U.S. Downhiller Bryon Friedman Undefined

Posted By: The Ski Channel on May 4, 2009 5:12 pm

“I always defined myself as a skier,” says Park City native, Bryon Friedman. “But now, I don’t think I’m a skier or a musician; those are just things I like to do.”

And he’s good at those things, too. The U.S. Ski Team downhiller has notched a handful of World Cup top tens, and his recently released second album, Matchstick Memories rolls out of the speakers like a slightly funky lullaby. Yet whether it’s up on the stage or out on the slopes, Friedman is humble and soft-spoken, and lets his talent speak for itself.

Honest and mellow, the athlete also strives to better the world. He and fellow Ski Team veteran Erik Schlopy founded the SFI Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting other athletes, whether through funding for training, travel—even for medical needs. “I like to think I’m looking out for the humanity of the sport and the people participating in it,” Friedman says.

“You find purpose through change, and when I got hurt (Friedman fractured his leg in 2005) it led me to realize we weren’t really that well taken care of,” Friedman adds. “So Schlopy and I started the foundation to take care of people in our footsteps. In our ski community, it’s a great cause.”

Skier, musician, foundation founder. Rockstar. Whatever you call him, Friedman is one cool dude. “It’s funny to hear how people introduce you,” he says, on defining his identity. “The biggest thing that I learned is that my dad said you should always do what you love. If you can make a living doing what you love you’ll always be happy.”

Fine words from a fine artist. However you call him. As another artist once said, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”


 The Ski Channel Q and A:

TSC: What’s your first World Cup memory?

BF: I remember watching the World Cup in Park City on Willy’s Run when I was a little kid. I was 10 or 11, and Jeremy Nobis was racing. He put his head through a panel at the second to last gate and crashed. But he was doing really well until then. He came from Park City as well. We had the same coach, so it was really cool.

TSC: OK, what’s your best World Cup memory?

BF: My first time I raced Kitzbuhel. It’s the ‘One.’

It’s the race you’d always dreamed about fearing, because everyone else feared it. And then you get to see it, and it’s a formidable opponent. And then I threw myself down it and made it happen. It was really amazing, with all the people there…

It taught you what the sport was about. My old coach Johno McBride said, “This is why you ski race.” And it was. It all made sense.

TSC: What’s your favorite color?

BF: Green.

TSC: Who was or is your skiing idol?

BF: Marc Giradelli: He was just a stud. You hear about how hard he worked and how many injuries he overcame, skiing for Luxembourg because he didn’t want to go through the Austrian system… He did it well, and was well respected.

I wanted to emulate his style.

TSC: Did you have a mentor?

BF: Dean Nicholas. He was my mentor. When I was 15, he saved me from getting a cortisone injection in my knee. He guided me to make better health decisions on my own. We developed a strong relationship. He studied skiing and the mechanics of it more than anyone I’d ever met.

Dean’s a Romanian immigrant—he defected from Romania during the Iron Curtain days, came to the States not speaking a word of English. He had a PhD in Engineering and came here to ski.

He was an athlete, too, and was on the Romanian National Team for gymastics. But he and his wife came over and they loved skiing. He knew how to analyze the sport and taught me how to look for different things and how to be my own coach.

He didn’t have kids. I met him through the Park City Ski Team. He somehow became affiliated with them. He worked with Schlopy, too.

I still see him every now and then. He lives in Salt Lake.

TSC: When did you first pick up the guitar?

BF: When I was seventeen, one of my friend’s moms had a guitar lying around. A nylon string, classical guitar. She lent it to me and I never gave it back. I think I still have it.

I taught myself and learned a few chords from friends, and was mesmerized by it.

TSC: Did it help with your skiing?

BF: It wasn’t a supplement but it helped give me a break and some balance. I had something to do to express my feelings for that day.

TSC: What inspired you to write your first song?

BF: Love inspired me.

TSC: So, any funny travel stories?

BF: Yeah, lots.

TSC: Can you tell us one?

BF: This year, actually, I got delayed. I was supposed to go from Calgary to Munich for a Europa Cup and had no coach or technician. It was just me. I barely made my connection—I was the last person on the flight in Calgary, and got stuck in Atlanta for 24 hours.

So I rolled into Munich around 8 AM and there was a training run that day. I rented a car, and called an Australian buddy who said the race was delayed. But still, there seemed like there was no way I was going to make that training run. But then I found out it was delayed another half hour.

I got there, changed in the parking lot, took my skis out… I had to sneak onto the lift because I didn’t yet have a ticket and I barely had enough time to scrape my skis at the start.  That was a little kid maneuver. And I hadn’t inspected the course either. It was a downhill, so I went and skied a downhill without knowing where I was going.

It was not fine.

I missed a gate and was completely confused. But I made it there.

TSC: What’s your favorite part about the World Cup tour?

BF:  It’s often mistaken that it’s all about the race, but my favorite part is the relationships I’ve made with guys from around the world and guys I’ve shared experiences with.

TSC: What’s your favorite ski area?

BF: St. Anton. It’s huge and you couldn’t ski the same run twice if you wanted to. I had a really great experience there. Just an epic powder day… I hear the nightlife isn’t bad there, too. Allegedly…

TSC: So, back to the music. Were you more nervous playing your first concert or skiing a World Cup?

BF: I don’t remember my first concert, actually. I was more nervous for my first World Cup. It was in my hometown in Park City. I slept in my own bed which was awesome, but I was super nervous and excited. I was 22.

TSC: Are there any hidden gem ski areas you like?

BF: June Mtn. I’ve never skied there, though. Just heard it was cool.

In Utah, we have Powder Mountain. It’s pretty good. It’s a little mountain here that always has powder, and it’s off the beaten path.

TSC: If there was one person dead or alive you could take a run with, who would it be? Assuming they could ski, of course.

BF: I’d probably want to take someone musically inclined. Bob Marley—that would be f’ing awesome. From the years 1968 to 1974… The early years of Marley—in lieu of the Jamaican Ski Team…

TSC: If you had a motto what would it be? 

BF: Try anything twice. I’ll try anything twice because what if it just wasn’t good the first time?

TSC: If you had a mascot what would it be?

BF: A dog. ‘Cause my nickname is ‘Freedog.’

TSC: If you had a mascot what would it be? Just kidding.

TSC: What’s your goal as a musician?

BF: To always improve and become a better player. To always be fascinated by learning new music, to play new music. To have that love forever, because without it, it wouldn’t be fun.

TSC: Last but not least, and so very importantly, if you had your own garage, what would we find in there?

BF: You’d definitely find surfboards, a nice workspace for skis… You gotta have the ability to wax ‘em up.

Spare tires.


photo: USSA

text: LR