Colby West has always been A sort of phenomena to the ski world. He came into it relatively late in age bringing along his one spin on skiing and his attitude towards it. For me, he was always a guy to watch when the movies came out and see what the hell kinda weird trick or grab did Colby throw now?
His personality was something that stuck out above most peoples earning him as close to a rockstar status lifestyle as a Pro skier can really get, rolling with a crew that weren't shy of thinking that they were possibly "The Shit". From wild parties, to wasted fights, to being surrounded by absolutely gorgeous women of all different nationalities. This pack he ran with truly were living a different side of skiing that isn't so present these days and always fun to hear about. It was an age of wild times and Colby west fit right into the mix.
He became recognized outside of the freeski world for his talent to impersonate voices and just be an all round goofy character which led him to big contracts an opportunities outside of skiing. Let's see what Colby West has been getting into these days.
AD: You hit the scene with a very unique approach to skiing, The Double nose grabs, your switch misty sevens, your helmet with a visor. You definitely stood out amongst the crowd. Where the hell did you come from and why do you think you had this unique approach.
CW: Well, that “unique” stuff sort of happened unintentionally. Switch misty 7s were my thing because I was too scared of catching my tips when I was learning switch tricks. I didn’t even have twin tips when I did my first comp at Waterville. The Khalua Jam, or something. I just sort of slung myself toward the landing because I could see how it might work and it did. I won and the switch misty became my go to trick.
I think I wore the visor because this local dude who I looked up to wore one and Pete Olenick did too. Cool enough for them? Cool enough for me.
As for the dub nose, back at Waterville, Andrew Hathaway and I were dicking around and he started doing double nose grabs off of everything. Like sides of jumps, rails, knolls, and knuckles. I thought it was hilarious, so I joined in and we started trying to see if we could do it with every trick we knew. Then I was at a shoot, my first ever, with Level 1 in Mammoth. Freedle was shooting and I did a switch 7 dub nose or “double tip rocket,” as Hathaway called it, and Freedle said, ”Hey…do that again.” I sort of brushed it off as a goof around thing, but he assured me that it could be cool and unique and told me to hold the grab as long as I could. It was actually an epiphany moment that Freedle gave to me. I wasn’t just emulating cool tricks I had seen done, I was starting to be creative.
Colby West segment 12:00
AD: I also heard a rumor recently that you started skiing extremely late, so you learned extremely quickly, is this true?
CW: Ya, sort of quickly. There was a program for skiing and snowboarding at my school (in New Hampshire) where you could pay like $20 bucks or something and they would take you to the mountain for lessons once a week. My mom use to ski before I was born and said I should try it, so my parents split the cost of some reeeeeal shitty used Elan rental skis. I did both skiing and snowboarding, starting at age 13, I think, but didn’t like the “cool guy” vibes of the snowboarders I knew. The trendiness and attitude came off as insecurity to me, so I stuck with skiing because it was more open and free, in my mind. Freeze Magazine was at full power by then, and the people I met who were skiers were my type of peeps. That Khalua Jam happened when I was 16 and I won a pair of Public Enemies and then just couldn’t get enough after that. Never had to pay for a pair of skis again. Crazy lucky.
AD: I first saw your skiing in Wicked, with a heavy gnarly rock song. Was it your idea for the scary movie style segment and was there a certain message behind it?
CW: In high school I liked heavy metal, hardcore, and punk, and as I mentioned before, I hate trendy shit. Everyone else was skiing in bright colors and I didn’t really fit in with that. They used to call me the Angel of Death at Waterville because I wore only black. I liked it, even though it was contradictory to my actual personality, which is more of a goofy people pleaser. But the look changed when I got some sponsors. Black isn’t so good for photoshoots or sales of ski gear, I guess.
Neil Satirakopolous came outta nowhere and asked me to be in his movie and it couldn’t have been a more obvious fit. A dark and gritty ski movie was perfect for the Angel of Death. We shot my segment in 2 days I think.
Check out minute 22:15
AD: You’ve always had a crazy personality. An Insane ability to mimic accents, and acting. I believe, at one point I remember you talking about how you perfected your voices, and there was a good story behind it. So how did the emergence of all your personalities arise?
