World Champion Ryan St. Onge Tells All

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 23, 2009 2:20 pm

It’s been a long time coming, and U.S. Freestyle Ski Team aerialist Ryan St. Onge is on fire. With two World Cup wins this season, the 2009 World Championship gold, and recently, the 2009 U.S. National title in tow, St. Onge spills to the Ski Channel about his World Championship win, jumping in a kimono, and sailing around the world.

TSC: Walk us through the 2009 World Championships, and tell us how it felt to win the aerials gold!

St. Onge: Going into the competition, I’d won two World Cups already this season. And I knew I could win. It wasn’t necessarily my goal, and I didn’t try to win. Really I was thinking about doing two good, safe, well-jumped quadruple-twisting triple-back flips. I was shooting for a podium performance. And then I was really surprised.

My first jump, I was too fast, and had a big takeoff. I had to stretch as much as I could to land it. After that I was thinking OK, there goes the two good, safe jumps idea. It was ridiculously unsafe! So for my second jump, I stuck with my plan, and did a very nice, very safe, double-full, full, full. Except I did it really well! Everything about it was tighter, and the twisting timing came together. I landed it and skied away. Even so, I still wasn’t positive that I won. I knew Steve (Omischl, of Canada) could do a great second jump, and he was the last guy after me. And he did a really nice double-full, full, full, too, and it was really close, for sure. So my win was a surprise for me.

TSC: How did you celebrate your World Championship win?

St. Onge: After Worlds, I went home and went to bed! And then Speedy came and got me around 11:30, and said, “You have to come out; we’re having so much fun!” So, I put on my kimono, my helmet, boots and skis, went to the bar, and said, “I’m going water ramping!”

Right next to the hotel they have water ramps, where the Japanese train in the summer. But somehow, the pool had water, and somehow, it wasn’t frozen. So we rounded up some shovels, and cleared the ramps. I looked up, and two more people came out with boots and kimonos on. The whole bar then emptied. Scotty Bahrke, myself and Andreas Isoz, a Swiss kid just started water ramping. And everyone watched. It was the some of the coldest water I’ve ever been in!

TSC: Were you wearing anything else?

St. Onge: Haha. Nope. Nothing under the kimono.

TSC: Your parents have been long supporters of Freestyle. Were they in Japan to watch the World Championships?

St Onge: No. Actually, for so many years, they weren’t there, because they were sailing around the world. Before they left, though, they came to almost every competition, but once they set sail, they showed up when they could. This year, both my mom and dad came to so many events, including the Deer Valley World Cup.

TSC: You’re close with your parents. How did they influence you and your skiing?

St. Onge: They don’t subscribe to the work ‘til you die philosophy. When they have to make money, they do it as quickly as possible.

They’re the best role models I’ve ever had in my life. When they have a dream and they want something, or when they try to do something, they don’t let anything get in their way. It doesn’t matter what they want to do. When they want something, they go do it. I think that influenced me. It’s been a positive influence on me for sure.

TSC: How did your family’s love of sailing influence your life?

St. Onge: The whole family lived on a sailboat when I was 8. We sailed the Caribbean. Then in 2000, both my parents took a trip around the world. Chad (brother) and I met them at certain places. They were gone for seven years, and we’d visit them for about a month or two at a time. Usually, I’d do a month in the spring and a month in the fall.

TSC: You’re so well traveled! What’s your favorite place in the world?

St. Onge: I can’t pick a favorite place for sure. There are so many cool places! Every place had bad things and good things attached to it. But even the bad things are good things.

TSC: What’s your best World Cup memory?

St. Onge: Getting cocktails in Ovindoli (Italy). I was just 17!

TSC: What’s your first World Cup memory?

St. Onge: My earliest World Cup memory is actually when I went up to Breckenridge when I was little, and watching Trace (Worthington) and Fuzz (Kris Fedderson) boost huge aerials. They also signed a poster for me.

TSC: You’re now one of the veterans. Do you have any funny travel stories from the Tour?

St.Onge: Well, we have a rule. The rule is that from zero to 24 hours of travel, you can make fun of people, and mess with them. But from the 24th to the 30th hour, you have to be the nicest person possible. But then at 30 hours of travel, it doesn’t matter anymore, because everyone is so over-tired. So you can do whatever you want again. It’s mostly just the aerialists who follow this rule.

TSC: OK, give us an example of the Rule:

St. Onge: You’re switching to your third airplane and have to recheck your luggage, and it’s hour 29 and a half. You really just want to bump someone’s cart and knock off all of their luggage, but you can’t because you have to wait an hour.

TSC: Do you free-ski at all at any of the stops?

St. Onge: Usually, I don’t bring my skis, but if it’s a place known for snow, like CO, or Alberta or BC, I’ll throw a nice pair of skis in my bag. But not, you know, for downtown Moscow.

TSC: What has been your most memorable World Cup?

St. Onge: Well, Deer Valley has had the ranking of being just the best World Cup ever, and this year, I’d say Moscow. It wasn’t necessarily better than DV, but it was amazing.

The crowd had about 60 thousand people! There were many people, fireworks, a rock concert, and they did such an excellent job on the site.

Last year, in Moscow, I could count at least 15 places where you could fall off the ramp to your death. Even when walking the stairs you had to hang on. It makes everything a little bit scarier! But this year, it was unbelievable. The ramp was wider, longer, had better snow. You could still slip out of the net if you wanted to, but it was really, really great.

TSC: What’s your favorite ski area?

St. Onge: I like to rip the bumps, so I ski Winter Park, mostly. They’ve got the nicest moguls in the entire world. I like Mary Jane. Winter Park has two separate mountains, and Mary Jane has mostly moguls and is a little bit steeper.

TSC: Are there any scenic chairlifts or gondolas that stand out to you?

St. Onge: No. Haha.

TSC: You met President Obama before he was elected! How was that?

St. Onge: He’s a really nice guy. We got to shake hands, take a picture… It was after one of his election fundraisers, so when he finished up, we were standing in the kitchen and he came over and met with us.

TSC: Do you have any favorite après ski hangouts?

St. Onge: I usually just go home and go to bed.

TSC: So, 2010. Have you started your ‘Olympic prep,’ yet?

St. Onge: I’ve been thinking about the Olympics since I realized I was going for another one in 2006. I’ve been building my plan directly around the Games. That’s a benefit of our sport, actually. We get a major event every four years to plan cycles around, whereas in the NBA and NFL they have to go hard every year. But we can have learning years, and constructive years. After 2006, I shifted focus straight away to 2010. So my plan has been in the works, for four years, now.

TSC: You’re a traditional freestyler, and were once combined (skiing moguls, aerials and acro/ballet). Does your background help your jumping?

St. Onge: Being a combined skier totally helps. It’s incredibly advantageous. It’s easier for me do to things, like skiing over bumps on the in-run, staying square on a jump, saving my landings… And it’s also safer. I know how to turn my skis at the bottom, so I don’t ski into the fence. I also think I have an additional love for the sport, that a lot of the other gynmnastic skiers don’t have.

TSC: Do you have any role models in the sport?

St. Onge: I’ve got a lot of them. Eric Bergoust (1998 Olympic gold medalist) stands out in my career as someone who inspired me to not just keep jumping, but to make something special out of it, to try to describe myself through my jumps.

And then, I go back to my parents, who are the coolest people ever.


Interview by LR

Photo: USSA/Tom Kelly