Thinking back on it today, X Games champion Alex Schlopy still shakes his head. A homegrown product of Park City, Utah, in a month-long span in 2011 he won an X Games title in Aspen, became a world champion on his home hill at Park City Mountain and soared to Dew Tour gold at Snowbasin. In a roller coaster decade that saw the highest of highs and lowest of lows, today Schlopy is the happiest he’s ever been – an athlete ambassador for Ski Utah and looking forward to his first runs off Jupiter in the season ahead.
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In the mid to late ‘00s, Utah was the epicenter of the burgeoning new sport of freeskiing. Schlopy caught the buzz from his buddy Joss Christensen. They idolized stars like Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont. At just 17, Schlopy went to the Dumont Cup in Maine, outlasting over 100 amateurs just like him who wanted a shot into the event. He got it, launching a switch right double cork 1440, and soon found himself on the podium with his buddy Joss and future legend Tom Wallisch.
The next season, he cranked out win after win and found himself on top of the world in a new sport that was to make its Olympic debut in 2014. Then it all came crashing down.
This interview is deep and emotional, coming full circle to the joy of skiing. Here’s a teaser:
Are you still having fun skiing?
Oh, yeah. More fun than ever.
Going back to your youth, what role did gymnastics play in your skiing success?
Gymnastics has helped me throughout my whole entire life. And I think for any kid out there, having a baseline in gymnastics is huge. Just knowing how to use your body, learning how to flip and do all those things safely.
What triggered your interest in freeskiing?
When I transitioned into middle school, I met Joss Christensen and we started hanging out as friends. He started showing me all these freeski movies with, you know, Tanner Hall, Jon Olsson, Simon Dumont. And I was like, what is this? I saw ski racing. I've seen moguls and aerials and I loved all that stuff, but this was the one that really clicked. It was artistic expression on skis. And I thought that was really cool.
What role does Park City, Utah play in winter sport?
I mean, this is the Mecca for that in my eyes. There are just so many kids out here learning how to do whatever winter sport they want and then having the facilities and the programs to push it as far as they want. And it's just a beautiful community.
After the stunning 2011 season, what path did your career take?
After winning those three events, X Games, World Championships, Dew Tour and then kind of stepping into that pro realm, big contracts started to come up and I kind of lost my drive to win. And I think that was my biggest problem. I hadn't really built the best work ethic. I had used a lot of natural talent my whole life, you know, and having overcome some of those injuries that really helped out. I didn't have to work as hard to get back, but it came to bite me after I did win because I started to coast and I started partaking more in the party side of the sport. I was still doing okay. You know, I was able to stay top five, top ten, but I wasn't winning. And what it took for me to refocus was the announcement that the sport that we were getting into the Olympics for Sochi and I had a lot of ground to make up.
In 2014, you missed that last spot on the Olympic team to your buddy Joss Christensen, who went on to win gold.
It was a really beautiful yet bittersweet experience because Joss is one of the best people I've ever met in my life. He's incredible. I thought he was the best skier. He just couldn't put it down when it counted until that point. And he went and did it. So it was really cool. But behind the scenes, I was starting to struggle after that and watching him in the Olympics and my friends – it was like all that work I had just put in and I'd really changed my life quite a bit to make that happen and get that close. It shut off pretty quick and I started falling.
You’re a few years past rehab and drug court. How did it help you get your life back?
It's life-changing. They always say, you know, addiction is like a broken brain and that means a broken person. So, how do you rebuild that? I mean, it's like your best chance because you can't rebuild everything in a short period of time. So there's something really beautiful about the recovery process.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| The ski season is here. It is snowing across Utah and with me today, world Champion Alex Schlopy and Alex, thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
Alex Schlopy: |00:00:10| Stoked to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:10| I know you're working up at Jackson's at the Park City Mountain base, and I know you guys are getting stoked to see a little bit of snow coming and things getting ready to go for the opening.
Alex Schlopy: |00:00:21| Yeah, it's always exciting. You know, once we get on snow, things change for the better.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:24| You're a Ski Utah athlete ambassador now. So I know you haven't gotten your first season |00:00:30| yet, but how's that going so far?
Alex Schlopy: |00:00:32| I'm really excited. You know, I've obviously been aware of Ski Utah for a long time. And once I saw this program they do to become an ambassador, I signed up, figured – give it a shot. And I'm excited to see what it's all about.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:45| What are you going to be doing? A lot of skiing this winter I'm sure of that.
Alex Schlopy: |00:00:47| Yeah, nothing wrong with that. I'm really excited and looking forward to it.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:51| We're going to dive more into your competition background, but I know that you're not competing so much anymore. Are you competing at all anymore?
Alex Schlopy: |00:00:58| No I'm not. I did my last |00:01:00| contest when I was 28, so almost three years ago now.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:04| But you're still having fun with skiing?
Alex Schlopy: |00:01:06| Oh, yeah. More fun than ever.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:08| Good. That's really good to hear. Let's talk a little bit about your background. You had amazing parents. Your mother, Holly Flanders, who was a member of the U.S. Ski Team, a downhill racer. Your father, Todd Schlopy, actually played in the NFL. So you had some good genes going for you. Born here in Park City and it was just natural you would get on snow.