CW: I don’t really have a method for perfecting my character stuff and voices. My mom is funny and so I got it from her and I’m sure she and my sister were often annoyed when I was little and mimicking everything. Luke Van Valin says I have over-developed vocal cords, so I just roll with that. Maybe…ADD? That probably helps for the creativity side? I don’t know.
AD: What do you think your favorite segment/year of skiing that you ever had.
CW: When normies ask me what I mean by “pro skier” I usually just show them my segment in the MSP movie where I am singing to Tom Jones, It’s Not Unusual. That segment kind of displays my career in a nutshell. Dicking around, but with skiing I am proud of. It also has a fun story to it. We were staying on a yacht in Monaco and shooting up in Italy. The weather was shit, and the director, Murray told me I might not get a full length segment in the film that year since I didn’t have enough shots. I said, “No no wait. Lemme see here, maybe we can add something to it. Something fun.” I’d been singing that song all week, for some reason, so they checked on the rights for me and got it. That was the start of displaying a little more than just skiing when I made segments.
AD: For a long time you were running with a specific group of guys, the Olenicks, Dumont, Schiller, etc. This was a time in skiing, where I feel that there was somewhat of a rockstar status to all of your careers. Chicks, Parties, Wilding out. What was it like rolling with all these guys.
CW: Party. It was party. When I first started skiing, I didn’t really find “peers” until I got more into competing. I sometimes describe it like being in a giant band. A posse of 20-something-year-olds, traveling around the world, making money, and being told they are the shit. What could go wrong with that? We fed off of each other’s confidence and just destroyed every place we went. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way, but always in a fun way. Pete often took on the role of ring leader/instigator, TJ lead the confidence charge, since the girls loved him, and Simon was hilarious and I guess the muscle, in some ways.
AD: We have to, of course, hear one of the craziest stories you have from this time.
CW: Hmmm…well, there’s obviously a few that I can’t tell, but let’s see here…
I believe you were there for one that comes to mind in Sweden at Jon’s event. He put us all in the same condo and I think you and Wallisch were sleeping on the couches, because Simon and Sammy were dicks and wanted their own rooms. Naturally, lots of girls rolled through and the chandelier started collecting undergarments, like a frilly, lacy, willow tree of triumph and shame. I later met a girl who’s aunt cleaned the condo after we left and she was shocked to say the least. Sweden is awesome.
-PK and JF Houligan went nuts with a fire extinguisher in Japan. Fucked up the entire hotel.
-There was a scuffle with the prince of Norway and his security detail at some point.
-Some of the boys woke up naked from the waste down on a, long since landed, empty commercial flight.
-And there’s two different stories of ridiculous ways to lose your virginity…
If anyone wants more details, come see me when I’m dead. I’ll be the one doing stupid voices and characters for the devil down in hell, trying to get him to laugh.
AD: So what the hell was up with Kästle skis? Theres no way they could’ve been designed to match the needs of a Freeskier could they? What was it like dealing with the elite ski brand
CW: Lemme start this answer with a disclaimer… I am no longer sponsored by Kastle or any ski brand and, except for that pair of bought rentals, I have only skied twin tip skis. In fact, from Volkl on (they were my second ski sponsor after K2 when I was 19), I have only skied on SYMMETRICAL twin tips.
When I first signed with Kastle, I helped them design the skis. I said, “Make a thin waste, like the Troublemaker, a symmetrical shape, like the Volkl Wall, and black graphics, like the K2 Silencer.” Being a company with actual money and resources, they made it happen. Then they told me about the “Hollowtech” or whatever it was called. The little circles on the tip and tail that were designed to “cut weight.” I was like, “Sure, ya. I can promote whatever gimmick you want.” But when I put them on, there was zero swing weight. It made a 180 cm ski feel like a ski blade, but with stability. Hands down, the best ski I have ever skied on AND probably the most ideal ski for spinning in the air or being technical. They matched the needs as fuck, all be it, sort of by accident with the hollowtech. I still ski on those and wish I had a thousand more pair. They cut me pretty quickly though when they realized I wasn’t going to the Olympics. Fair enough.
AD: When was it that you started to distance yourself from the Freeski scene? Was there a specific cause for it? Do you find yourself missing it at all?
