Q and A: U.S. Freestyle Ski Team Star Mike Morse Dishes on Chile, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Life on the World Cup Tour

Posted By: The Ski Channel on August 26, 2009 11:37 am

Dark horse? Relative new guy? A really nice guy. Who is this guy? Call him what you want but the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s Mike Morse is a force to be reckoned with. The 28 year-old mogul skier has battled his way through injuries and the U.S. Ski Team’s maze-like selection process to solidify his place on the World Cup Freestyle tour. His 2008 National Championship wins (both in the single and dual moguls events) further cemented his spot, and a consistent run of World Cup top tens and a podium last season made him the real deal. OK, so you can call him that: The Real Deal.

The U.S. Freestyle Ski Team mogul specialists are currently skiing in El Colorado, Chile and the Ski Channel had a chance to catch up with Mike Morse to get the skinny on their summer training, and also what it’s like to be Mike.


TSC: You grew up outside of Boston… How did you get into skiing?

MM: That would be my parents. They’re both skiers and actually met skiing in Austria, in Kitzbuhel. They would go skiing on the weekends, and when my brother and I came along that’s how it started.

TSC: OK, well then why Freestyle? And furthermore, why moguls?

MM: I was skiing around Killington with my family and someone approached my parents and asked if I wanted to join the training program. I went into the racing program…for half a day. Yeah, it wasn’t that great. That same afternoon I enrolled in the freestyle program. And at Killington, we only had moguls.

TSC: Tell us about your first World Cup. Were you nervous?

MM: That would be Lake Placid (Whiteface) and I earned my starts through the U.S. Ski Team selection events. So I skied Placid, Deer Valley and I did pretty poorly at Placid.

I’m sure I was nervous. It’s been my dream to ski World Cups since I was 12 or 13. One of my goals had been reached.

TSC: And last season, you notched your first podium. What was that like?

MM: That was in Norway and it was super exciting. I’d had a pretty consistent year up to that point, placing in the top seven at the past four World Cups. So it was always pretty close. I’d have just a couple mistakes that would keep me off the podium. For example, in Cypress, at the Olympic test event, I went a little slow.

The week before Norway, we competed in Sweden. I actually skied OK there and didn’t get the results I was hoping for. And then I had a good run in Norway and it happened.

TSC: So, how did you celebrate?

MM: When I was younger we had a Norwegian exchange student stay with us. He’s a journalist, now, so was there at the World Cup. My parents also flew out to see him and me, so I got to hang out with them afterward.

The typical Norwegian sheep’s head dinner was going on but we didn’t take part. It was cool that they were there for my podium, though. 

TSC: So now you’re in Chile. How’s it going?

MM: We’re in El Colorado, which is two hours outside of Santiago. Basically, in the middle of nowhere… The road back to Santiago is gnarly, so once we’re here, we stay.

It’s been good so far, though. It’s snowed six or seven feet since we’ve been here. That made it a little tough, actually. The weather hasn’t been cooperating. We built a mogul course and it got buried on our second day and we had to rebuild it. We finally had good training days, though.

We’re on three-day ski cycles, and head home on August 31.

TSC: Are you getting to have any fun off the hill?

MM: Honestly, we have nothing going on here. We ski until 3:30, work out, eat dinner, check the internet and go to bed. There’s also a little bit of ping-pong mixed in there. They do have ping-pong tables in Chile.

TSC: Had you already been on snow this summer, before Chile?

MM: I was in Australia a week before I came here for a warm-up. I’ve been doing some new jumps so I wanted t get those out of the way.  

TSC: What’s your big new trick?

MM: A back flip with a mute grab throughout. Though I did a daffy today just to make sure I could still do one.

TSC: Nice. So, you’d mentioned that while in Chile you like to work on some facial hair, too. You’re growing a mustache?

MM: Well, last year I grew one and it turned out to be pretty gross. This year I’m going through the whole three weeks without shaving. But I have the facial hair of a 14 year-old so it’s not much. This is the only place I can get away with doing that.

TSC: Aside from the ability to sport natural Halloween costumes, what do you love most about being on the USFST?

MM: Many things I suppose. The lifestyle is pretty hard to beat. You get to travel the world and ski for a living. I can’t think of anything better that I’d rather be doing.

I also love the pursuit of the goal of getting to the Olympics, and skiing well there.

TSC: You pretty much nailed your spot on the Ski Team when you won Nationals for both singles and duals in 2008. Did you expect to win?

MM: I think I always expect to do well. And at that point, I had skied Nor-Ams (events which are a level below World Cup). I dislocated my shoulder earlier that year before the World Cups, so I ended up skiing Nor-Ams the rest of the year, which was super frustrating. When it came to Nationals, I just talked myself into doing well at the event.

I think I had to talk myself up. The year before the Olympics, it’s super important to be skiing World Cups. So I had to make sure I got there.

TSC: So, where’s your favorite ski resort or stop on the World Cup Tour?

MM: Favorite World Cup location? I actually really like going to Lake Placid in spite of the fact that it’s usually minus 20 when we compete there.

I love competing in Europe… My favorite place to go is Zermatt. We head back there to ski on September 30. I really like the town. It’s your picturesque ski town and the training is good for us as well.

My favorite mountain, though, is Killington. I grew up skiing there and love going back to visit.

TSC: You’ve been living in Steamboat, though. What made you choose the ‘Boat as your home?

MM: I’ve been in Steamboat for six years, now. I moved there because they had really good training facilities and I have friends who live there. I knew I wanted to move somewhere out west and I’d been there when I was ten. I remembered liking it a lot, so in 2003 I decided to drive out.

I meant to only stay for the summer, but I liked it so much I decided to stay.

I’ve really liked Park City, too. (Morse spent two months living and training in Park City this year, and will return for another month in September.)

TSC: OK, so, switching gears: Do you have any interesting travel stories?

MM: I’m going to let you down. I mean, other than airports losing my equipment for weeks at a time…

TSC: Wait, weeks?

MM: I flew through Paris and they lost all my stuff. That was in December.

TSC: Wow. Switching gears again, who are or have been your mentors? Or idols, those are good, too.

MM: Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m just a big Schwarzenegger fan. Have you seen Pumping Iron? I recommend that.

Also, (2002 Olympic silver medalist) Travis Mayer has been sort of a mentor. When I moved to Steamboat, we trained together. He’s extremely successful but we had a good time training together and I learned a lot from him.

TSC: Who would you love to take a run with, if you could?

MM: Maybe two people: Alive, I’m going to take a run with Arnold because I know that he skis and that would be fun. If I was going to ski with someone for moguls it would be Sergei Shupletsov. I grew up watching his skiing. For my generation he was the model of how to ski.

TSC: Speaking of legendary skiing, what’s next for you?

MM: For now, I’m going to finish up this training block going into the first World Cup. The plan is to go the Olympics and ski well and see what I can do. After that, I don’t know for sure.

I have to finish my undergrad degree but have a year and a half left. I went to Northeastern and UVM, but I don’t know if I’m going back there. The Ski Team has a program at Westminster, which offers free tuition. Free college is hard to pass up.

But now I’m trying to put 100% into skiing, so I’ll think about that later when the time comes. For now it’s just skiing.

photos: USSA