Going Down Unda W/ Taylor Seaton

Taylor Seaton is a different breed as far as competition skiers goes. I reckon its because he's really not a "Competition Skier" at all, he is a straight skier. Wherever you put Seaton he can put his skis down and stomp tricks with style and he's not doing it to train, he's doing it for the pleasure of being a skier. Taylor is a rare on in this day and age where it seems as if there is hardly enough time for skiers to be doing both disciplines, Competitions and filming, and instead try to master one or the other. Instead he destroys it in both disciplines.

With the time he's spent around the competition scene it's great to hear what is going on behind closed curtains and his ideas for a change in the format and competitor mentality that he's been seeing over his years. So in this interview we dive into what first attracted him into the Freeski world, His views of the change over the years in the competitive side, Way's to improve judging, and his idea's of style.

Oh yeah, Almost forgot to mention we dont only have this awesome interview with the man, but we got a wicked edit that is premiering right here, Taylors 8th installment of his ventures down to New Zealand, "Sizzla Down UnDa 8".

Photo By Casey Ripper

AD: First up, let’s get some background, how did you get into skiing, who were your big influences when you were coming up?

TS: I started skiing when I was just about 2 years old in the backyard of my parents house. From there my family would go skiing every weekend. Skiing was a big thing for my family; my parents ran an advertising company that specialized in snow sports, so growing up my dad was always around people in the industry until my early teens, around that time, he changed his career, so it was before I had made a name in the sport.  With that being said, I was never given any sponsors from my dad’s connections.

I remember in 2000, at 10 years old my dad took me to check out the big air comp at the US Freesking Open presented by Freeze Magazine in Vail. That’s when I saw freeskiing showcased for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. I don’t even think I knew what it was before I saw it live but from that point on, I was always telling my parents that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.  It all started with Freeze magazine. I was living in Boulder Colorado and the only skiing I was doing was on the weekends, so at school I was the kid always getting in trouble for reading ski magazines during class. At that time I didn’t realize that skiing was a lifestyle or was going to be my future lifestyle.

I think the first guys I was looking up to was Johnny Mosley and Glen Plake. My dad had done ad’s using both those guys and got me signed posters that I hung up in my room.  A year after seeing freeskiing showcased for the first time my dad took me to one of the US Freeskiing Open parties early in the night. I was so young at that point, that I had no clue what was really going on… To me, a 15 year old was a big kid in my mind. So the underage drinking and drugs that was going on was totally an unknown thing to me, all the guys just looked like they were having a lot of fun and enjoying life. At that point I knew who a couple of the guys were like CR Johnson, Tanner Hall, Even Raps, JF Cusson, Pep Fujas, Candide Thovex, Brand Holmes (I thought ask brad in freeze magazine was funny) and Greg Tufflemire. I’d say they were the ones that I really started following and inspired me the most.

Best ski mag to bless the scene RIP

AD: So your an AFP/ FIS qualified Judge, what made you decide to get your judging qualifications?

TS: A few years ago I was in NZ and the head judge at the time Raf Regazzoni talked me into doing an AFP/FIS judging clinic so I would be more educated on the judging in our sport since I didn’t have a coach telling me what to do or not to do.  In a way I learned a lot and had a good time doing it and I just left it at that for quite some time. My first official judging job happened to work out in the spur of the moment. I was in Europe last year doing the Vars tournament and one of the referees, Lao Chazelas, was planning on judging the FIS Junior Worlds until he had a collarbone injury needing immediate surgery.  I was invited to the B&E invitational taking place a week after Vars and was pretty undecided what I was going to do during the time in between. Luckily I was recommended to FIS by Lao and another judge, Andrew Wicks, and the next day I was on a flight to Italy to Judge the Jr. Worlds!

AD: Besides a qualified judge your also a Real Estate Broker now?

