Action sports are a strange beast. Every few years, someone inevitably pulls a trick that nobody -- nobody -- thought possible. Minds are blown, history is made and the bar is officially raised. Then, sure enough, the trick is replicated and restyled by another rider, and before long, what started as a game changer becomes yet another requirement for playing the game at the highest level.
But then you have Sammy Carlson and the switch triple flip he pulled Monday at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Carlson had planned on hosting his own contest over the weekend, but Mother Nature refused to cooperate. Carlson, in turn, refused to be discouraged. Never one to let a beautifully crafted jump go to waste, Carlson organized a private photo and film shoot for the riders who stuck around, and during the shoot he landed the mother of all tricks: a switch triple rodeo 1260. Did we say landed? We mean stomped.
Yes, there has been a lot of talk about "triples" of late, and yes, Bobby Brown might have pulled one off in Alaska earlier this year. No matter. What's important is that this one trick ups the ante in a major way, even if Carlson sees it more as a personal accomplishment than a guaranteed contest winner. In other words, this trick completely changes what was (just a few months ago) thought possible on a pair of skis. ESPN Freeskiing caught up with Carlson shortly after he landed the triple to see where his head is.
ESPN.com: You just released the first triple flip on film and, to my knowledge, the first switch triple flip ever. How does that feel?
Sammy Carlson: It feels super cool. It's been a lot of commitment to get to this point, so it feels really rewarding. All the hard work, dedication, time and energy I've put into skiing has taken me to this point. Getting to this new level is a trip -- I never thought I'd do three flips ever in my life. It makes me feel like I can do anything as long as I focus and put some time and energy towards it.
Take us through what it took to land this thing.
I've been working so hard for the last couple of years with all my tricks, just spending lots of time on the hill doing them all day, over and over again. And also spending time off the hill working out and being strong. It's been on my mind for a long time. I tried to stay true to myself and committed to doing it. Dropping in [Monday] and knowing I was going to do it was unreal. I had to wait three days for the weather to clear, and trying to keep calm during that time was so hard.
Can you describe the rotation?
It's like a switch rodeo five into, like, coming around with my left shoulder square to the landing, and then flipping over my right shoulder, lincoln loop, kinda. And then the last one was true flatspin.
What does it feel like to drop in on something so monumental for you and for skiing?
I wasn't scared. I was ready. I just knew I needed to commit. I was scared more before I left my house in the morning. I didn't want to leave before I knew I was ready, so when I left my house it was on. I stayed calm. When I dropped I knew I had it, that this would be the moment. Everything felt right and exactly how I visualized it, which is the coolest feeling. And then all the people I had up there to share the moment with made it that much better, my friends and sick skiers who inspire me.
Was this a relief after the weather on Hood gave your inaugural contest the proverbial middle finger?
Yes. We had two epic days of shooting after my contest got postponed due to bad weather. One day we had a helicopter and both days we had epic sunsets as the backdrop. People will be able to see what went down in "Revolver" from Poor Boyz Productions this fall and right here, right now.
Was attempting the triple your endgame as you prepared for and put together your contest?
Yeah. I was lucky to get a chance to build my own jump. I worked with Kyle Bradley from Timberline, and then Windells and all my sponsors were super helpful with the whole project. I can't thank them enough. They provided an opportunity to build a huge jump exactly how I wanted it. It was big enough to provide enough airtime for the triple, and that was definitely my goal in building it. And I just feel good now. Everything on my list for myself in skiing for this season has been checked off, and I'm moving forward with a lot of energy for next season.
How big would you say the jump was?
The jump was 110 feet from take off to knuckle.
Bobby Brown allegedly landed a triple in Alaska a couple months ago. He seems to think that the triple will not be as ubiquitous as doubles are in skiing now, because the situation for them has to be so specific. What do you say to that?
Yeah, I agree. There is no way anyone is going to do a triple flip over a 60-foot tabletop. You need a lot of hang time. But who knows? I just proved anything is possible on skis, so who knows where we go from here? I didn't do the triple thinking about a contest or anything like that. I did it for me. I wanted to feel it one time, because I was sure I could do it. It means a lot to me, not only for skiing but more for my life. It was one of the most rewarding feelings I've ever had, even compared to an X Games medal.
Sounds like the year of Sammy Carlson has just begun?
Yep. And I'm focused. I'm going on a cross-country bike ride starting tomorrow -- gonna get stronger than ever right now. Everything's going as planned, dude. I'm gonna take a little break from skiing right now. Get real strong. Let my body heal up and then come back on fire.