that question means we must be doing something right.
So, we know riders and fans are stoked. What about sponsors and advertisers?
So far it’s been tough. What few logos and mountains you’ve seen on Slvsh channels are companies or resorts who see the value and have helped us out, so big thanks to them.
We are still very new, only 18 months old. Also, we are a new concept, for skiing, not many ski companies are familiar with a website that creates and hosts most of its own content. Also, not many companies are familiar with a BATB-type of contest. Hopefully, we can convince someone soon, as the numbers are there.
Do us a favor and keep watching and sharing the videos on our site 😉
Has social media changed skiing?
Yes. The ability for a person to instantly reach tens or hundreds of thousands of people, every day, changes the game.
I miss the time when you didn’t hear from a skier the entire season and then were blown away by their segment come September, but those days appear to be over. Movie sales are down, online full part video views are down and social media numbers are growing quickly. Skiers must tell their stories daily or weekly to stay relevant.
But, it’s also awesome because there are so many different channels now. If your story is good enough, you can reach so much more people outside of skiing than you could five years ago. Individuals also don’t need to necessarily go through intermediaries (TV, Magazines, etc) to tell their stories.
What’s it like having such a dedicated, growing fanbase?
It makes me happy to see that people enjoy it and makes us want to keep going.
I think it says something about a desire for simplicity and relatability in skiing. People can easily find great video pieces by their favorite skiers and producers. Our SLVSH games usually feature a wide variety of tricks that young ski fans could fathom themselves doing. The games and instabangers make their favorite pro skiers more relatable and show some of their personality. And, it makes contest skiing simpler, he got the trick or he didn’t. That is very easy to follow, even for non-hardcore ski fans. At least one of these concepts appears to be sticking with people.
Why don’t skiers openly discuss their contracts?
Because they are told not to.
Whether or not that means they actually have NDA’s in their contracts, I don’t know. But, they are scared they will get dropped or they will offend someone. It would be interesting if everybody started talking at once.
Ok, while we are on the it’s-never-going-to-happen train, I would rather see companies and national team’s balance sheets. I’m very curious to see if the Great Recession, or bad snow years, or whatever it is, hurt companies as much as they say, or if they are trying to invest in other things while still profiting off skiers.
Do you think that’s an issue?
I think the sport will become smaller and more boring if the people who are making money off it don’t see it as a good place to also invest their money back into. Producers could make the argument that it is more of a consumer problem, in that ski fans buy gear regardless of if that company is supporting skiing, or not, so why would they invest into events/teams/projects if they don’t see a return. Which is a very, very valid point.
As for individuals, I think companies can get away with paying people less than they otherwise could because skiers don’t know what they are comparatively worth. But, that’s on the skiers. There are also skiers who get more than expected, and good for them, their value is subjective and they’ve sold themselves well.
How many dollars did you make from skiing this winter? What are your sponsors giving you?
I made enough to pay for one of my best friends and me to travel the world skiing and filming Slvsh. Neither of us made money, just covered travel expenses and food. Neither of us has houses, we just hop from place to place and try to find as much free accommodation as possible. Air B&B should really start a loyalty program haha. Big shout outs to Joss and the rest of the Slvsh crew for helping out, also the absurd number of friend’s couches, beds and floors we’ve stayed on.
I’d like to give the biggest shout out to Rockstar though, without them, Slvsh would not be possible and I’d be in grad school probably.
You’re right in the middle of the #slvshcupsunsetpark. How’s it going so far? Do you have a favourite match from the first round?
It’s going well. Weather is a bit interesting but the guys are killing it. I really like Joona and Magnus from round 1. Colby vs Alex Hall was nuts, that dropped yesterday. There are some fantastic games in later rounds, though.
Where’s the next Slvsh Cup going to be? Where else would you love to host the tournament?
We don’t know yet. Perisher was amazing last year, so hopefully that happens again. The setup needed is not crazy, our costs are not high and our traffic is great, so maybe a hill will like the format and want to work with us. But, we don’t have any concrete plans yet.
Are there any other events / projects you’re stoked on?
Creation Nation by the Bunch is awesome, great vibes and tons of creative skiers. BnE is a cool format, trannies, style-based, rider judged. Absolut Spring battle is nice, too, that is a Run n’ Gun style event in Austria.
But really anything that isn’t regulated by FIS and national teams, I’m a fan of.