Alex Schlopy: |00:01:29| Yeah, I mean |00:01:30| it was quite the combo. I think I had just barely started learning how to walk when they had me out on snow learning how to ski. So I was 18 months old and yeah, it didn't click quite right away. But throughout the years it started to set in.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:46| Do you have any memories back? I know you don't remember back to 18 months old, but you're going on what your mom and dad have told you. But what memories do you have as a really little kid skiing in Park City?
Alex Schlopy: |00:01:57| I remember... So it was Wolf |00:02:00| Mountain back then, which is now The Canyons, which is Park City, and I was on their ski racing team, and I did one official race and I crashed over the finish line. I actually put my pole in front of me and pole vaulted over my stomach over the finish line. And that was the end of my race career.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:22| Was mom disappointed?
Alex Schlopy: |00:02:24| No, she was more happy that I was okay.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:27| You know, I think all of us have kind of done that |00:02:30| in one form or another, but I can just see you as a little. How old would you have been at that point?
Alex Schlopy: |00:02:34| Oh, man, I must have been 7 or 8 years old.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:39| Boots right over the top and bam!
Alex Schlopy: |00:02:41| Yep, yep. First scorpion.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:43| That's amazing! Well, I know that you were involved in a lot of different sports, had a background in gymnastics and tumbling. How would that go on to help you?
Alex Schlopy: |00:02:53| Gymnastics has helped me throughout my whole entire life. And I think for any kid out there, having a baseline in |00:03:00| gymnastics is huge. Just knowing how to use your body, learning how to flip and do all those things safely. I started when I was eight years old and I went to Black Diamond Gymnastics in Park City. I was immediately put in Mike Hanley's program, who ended up being the coach for quite a few people. You might recognize Nick Goepper, the Olympian and McRae Williams, and quite a few others. So his program was awesome. I ended up taking it as |00:03:30| far as the state competition, where I won tumbling and got second in trampoline, and then kind of was shifted towards the freeskiing side of things by Mike himself. So that was pretty cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:42| How old were you when you got into freeskiing?
Alex Schlopy: |00:03:44| I was 11. So when I transitioned into middle school, I met Joss Christensen and he, I mean, we started hanging out just as friends, and he started showing me all these freeski movies with, you know, Tanner Hall, Jon Olsson, Simon Dumont. And I was like, |00:04:00| what is this? I saw ski racing. I've seen moguls and aerials and I loved all that stuff, but this was the one that really clicked. It was, you know, it was artistic expression on skis. And I thought that was really cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:14| If you go back to that time and I know that you were really young at that point, but Park City was becoming really the epicenter of this new movement of free skiing. You know, you mentioned McRae, Williams, Joss Christensen and others. What was it about the vibe or really does it come back to some of the coaches who were spearheading this |00:04:30| for the kids?
Alex Schlopy: |00:04:31| Honestly, it was all the above -- the vibe in Park City. It was kind of everybody was doing it. You know, in the summer we'd be at the skate park, either rollerblading or skateboarding, and then in the winter we'd all be skiing from open to close, which at that time we had night skiing. So pretty much every school day we'd get off school and go night ski. And then on the weekends we'd ski all day.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:54| You know, just growing up in Park City and just set the competition aside. But Park City has always been pretty good at providing. Opportunities |00:05:00| for kids in town to get to get on snow. So skiing was kind of just second nature as a young kid growing up here.
Alex Schlopy: |00:05:06| Yeah, I mean, this is the Mecca for that in my eyes. I mean, there are just so many kids out here learning how to do whatever winter sport they want and then having the facilities and the programs to push it as far as they want. And it's just a beautiful community.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:21| When you started out, I know later you would specialize in slopestyle, but like most kids, when you start out, it was a little bit of everything. You were in the pipe, you were up on the big, |00:05:30| the big jumps doing slopestyle. So as a kid, was it just kind of like going to an amusement park when you went to the resort?
Alex Schlopy: |00:05:37| Absolutely. That's a good way to put it. It was kind of pick and choose. You know, we'd go ski through the trees. We'd have all these different types of runs that we would set out just to get to the park, and then we'd have different objectives. We'd try and ski Payday switch from top to bottom, turning as few times as possible. And that's kind of how we progressed. We set these. We didn't realize we were setting |00:06:00| goals, but we were setting goals. Basically every day we'd have a trick. We wanted to get on a rail or, you know, be able to clear this jump and whoever could do it first got, you know, props or whatever, which is, you know, respect in the ski community.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:13| This was in the early days of the sport, and you guys were doing new things out of the ski area. How did that work with the management of the ski area and the patrol? Were you guys buddies or were they always chasing you down?
Alex Schlopy: |00:06:26| A little bit of both. I think, you know, if you |00:06:30| were respectful towards them, it was a lot easier to figure out what was okay and what was pushing it too far. So for the most part, you know, we had a few incidences, you know, like ducking a rope, which they're there for a reason. We learned not to do that pretty quick, but for the most part, once they started allowing the progression of free skiing and building the jumps and putting the parks there made it a lot easier.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:53| When you were just in the formative times. I know ultimately a great park was developed on the course down Kings' Crown |00:07:00| where you won the World Championship, but before all that was set, what were some of the places you would go on the mountain to just have fun?