CW: Usually, when people ask me why I quit, I tell them I was too old, mentally, as in, I couldn’t wrap my head around the outcome for the huge tricks the way I used to. I could see consequences instead of desired outcomes. I thought about the switch dub misty probably a year before Bobby did it, no joke. In my mind, I felt like it could be my trick. After all, it’s just two of what I have been doing since I was 16. But, it took me 2 full years to even fucking work up the balls to try it. By then Bobby had been winning with it and Kai too. I landed it for the first time at Breck with PK and I skied down to him with my arms up and he said, “Bro, put your hands down. Stop claiming. You look stupid.” And I said, “I’m not pumped on myself, I am relieved.” And it was true. I felt relief that I had done it, instead of motivation to go do it a hundred more times and add it to my quiver of tricks.
When I started skiing, I immediately loved getting better, learning new stuff, and honestly…winning. Once I felt I had reached the end of learning gnarly shit, I think I lost a lot of motivation and gusto. I know that’s not a common mindset for skiers, since it’s a lifestyle sport, but I didn’t really grow up in it from a young age. I just loved it when I found it. One time when I was having trouble motivating to go skiing, TJ said “just go ski like you used to when you were little on vacation. Have fun.” And all I could think was, improving and doing gnarly shit WAS my fun and I never did skiing vacations. It was always a sport to me. I had just thrown everything into improving constantly, and that sort of ruined it for me when I stopped improving. Besides, I have lots more I want to do, so I thought it was time to move on.
Also, the Olympic situation was fuckery. That solidified it for me. I went to meetings about it and I was the only athlete there and it was all coaches and people I’d never seen before. I was like, “What the fuck are coaches doing here? Who are you people? Why is a snowboard coach and a former mogul skier deciding this for my people?” But the boys didn’t have the same view and seemed fine with the representation for some reason, so I let it go. It wasn’t my same sport anymore, and I didn’t like the changes, which I’m sure was just bitterness and my stubborn nature. People had stars in their eyes about the Olympics, and I thought it would be the death of what was cool about it. Blah, blah, blah, old man stuff, blah, blah, blah relevancy. I love skiing and I love seeing new creative shit, but the things I miss about the industry don’t really exist anymore to me. Naive? Yes. Do I wish I felt differently? Of course, but I can’t really seem to shake my stubbornness on it.
AD: What are you doing nowadays? Where are you living at, what’s life like outside of the ski industry?
CW: I live by the beach in LA down in Southbay and have been doing lots of drift car stuff. That industry is dope. It’s like the freestyle of car driving with so much potential for fun cool content. It reminds me of freestyle skiing during the Freeze years. In September I am announcing at Gymkhana Grid in Poland with Monster. They have been very supportive with helping me get into drifting and I’m working on building my drift car. We filmed the whole thing and it’ll be a fun short series about the build with my friend Dayton.
I also just finished writing a movie about my days of living in my car and trying to make it as a skier, leading up to my first X Games medal. We’ll see if it ever gets made. Not sure how to sell a movie, but I do know how to write it and make it. If nobody is interested in funding it, then at least I have it written down for the memories.
AD: Are you still getting yourself out on skis riding around the mountains? If you are do you enjoy it like you did?
CW: This spring, I had the best day of skiing I have had in years. I went up to Mammoth with some friends and finally felt free of the pressure to do gnarly shit. Just skied. It was awesome…but of course I couldn’t help it and did some gnarly shit anyway.
AD: Do you keep up on the ski scene at all? If so, what do you feel like has changed for the better, and what have you noticed has changed for the worse?
CW: I still watch some stuff. Some good things popped out on the other side of the situation I was talking about earlier. Petite, Parker, and Jossi are my favorites in the industry, I would say. They have authentic style and personalities to match. I am excited to see what Leigh Powis will do next as well.
AD: Any words of wisdom for the People in the Freeski scene of these days?
CW: I have sort of a mantra. It’s framed in my house and comes from yet another party time in Sweden at Jon’s event, actually. Embuhl was 17 or 18 and just learning to speak English and we were at Max burger at 4 am after the club. He was wasted and falling asleep in the booth while we waited for our food. I said “Elias! You gotta stay awake! We’ll get our food and get you home.” He pulled himself up and said, in his drunken, slow-ass Swiss German, “I can’t sleeps here.” Then he looks directly at me and says, “We have to stay move.” And I laughed and said, “Yes we do, buddy. Yes we do.” So…I guess I would say to those on the scene? Stay Move.