We’ll take it you’re not a fan of FIS? Why not? What are your thoughts on the AFP, who claim to be the voice of freeskiing? Who or what would you call the actual voice of freeskiing?
AFP is a great idea, but it needs capital to put on it’s own events. Slope and pipe skiers seem to want a world tour, or at least bigger, better events. But, you need money to create events on the same level as Dew, X, World Cups, etc. All of those events can all easily make a website that ranks the riders on their tours, that isn’t hard. The hard part is actually creating the events or a tour that riders are stoked on, making a profit, and expanding it into something bigger. I truly hope the AFP gets money and makes a world tour because most of the people that run AFP are skiers and I think they would run a tour better than X, Dew and FIS currently do.
As for FIS, I’m not the biggest fan, and I’d guess the reason is their passion. FIS loves racing and cross-country skiing because the people that run FIS are ex-racers and cross country skiers. FIS is a business and they want to make money, and park skiing is cool, so, they host slope and pipe events which draw young eyeballs. But, when they make money off a park skiing event, it doesn’t go back into park skiing, it goes to better races or FIS/National Team bosses’ pockets. So, if the park skiers have no money, they can’t go out and create what they want to see, not to mention they struggle to travel to contests and living in general. Look at skateboarding, sure, some skaters haven’t created yet, like Nyah. But without money, Dyrdek wouldn’t have been able to create Street League, Berra/Koston couldn’t have created the Berrics, Rick Howard couldn’t have created Girl Distribution and skateboarding would be way smaller and lamer today.
Big private money was in skiing for a while and Jon, Sammy, Dumont, etc created events or companies, but none of them, except for maybe Douchebags, have stuck around, and none of the events proved successful enough to stick. Shout out Sterbenz for 4FRNT, Julien Carr for Discrete and Belanger for D-Structure though, go buy their gear. However, that list is small, if we can keep the money that free skiing creates in the hands of people that love and know skiing, not racing, then the chances are better that more respected, successful companies and events will be created in skiing. The idea that racers who barely understand our sport are going to create exactly what we want for us is naive.
But, FIS isn’t going to just go away, park skiing is in the Olympics. It’s on skiers, while there is still a tiny bit of private money in skiing, to create brands that are respected in skiing, and events that are more entertaining for the masses than FIS’s cookie-cutter events. So, skiers, start trying your ideas, and fans, support what you like.
We were stoked to see you guys feature your first female matching this season. Is this something you guys plan on continuing?
We definitely like watching girls push each other and trying new tricks.
I think it comes down to if it’s something people want to see more of. We have very limited resources, and limited time, so if people are demanding girls games, we’ll make them happen. But if people are demanding more Instabangers and games with Tom, Henrik, Candide etc. (and subsequently watching those games more than girl’s games) then we will try and keep the audience happy. Regardless, if we happen to be in a place with two girls who are both killing it, we will get that game.
Who are three ladies crushing it?
Slope, Emma, Kelly, Tiril.
Pipe, Maddie, Cassie and Marie Martinod.
Shoutouts to Coco Ballet Baz, and the whole Diamond Annies crew for hitting street.
And three ladies who are doing their part to get more girls skiing?
That would be the girls who host contests or own their own brands and actually create what they want to see in skiing. There are more than three, but Camilla Berra comes to mind just because she hosted a contest two weeks ago in Switzerland. I’m pretty sure there some girls are getting together and creating their own version of West Coast Session just before WCS, so big ups to them for making it happen. Also, he isn’t a woman, but Nico Zacek has done a lot for women with 9 Queens. There are many more that I’ve forgotten.
Do you have any advice for those scared to stand up for themselves and speak their mind?
I would say talk to people that you trust in-person and see if other people share your feelings or have the same opinion. Chances are some do — chat with them, let your ideas grow, and go from there.
What about to those trying to make a career out of skiing
The number one thing I’d say is that value is subjective. Create things that others find valuable. Whether that’s a video blog that causes everyone to laugh, or doing all four triple corks and getting on ESPN, creating gear that people want, or something else that nobody has done yet, it is irrelevant. Decide what path you want to go, commit 100%, don’t underestimate yourself and don’t sell yourself short.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Major regrets? Right now, no. I’ve been a pro skier for a decade, I’ve made a ton of memories with great friends. I’ve traveled the world and seen 30+ countries. I’m very thankful to say I’ve done more in 27 years than many people will do in a lifetime. I wish I didn’t blow out my shoulder twice, but that is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.
A photo posted by Matt Walker (@matt_walk3r) on