TS: Yeah man, the grinding to keep on skiing never ends for me. From being a “Craigslist King” to maybe selling you your next home, I’ll be doing whatever I can to stay on snow as much of the year as possible.  The ski industry is tough these days, I put every dollar I make skiing back into my skiing, and towards the end of the year it’s hard to make ends meet. I have a side job of being a house sitter for a guy up in the Vail Valley, it’s a super awesome set up because I have a place to stay and somewhat call home but it has also introduced me to a different crowd in the Valley. I noticed how many of these upper class 2nd home owner families buy and sell places in the Valley. Knowing a few of them, through the guy I house sit for, got me motivated to get my Real Estate License and become an agent. I have yet to sell a house but it’s something that I have set as a goal and would be a nice bonus to help afford my skiing path. I also learned so much taking the classes that I actually can’t believe they don’t teach these things in high school. Everyone needs a place to call home at some point in their life and having the knowledge that they teach in Real Estate school seems like it almost should be mandatory knowledge, unless you’re fine with being an amature house buyer.  

AD: What do you think of the current state of competitive skiing?

TS: Competitive skiing…. I think it’s surviving; It’s definitely changed from what it was but, in the end, it’s still a competition everyone is trying to be the best they can. For sure drinking beer and smoking weed before you drop in doesn’t exist any more and of course guys are taking everything from the training to the competitions way more serious, that’s only going to happen to any sport that goes to the Olympics.

What I do see in competitive skiing is a lot of similar routines, coaches, and athletes being told what to do and what not to do.  I don’t have a problem with coaches necessarily, I grew up being coached, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for them! But, what I see is a lot of similar tricks and runs being thrown from athlete to athlete.  I’ve noticed that a lot of kids are only in it to learn the next progressive trick. There is such a different side of skiing than having the most technical tricks. One example being fundamentals. The problem is this side of skiing gets overlooked consistently and I think competitive skiing has transformed our sport to thinking that way. Even in judging there isn’t a category for style… I’ve been told a few times that style isn’t a judgable category. But I feel 100% that it is. Style can be defined quite easily, just look in the dictionary. It’s a particular, distinctive action. Our sport started from going against conformation so basically we didn’t want to be told by judges how inverted you can go or how fundamental your axis is. We wanted freedom… FREESKIING I feel that Style is how unique your skiing or trick is, how much you are defying fundamentals. There are athletes that have tricks that in a silhouette shot you would know what rider it is just because of how unique their grab or axis is no matter what size clothing, skis, or gear they are wearing. That is STYLE.

Photo by Benton Inscoe

AD: Besides Style is there any other current judging criteria that you think needs to be modified?

TS: In my opinion, I think it’s wrong for our sport that Style isn’t a current judged criteria yet.  You go to any invitational event and they usually have an award for the most style. If an athlete can judge another athlete on style why can’t a FIS/ AFP judge do the same?  

Another current criteria that I think gets super overlooked is over all impression. If you ever watch a judge actually judge a run they are not watching it from the moment the run starts to the moment that run ends with just a few blinks. Even the best of the best judges still look down at their steno between tricks. Right there is a huge red flag for me that we have to judge over all impression, yet, not one of the judges actually saw the whole entire run from start to finish. We are skiers, so shouldn’t we be judged on the skiing aspect of it too? Landing on correct edges, pumping the transition of the pipe to squeak in another hit, landing switch looking over the proper shoulder, carving between features and off take offs whether riding forward or switch, etc.  No judge has the capability to write every trick and not miss a second of the run. I know for me I watch replays of contests and sometimes an athlete, or even myself, have a pretty large error between hits in the halfpipe that will get totally missed by the judges which could of had a huge effect on results and sometimes even confuses the announcers because they saw the mistake but had no effect on the judges score. The announcers and judges are not working together and do not usually communicate with each other although, at the larger events like Dew Tour and X Games I think the announcers usually have a better insight on the newest trends in skiing then the judges do and they get to see the whole competition from a different point of view and they are the ones that give the spectators the break down and perspective of our sport.

AD: How have things changed, from your perspective, since FIS got involved and since the Olympics?

TS: I honestly feel FIS getting involved hasn’t really changed our sport too much. I think that the attitude of countries, coaches, and athletes when we got accepted into the Olympics is what changed our sport.  Everything and everyone really started to get serious from all points of competitive freeskiing. Coaches, ski technicians, physical therapists, nutritionists, personal trainers, assistant coaches and even personal videographers are all a very common thing these days. Skiing didn’t used to be like that… Within 4 years everything changed drastically, before it was all the athletes standing at the top of comps being the animals that we all have in us waiting to drop in. Nowadays, there are so many extra people at the top of X-Games, Dew Tour and pretty much every competition, it’s crazy.