Alex Schlopy: |00:07:07| Oh, everywhere. One of my favorite memories was learning a backflip in Jupiter Bowl with Joss, and I think McCrae was up there, too. There was. I mean, all of these. We all skied together growing up, and we fueled off each other. And the first backflip I ever tried, I almost did a double backflip because I just wanted to get it around and ended |00:07:30| up landing on my head and back, and then went up the second time and landed at that time. So that was in Jupiter Bowl and then right off of Jupiter Access, there's some fun trees. So kind of everywhere.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:42| You know, it's funny, I remember back when our kids were young, we used to ski off of Jupiter Access all the time, and it was just those trees were great. And I think now, you know, we've gotten used to so many other places on the mountain. We don't hit that. But man, there's some nice terrain back there for kids.
Alex Schlopy: |00:07:57| It's awesome huh? Yeah, yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:59| It really |00:08:00| is Jupiter. However, I don't go up there a lot actually. Do you still go up to Jupiter?
Alex Schlopy: |00:08:05| Sometimes, yeah, it can get overcrowded if you get Jupiter on a good day. It's just. It's incredible. I mean, it's just it's tough sometimes because there can be longer lines up there. It's a two person lift and you know, it's hit or miss. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:22| How about 9990? Up there a lot?
Alex Schlopy: |00:08:23| Yeah I love 9990 actually that was a spot, I think it was two seasons ago, I skied |00:08:30| down the I forget the name of the bowl, but down one of the bowls in there and I found a jump that was already built and was able to land a double backflip off of that. And I was like, where? Where would you be able to find a jump already built that you could do a double flip on?
Tom Kelly: |00:08:45| Did you ever find out who built it?
Alex Schlopy: |00:08:47| No. And if you built it, let me know. We can go build it again. That's awesome.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:52| So fun. You know, it's fun exploring that kind of backcountry within the boundaries of the ski area. There's some fun stuff out there.
Alex Schlopy: |00:08:59| It's incredible. |00:09:00| It's kind of endless. You know, I've been skiing here my whole life, and I find new stuff pretty much every day when I go out.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:05| So, so, so as a young teen, you found free skiing. You're starting to get into lower level comps. You eventually went over from the public school to the winter school and tell folks a little bit about what that is and why that's so important to young athletes like you were back then.
Alex Schlopy: |00:09:21| Yeah. So I was in I think I was in eighth grade. I was kind of consistently having issues in middle school |00:09:30| just because I was so focused on skiing. And like any other kid, it was hard for me to sit down for the whole day and pay attention. But the Winter Sports School became I mean, I think they reached out to me because I was starting to fail out of eighth grade. My grades were really bad. I wasn't attending most of the time. The whole winter I was pretty much gone, and I wasn't able to make up the work because it had stacked up too much. So I actually dropped out of eighth grade and went straight |00:10:00| into ninth grade at the winter sports school and ended up doing really well in class, getting A's and B's, and I was able to compete without having that extra pressure and added stress of having a lot of schoolwork that I had to make up because I wasn't there. So we actually had five months off in the winter and we'd go to school all summer.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:19| Who are some of the other athletes who were in your class? Maybe from other sports?
Alex Schlopy: |00:10:23| Yeah, we had well, Joss Christensen was with me, Vincent Gagnier, Marcus Caston |00:10:30| was there, Kelly Mackenzie, Christoph Lenz, there was a lot of people. Ted Ligety went there, I know, and Tanner Hall was there before us. So there have been a lot of athletes that have gone through the Winter Sports School.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:44| Were you in school with Tanner? Actually, Tanner's older than you. So you guys didn't cross paths then?
Alex Schlopy: |00:10:47| No, no, I was not in school with him. I just heard the stories.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:51| Okay, we'll get, we'll save that for another podcast. Actually, I just listened to a podcast with Tanner. He did the movement podcast, and it was really fascinating. |00:11:00|
Alex Schlopy: |00:11:00| Oh, I bet I mean, that man has seen a lot.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:02| Yeah. And, you know, the cool thing is he's at a point too, in his career where he can tell those stories. He can kind of look at and say, this is what I did. Maybe this is what I should have done, but pretty interesting. Listen, so things are going pretty well. They're clicking along for you. And then 2007, you had a car accident. Yeah. Talk about that.
Alex Schlopy: |00:11:24| It was really tough. So I mean, I was 15 years old and I |00:11:30| was starting to hang out with kids who were partying. I personally didn't really partake yet. And I was at a buddy's house who he was having some friends over, and I asked one of the kids to give me a ride home so I could go home, study, go to bed, and I had a test the next day. On the way back, I think there were eight of us in the car. He had pulled off to do donuts, and I think it was the Canyons parking lot. And basically |00:12:00| going about 40, 50mph, went sideways and hit a boulder. And then we flipped two-and-a-half times. So, I was sitting up front and the roof of the car was pushed down almost all the way to the seat, and I took pretty much the whole brunt of it to my head. So I had a severe concussion that ended up causing issues for a long time.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:24| People hear about concussions, but it's hard to really define what it is. |00:12:30| But what were the things that were going on with you? And I know that in your case, you kind of looked at it like it's about a five, six, seven year odyssey for you.