About 8 years back, and since the beginning, there used to be sponsor houses at most the competitions. Athletes would stay with their ski sponsor, outerwear sponsor, or whatever kind of sponsor that had a house at that comp. All of us would stay together because the company brought us in like a family, that’s how I got to know a lot of the older guys, the legends of our sport. They opened my mind and taught me what the skiing lifestyle was all about, and I appreciated that, and try to carry that on still to this day! You have to check yourself from time to time and make sure that you are who you wished you would grow up to be and staying true to your dreams from when you were a young teen.

Photo By Drew Lederer

AD: Is there anyone out there that you still trip out when you ski with them about how good they are? Skiers you are most stoked on?

TS: Yo there are so many people that trip me out when I go skiing with them, the best of the best will make anyone trip, Tanner Hall, Henrik Harlaut, Phil Casabon to name a few of the major players in this game. The fact that these guys have so much style, individuality, and passion for the sport. There are so many skiers that I ski with that have unbelievable talent..

AD: What about skiing outside competition?

TS: Skiing outside of competition is my favorite thing to do these days. I love competing still but I feel that I have more fun and meet way more people exploring the mountain, riding pow or just spending the day in the park. I think skiers outside of competition are some of the more core skiers in our sport. These guys are going to be doing it forever, it's not just a sport, its their lifestyle! The only thing I feel is missing from non competitive skiing is more sponsors. I feel a lot of guys that have been pushing the sport in movies deserve just as much as competition skiers. These guys are dedicated to skiing as much as the guys that compete but they have taken skiing and looked at it from a different perspective and I kind of wish more of these guys would compete, lots of them have so many progressive and unique tricks.

Photo By Casey Ripper

AD: What’s your perfect ski day?

TS: My perfect day skiing… I’ve been asked this question a lot in my life. I’ve always broken down a “perfect day” but really after the last couple years of struggling to be on snow as much as I have wanted and having been through my fair share of injuries, I’ve learned that any day I get to ski and stay healthy is a perfect day, it’s a gift. But my favorite thing is to shred with some homies, It’s actually been so long since I have gone skiing solo and not linked up with a homie on the mountain at some point during the day. Working summer jobs and hustling to ski makes you love it that much more, especially if skiing is your life.

AD: You’ve been on the scene for a while now, what still hypes you up to get up and go ski?

TS: I guess you could say I’ve been in the scene for a while, but it doesn’t feel like I have. I’m only 28 and I surely don’t plan to quit anytime soon. Thinking longevity of a career I think the last 10 years on the scene is only a start, I consider myself a skier4life. Skiing in general hypes me up, it could be a day in the park, a competition, or a pow day, I’m hyped to ski because I feel I’m always getting better. Of course, sometimes, I get such a good strain of weather, vibes, and terrain that changing it up to something not as good as it has been will make me less stoked on skiing because I forget to appreciate just being healthy and on skis. I think that is the most important part to being hyped to ski and when that happens I usually ski more creative, and learn more things and just enjoy life in general more!

AD: For a skier with such an obvious focus on style, you don't seem to have filmed a ton of edits/video parts, why is that?

TS: I feel every freeskier should be focused on style, lets not forget we are a branch of freestyle! Weather you are a film skier or a comp skier you should always focus to be you. Make your own creativity up, have your own unique tricks and ways of doing things, and keeping it fresh. Sure it’s great to be inspired by other skiers, that’s how we progress as a sport.

I’ve dropped a few edits and had shots over the years with Inspired Media Concepts. This season I filmed with Tanner Hall for his movie and Jeremy Pancras for his.  I will also be dropping an edit with Scott Klumb Media from shooting some Colorado backcountry this winter. Over the years, I have produced 7 NZ season edits online, that’s when I get the most amount of time to film skiing during the year although, for the most part, I have been dedicated to competition skiing. It’s so easy to lose your ranking in the AFP system. If you take a couple comps off it can mean moving from 10th to the 20th spot, and that means it’s going to be tough to make it to X-Games. X is one of the hardest comps to get an invite to! It’s like the only competition that I have been dreaming to podium at since I was 12 years old, and I haven’t given up on that dream. I wanted to make it to Olympics but not even close to as bad as I have wanted an X games medal. Hopefully it will happen sooner than later as I really would like to spend a season filming for a movie but, at the moment, competitions are my priority.


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