Alex Schlopy: |00:12:39| Yeah, it was really bad. Things started creeping up. I didn't realize it. And like you said, with Tanner kind of looking back and being able to talk about things, it's kind of like that. I started becoming really depressed. It was hard for me to go outside. I had sensitivity to light, so started building anxiety and getting really severe |00:13:00| migraines where I'd actually go blind and then get a really bad headache that would put me out for a day or two, and then I'd have vertigo. A little bit of agoraphobia. Being in open spaces scared me a lot, so there was a lot to overcome and just slowly but surely started working back into doing things.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:20| Being in open spaces scared you?
Alex Schlopy: |00:13:23| Yeah. So like at the beach, I would start having a panic attack because it felt like I was falling off the earth. |00:13:30|
Tom Kelly: |00:13:30| How were you in elevators?
Alex Schlopy: |00:13:33| That's a good question. Sometimes it was okay. Other times it felt like I just kept moving even after I got off the elevator. I know that happens to quite a few people, but it would last for a long time. So I think overall I just had to actually did a lot of tests. I went to a facility and they were testing my inner ear and seeing what it could be, and they couldn't find anything. So it was definitely something to do with that impact to my brain.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:58| Do you have you counseled |00:14:00| other athletes who've gone through this, whether that's in your sport or outside, and talk to them about, hey, this is what I went through.
Alex Schlopy: |00:14:06| A little bit. Yeah. And I'm actually talking to someone who leads TBI and concussion group in Park City, and hopefully in the next month or two, be able to sit in with them and share some of my story and hopefully give some hope because it's a scary path. You never know what it's going to bring, you know, and just |00:14:30| being able to lay out some of the things that you can expect and hopefully things that you can look forward to and maybe give you some goals.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:37| Now you came back from that, you went to Breckenridge, but injuries, other physical injuries started to come into play. Talk talk me through that.
Alex Schlopy: |00:14:46| Yeah, so that was really tough because I was really eager to get back on skis regardless of the car accident. And I had just been pre-qualified for |00:15:00| the US Open, and I think I was one of the youngest athletes, or maybe THE youngest athlete at that time, to be pre-qualified for both slopestyle and halfpipe. So I was out in Breckenridge training, and I had just learned a double flip on the slopestyle course after watching, you know, Olsson and Jossi Wells learn it, and those guys were kind of the top dogs back then. So I was really excited. And then I dropped into the halfpipe and third hit got lost in the air. I think because of the concussion stuff. I just completely |00:15:30| got lost and I landed at the bottom and blew out my right knee, ACL, MCL, meniscus and got another concussion. So it was really tough and I was in denial. You know, I skied down and didn't think anything could be severely wrong with my knee, but I was just kind of a naive 15 year old.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:52| You're 31 now. It's easy to look back there and say, wow, I understand it now, isn't it?
Alex Schlopy: |00:15:56| Yeah, it's a lot easier, you know, it's there's |00:16:00| there's wisdom to accepting what is, you know, and as a kid I had a lot of issues with that. Simple. Reality.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:10| Well, let's, let's, let's talk a little bit about what I'll call the glory period. You had a run in 2010 and 2011. That would be the envy of any athlete starting out. I mean, you're not a pro yet. You go to the Dumont Cup out at Sunday River, you've got to compete against, what, over 100 other amateurs just to get a spot. Is |00:16:30| that right?
Alex Schlopy: |00:16:30| Yeah, yeah, it's an open event so anyone can sign up. Yeah. So basically I started out in the qualification round to a lot of athletes will get invited and pre-qualified into semi-finals. So I had to go through every single round and I was able to take the top spot. And I know Wallisch and Joss came in second and third. I think Joss got second and Walsh got third. So that was pretty cool. And then Simon brought us all over to his house and |00:17:00| announced that he was going to put me on the team with him and Tom for the Olsson Super Sessions, which was a two week long video contest in Sweden. So that was like it was like the dream was starting to come true in a really wild way, because with all the stuff mentioned before, with the concussion and all that, it felt really good to finally have a little bit of success.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:22| Now, you knew Joss because you grew up together in Park City, although he's a little older than you, I think. Isn't he just a little bit? Just a little bit. And then did you know Tom from |00:17:30| from Park City as well?
Alex Schlopy: |00:17:31| Yeah. Tom kind of came along a little bit later and we all obviously knew who he was. He had been posting videos on Newschoolers and he was kind of the hot talk of the town. So we'd always see him skiing and try and mimic a lot of the stuff he was doing, too, because he was, you know, an incredible talent.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:49| So you threw a switch right double cork 14 there. How big a deal was that back in 2010?
Alex Schlopy: |00:17:56| I think it was the first one ever done in competition. And |00:18:00| it's funny because I always had this weird thing where every double I would try right off the bat, I would spin an extra rotation. So I was kind of starting to do tricks that hadn't been done yet.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:11| Not inadvertently. Yeah.
Alex Schlopy: |00:18:13| Exactly. But it worked out, and I just kind of tried to master that, even though it wasn't exactly what I was going for. I was like, why not? Why not work with it? Just do it.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:23| Amazing. What was that like? I mean, you're just you're just a kid out there, and all of a sudden you're being embraced by these superstars |00:18:30| of the sport.
Alex Schlopy: |00:18:31| It was, you know, it still feels like a dream. That's how surreal it was. It was just an incredible experience. I mean, I literally put all my eggs into the basket of skiing, and I just focused 100% on skiing. So to have it. Come, come true. That dream come true as a kid, you know, like it's so hard to put into words.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:56| Did you have family out there?
Alex Schlopy: |00:18:58| Not for the Dumont |00:19:00| Cup. No. Not that, not that one. But the next season they were at most of those contests. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:05| This is for real. The kid's got something. Let's go up to that next season from the middle of January until the end of February. You were the talk of the sport. X-games title, world championship title at home. Dew tour, gold up at Snowbasin. Talk about that kind of 4 to 6 week period. And you must have been on cloud nine.
Alex Schlopy: |00:19:27| Yeah. I mean, to say the least, it was. |00:19:30| I had. I guess I had a chip on my shoulder. I really wanted to overcome the injuries that I had gone through and I did not expect to do that. Well, to be honest, not even close. I think I had gotten fourth at the Dew Tour right before going to X games, and that was kind of I had just learned double cork 1260, and I was like, all right, if I implemented this one trick and I'm able to get that close to the podium, see what I can do. First |00:20:00| X Games pull up. And I was only in slopestyle to start off and I crashed in my run. And then I started begging the event organizers to get into big air. And I think I got Tom Wallisch. I got to say thank you because you've really helped me out in my career. I think Tom dropped out of big air and I got his spot, and that's when I went and won. I was planning to do that double cork 1620 in my slopestyle run. But it just gave me that opportunity |00:20:30| to try it and it paid off. So it was ... it was crazy. And then the next week went home to Park City. We had the World Championships, which was the first one ever. So a lot of us, I mean, personally, I didn't really know the significance of it. You know, it sounds. World championships, it sounds pretty big, but I didn't honestly know I was about to drop out of the event because it was freezing cold. I was pretty tired. And my |00:21:00| rep for Nordica told me to take one run and if I didn't want to do it after that, they understood. I was like, all right, that's a fair deal. And I crashed my first run and that's when the fire kicked in and I was able to win with my second run. So. And then.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:16| Yeah. And that's your home run. That's your home hill that you're going down King's crown.
Alex Schlopy: |00:21:21| Yep. Since I was 11 years old, skiing down the same run where it was all made, you know, like where I learned everything. The memories |00:21:30| from that run it was. And, you know, my whole family was down in the, in the finish corral with signs. And I probably start crying if I keep going. But it was beautiful.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:42| Yeah. I mean, I think everybody in town I'll speak here is a local. We were, you know, we didn't have any expectations. It's a new sport to a lot of us. And, you know, to watch you come around and you know, the course is interesting and it's not used as a course anymore. I will say it's my favorite end of day run. It's a great day run. |00:22:00| Yeah. But you know, we're sitting down there at the bottom. And the only thing the spectator can see on King's Crown is the last jump. You can't see anything else other than the last jump, but you came soaring off that thing and all of a sudden the scores go up and you got the gold medal.
Alex Schlopy: |00:22:14| It was so cool. And yeah, it is not the best for spectating unless they have the screen up with the cameras rolling. But what's really cool about it from a skiing standpoint, like you said, at the end of the day, the backdrop |00:22:30| you overlook all of Park City. So when they had the terrain park up there, it was like you were jumping into Park City off every jump and something really special about that.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:40| Yeah, it was a special time. Then you went on to Snowbasin? Yeah. Was that actually I'm curious, was that in your plan at that point or did that get added on.
Alex Schlopy: |00:22:47| That was in the plan? And to be honest, in my book, Winning the Dew Tour was top of the list behind X Games, X Games that I didn't ever think I would win. |00:23:00| I mean, I don't know, it just seemed like something that was too far-fetched and to be able to go in and do it first time was unbelievable. And then Dew Tour felt like. You know that that was top level athletes of all different, you know, every country and all different beginnings. It was just to me it felt like the hardest one to win, especially in slopestyle. So I had one big era at X games and then slopestyle at World championships. But the Dew Tour run |00:23:30| felt the best because I made. I made a goal to see how well I could do without doing a double flip. And at that point everybody was doing double flips to win. But this was a rail heavy course, so I was like, I have to do my best rail run in order to offset not doing a double flip, and then also do the hardest non double flip, which was a switch upright 1440 and I was able to land almost in the parking lot. I |00:24:00| just went as big as I could and it felt like the strongest run I'd ever done.
Tom Kelly: |00:24:05| So do you recall what run they used up at Snowbasin for that?
Alex Schlopy: |00:24:08| Oh man, that's a good question. I don't know, I haven't skied up there really since then. Yeah, since the Dew Tours.
Tom Kelly: |00:24:19| Yeah, it was an amazing event. In fact, it was a really big deal to get the Dew Tour to Utah.
Alex Schlopy: |00:24:23| Yeah, how cool is that?
Tom Kelly: |00:24:26| Yeah, it was pretty cool. That was really an incredible run. We're going to talk more after the |00:24:30| break. Alex Schlopy, great to have you here. We'll take a short break and we'll be right back on Last Chair.
Tom Kelly: |00:25:21| We're back again on Last Chair with Alex Schlopy. And Alex, thanks again for joining us. A great run and then, you know, going up to Sochi. |00:25:30| You know a little bit of a change. Kind of give us a little bit of the lead up to Sochi and how that impacted you.
Alex Schlopy: |00:25:35| Yeah. So after winning those three events, X Games, World Championships, Dew Tour and then kind of stepping into that pro realm, you know, big contracts started to come up and I, I kind of lost my drive to win. And I think that was my biggest problem. I hadn't really built the |00:26:00| best work ethic. I had kind of used a lot of natural talent my whole life, you know, and having overcome some of those injuries that really helped out. I didn't have to work as hard to get back, but it came to bite me after I did win, because I started to coast and I started partaking more in the party side of the sport. I was still doing okay. You know, I was able to stay top five, top ten, but I |00:26:30| wasn't winning. And what it took for me to refocus was the announcement that the sport that we were getting into the Olympics for Sochi and I had a lot of ground to make up. So basically I had hired a trainer, my buddy Britton Brown, and he had kind of told me he thought it would be in my best interest to get sober and to train with him in a totally different way. So we started doing yoga. I went to the gym 3 to 6 hours a day, and |00:27:00| I just hit it really hard for nine months.
Alex Schlopy: |00:27:02| And once I got back on snow, it was night and day. I felt like I had a shot and I was able to make up a lot of ground and learn all the tricks that I needed. At that point, everyone was doing double flips, both directions right and left. So I was able to do that and started setting out my plan for the season for the qualifying qualifications, there were five events and I think the first two |00:27:30| were a bit of a wash. The second one, I think there were some snow condition issues, so most of us just did like 360 and got through the course, kind of a throw away. And then anyways, come down to the last two events in Park City, back on King's Crown, where I'd won the World Championships 3 or 4 years before. And like Deja Vu, the first, the first |00:28:00| event I won, I won the World Cup qualifier and had almost solidified my spot on the team. There were three spots already taken and one left, which was the coach's discretionary spot. And after winning that day, I remember getting interviewed by quite a few people asking how it felt to be on the team, and I had to remind them.
Alex Schlopy: |00:28:23| I said, it's not over yet, we still have to compete tomorrow and anything could happen in which the |00:28:30| next day, the one who started it for me, my best friend Joss, went and won and I got eighth place. So. Turns out, had I gotten seventh place or better than my points would have put me above him and I would have went. So it was exactly. To me, it feels like it was meant to be. And so Joss won that day and got on the team, and then he went on to Sochi and he won. So it was |00:29:00| it was a really beautiful yet bittersweet experience because Joss is one of the best people I've ever met in my life. He's incredible. I thought he was the best skier. He just couldn't put it down when it counted until that point. And he went and did it. So it was really cool. But behind the scenes, I was starting to struggle after that and watching him in the Olympics and my friends, all, they're able to compete. It was like |00:29:30| all that work I had just put in and, you know, I'd really changed my life quite a bit to make that happen and get that close. It shut off pretty quick and I started falling.
Tom Kelly: |00:29:43| I want to come back to that. But first let's just rewind a bit. That was an incredibly difficult team to make. Though. You haven't talked about Gus Kenworthy, Tom Walsh going for that team despite the fact that he had a blown knee. Nick Goepper and McRae, you know, and pretty much |00:30:00| most of you guys based right out of Park City. So, you know, there were only going to be, you know, a certain number of people who were going to go into that event. And, man, it was a tough team for anybody to make.
Alex Schlopy: |00:30:12| Yeah, I would say so. I mean, when the US swept the podium, I think that kind of says it all. So you know, it was you know Joss one. Gus got second and Nick got third. And you know, Bobby could have been up there too. It was basically if you were on the US slopestyle team at that point, you were |00:30:30| gunning for either first. Definitely a podium position though. So it was a very tough, tough qualification process and. Did. I think the results show that?
Tom Kelly: |00:30:41| Were you able to watch that gold medal round on TV?
Alex Schlopy: |00:30:45| I was yes.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:47| What were your emotions that day?
Alex Schlopy: |00:30:50| This is a good question. It was incredible to see. Well, first I watched Sage Kotsenburg |00:31:00| when slopestyle for snowboarding. That was amazing. And I'll be honest, I knew Josh was going to win before I had a feeling and I knew it, and just to see it happen, it was it. At first it was total excitement, but then something in me for my personal career kicked in and. I kind of felt like I was done, and that hit pretty quick and I don't know where. It just felt like this |00:31:30| is the end. I had that feeling. So it was bittersweet.
Tom Kelly: |00:31:35| And the next few years were rough.
Alex Schlopy: |00:31:37| Yeah, to put it lightly. Yeah, they were rough.
Speaker3: |00:31:40| Can you talk about those? Yeah.
Alex Schlopy: |00:31:43| Well. It actually started almost exactly during the Olympics when when the Sochi Olympics were going on. I think I was overcoming an injury from X games because |00:32:00| I was trying. I think if I remember correctly, that's when I tried the 1980 because. I was trying to show the US ski team what they had left out, you know. But I crashed I think 4 or 5 times in the last crash was pretty bad. I think I tore my shoulder and they gave me painkillers, and this was not the first time they'd given me painkillers, but the first time when I wasn't doing well mentally. So |00:32:30| I think I had taken a few extra painkillers while I was watching the Olympics, and that was the first time that I had started. I would put that in the realm of abusing, and that got a lot worse, and it really started to spiral as I started drinking again and kind of doing the normal ski party routine, but without the career to back it. So eventually that spiraled down as far as that can go. So I was |00:33:00| ended up using heroin and I was on … I had done crack. I mean, you name it, I had done it all. And I was stuck there for a little over a year.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:11| Was there a tipping point for you where you had that realization that you had to change? That puts you in a position to say, I have the willpower to change as well.
Alex Schlopy: |00:33:22| Yeah, it's really tough especially with opioids, because you're in it's like a different |00:33:30| world and it's so addictive that to have a rational thought is pretty rare. But basically I, I had gotten into a rehab. I wanted to quit the whole time. I wasn't having fun. I mean, it was miserable. I'd pretty much sold off all my, you know, everything. I owned TVs, everything. And that's the spiral of drug addiction. And I've heard so many stories and they all kind of line up in that sense. But at a certain point it was |00:34:00| just. It was, I was going to die or I had to get back up, and I didn't even know why I wanted to get back up at that point. But something told me, if you just get back up and maybe write the story for someone else, like if I could become an example for somebody else to help them get out of what I had gone through, that would be worth it. So that was actually kind of what when the rubber hit the road and I went to rehab, it |00:34:30| was only 30 days. But after 30 days, I started thinking a bit clearer. And that whole path because I had gotten in legal trouble too. So I went into the Drug Court program in Summit County, and that was life changing. I mean, just ended up being there for about two years. We had therapy, we had counselors, we had so many people. It was just like a team of people trying to recover. And we had the professional help that it it changed |00:35:00| everything about me in the best way and kind of gave me the platform to to get back up and stay on my feet.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:07| So the Drug Court program, which is not available in every community, but it is in Summit County, is a program where essentially you have legal charges that are held in abeyance until you complete this program. So there's a lot on the line for you there. As I think you know, I've, I have family and friends who were in that program. We're in the program with you. It |00:35:30| is really remarkable the difference that program can make.
Alex Schlopy: |00:35:34| It's life changing. I mean, there's something I mean, they always say, you know, addiction is like a broken brain and that means a broken person. So it's like, how do you rebuild that? I mean, it's like your best chance because you can't rebuild everything in a short period of time. So there's something really beautiful about the recovery process. And I've |00:36:00| seen people who would be perceivably, maybe not some of the best people, you would think until you see them in recovery and you see that there's really beauty in all these people, it's incredible.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:12| Do you think back on it now and you're able to recognize the real benefits that that brought to you and has helped to make you an even better person?
Alex Schlopy: |00:36:22| Absolutely. Yeah. There's so many things from that program that that continue. It's like the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, I |00:36:30| think just having the ability to look inwards and when something is wrong, actually doing something about it, you know, that alone that can take you so far.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:41| So eventually you did get back to competition. Kind of tell us about that.
Alex Schlopy: |00:36:46| So that was cool. I basically it actually happened right when Covid hit. I set the goal to go out and compete again. And you know, in my mind I had to set, you know, I'm going to compete to make the Olympics. |00:37:00| But I knew that wasn't going to happen. But for me, in order for me to put forth my best effort, I had to set the bar high. It was really fun. I went back and I trained just like I would even, well, even harder, honestly, than when I was before. And I got a hold of Skogan Sprang on the U.S. Ski Team and I'm like, hey, is there a way I can get into some contest? And he's like, yeah, I think we could get you in a rev tour. And I'm like, sweet, sign me up. And |00:37:30| basically I was at Woodward Park City on the trampolines, you know, wearing my mask, doing double flips, learning triple flips pretty much every day and in the gym. And then next thing you know, I'm at the top of the X-Games course again for for the Rev tour and the nostalgia, I mean, deja vu, but just it was so beautiful. I was I was in tears at the top, just like, all right, well, we're gonna drop in again after everything you put yourself through, everything |00:38:00| I've overcome. And it was just for me. I mean, there wasn't any cameras. I didn't have a coach. I didn't have a sponsor. I was just like, I'm just doing it. And crazy enough, I was able to make finals, which I think I was six, 6 or 7 years older than the next oldest competitor. So I think they were 21, 22.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:21| They know who you were.
Speaker3: |00:38:22| Yeah.
Alex Schlopy: |00:38:23| So yeah, quite a few of them did. And what's funny is a lot of the guys I competed against were coaching them. So they were like, |00:38:30| they won. They called me White Iverson. I got a bunch of different nicknames up there because I didn't. I missed training and that was pretty common for me. And so, you know, White Iverson, Allen Iverson was known for skipping practice. Yeah. Then there was that song by Post Malone.
Speaker3: |00:38:48| That's that's wild. What a great story.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:51| What's Alex Schlopy doing today?
Alex Schlopy: |00:38:53| Right now I'm working at a ski club called Jackson's Hideaway. And to me, it's like, having |00:39:00| the ability to pass the torch. It's a membership program where you can come in and get a locker and you have a private lodge, ski in, ski out at Park City, and I get to go ski with the members and kind of show them around Park City, show them this beautiful place that I grew up and, you know, pass that torch along, show people the beauty of this whole area. So it's really, really fun.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:23| What does skiing mean to you today?
Alex Schlopy: |00:39:26| Freedom. It's and that goes there's layers to |00:39:30| that. But you know it's kind of this was a component to what led me to my darkest place and also what brought me out. It's just total freedom.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:42| Looks like you're having fun.
Alex Schlopy: |00:39:43| I am. I love it.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:45| Alex Schlopy thanks you so much. We're going to close it out with our Fresh Tracks section. A few final short questions. Who is your ski hero when you were growing up in Utah, who did you look up to?
Alex Schlopy: |00:39:56| In Utah.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:57| Well, when you were in Utah, any ski hero.
Alex Schlopy: |00:39:59| Simon |00:40:00| Dumont and Tanner Hall.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:02| And they were. And so I'm just trying to think of the age thing. So you would have been connected to them probably when you were just starting like ten, 11 years old, right?
Speaker3: |00:40:10| Yep, yep.
Alex Schlopy: |00:40:11| Watching them battle at the X Games. And then TJ Schiller, of course, that's who I tried to emulate.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:17| And do you have like what's the sickest ski run that you've ever taken in Utah? It doesn't have to be in a comp but sickest ski run that you've done.
Alex Schlopy: |00:40:26| Tiger Tail at Snowbird lapping that last winter. |00:40:30| It was. Yeah. Endless endless smiles, joy face shots. It was incredible.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:36| Where's Tiger Tail?
Alex Schlopy: |00:40:37| It's off the Gad lifts. It's kind of you have to cut through a rope and look I'm not a huge I don't ski Snowbird very often but it was on the far side. Basically skiing down a regular run in just a little opening in the ropes. You go through that, you hike up a little ridge for about, you know, 30, 40ft, and it's just endless.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:58| And you lapped it.
Alex Schlopy: |00:40:59| Oh, yeah. We lapped it all |00:41:00| day.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:01| Did you hike it? You just kept hiking?
Alex Schlopy: |00:41:02| Yeah just kept hiking, kept lapping. Awesome stuff. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:05| Um, what's all of your competition runs? And you mentioned a bunch of them, but of all of your comp runs, what's the one that sticks out in your mind that's like that really special one?
Alex Schlopy: |00:41:16| It's funny because I didn't actually do well with it, but it was a Dew Tour run at Breckenridge, where I had spent all day working on one rail trick, which was it was a switch lip side 270 to the top of the wall |00:41:30| ride, and then a blind 270 out, and I was able to do both way doubles and everything I'd been working on all in that run, and I think I got like 12th or 13th, but to me that was my best run.
Speaker3: |00:41:40| Cool. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:42| If you have to take clients out from from Jackson's, where are you going to take them?
Alex Schlopy: |00:41:46| Well, 10th Mountain Division is a fun run to go learn trees. I think that's a great one. There's some little hidden spots under the gondola going from Park City to the canyon side. It really depends on the skill |00:42:00| level and what people are trying to ski. But, you know, if you ever see me out there, I'll point you in the right direction.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:06| Where's 10th mountain?
Alex Schlopy: |00:42:08| Division. It's off the top of Pioneer. You take a left and you basically ski the trees to the right. That'll take you back down towards McConkey's and Pioneer.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:18| I was with a group a few years ago. I think during the World Championships in 2019, it was a GoPro event. Wallisch took us out and took us, took us off of Pine Cone Ridge down that way. And it was like, |00:42:30| I think that's the last time we're going to see them. There's no way we're keeping up with that dude. And he goes down, he does a, you know, spins a 360, he goes off another one, does a little flip. Crazy stuff.
Alex Schlopy: |00:42:38| Sounds like Tom. It does, doesn't it?
Tom Kelly: |00:42:41| Um, favorite outdoor activity for you outside of skiing?
Alex Schlopy: |00:42:45| I finally got a mountain bike again and I absolutely love it. I love motocross too, but mountain bikes, kind of that happy middle ground. So I'm not going to absolutely get wrecked when I crash.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:55| What's your go to ski town restaurant?
Alex Schlopy: |00:42:58| Go to ski town restaurant? |00:43:00| Um, I like the Boneyard a lot in Park City. It's just a great environment. They have a lot of options on the menu. And if you're. I don't drink, but if you do, that's a great spot to do it.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:12| And finally, in just one word and you talked about this earlier, but in just one word, what does skiing mean to you.
Alex Schlopy: |00:43:18| It's freedom.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:19| It is! Alex Schlopy world champion, X-Games champion, Dew Tour champion. Thanks for taking the time to join us on Last Chair, and we'll see you up in the mountain this winter.
Alex Schlopy: |00:43:28| All right. Thank you. Tom.