The ‘entrepreneurial’ mindset behind the success of the US Slopestyle Ski Team

Of the three Olympic Games that freestyle skier Nick Goepper has competed in, he has come home with a medal each time: bronze at the Sochi Games in 2014, silver at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 and, now, a another silver medal at the Beijing Games in 2022, all in slopestyle. .

Goepper’s success is, indeed, indicative of a larger trend. Since slopestyle skiing made its debut at the 2014 Games, American men have been on the podium every time. In fact, in 2014, the United States swept away the podium, with Joss Christensen in gold, Gus Kenworthy in silver and Goepper in bronze.


In 2018, Goepper was the only American on the podium when he took silver.

But this time around, Alex Hall and Goepper went 1-2 with their gold and silver, sending a message to the rest of the world that the United States is still the nation to beat in slopestyle.

Goepper called the Beijing Games “the most fulfilling and at the same time most predictable Olympic Games”. He knew what he was getting into and knew what people expected of him; there was more room in his psyche to relax and enjoy it all.

Now 27 and the oldest Olympic medalist in men’s slopestyle at the Olympics, Goepper’s fiercest competition at this point in his career has come from inside the team.



The 12-skier final in Beijing featured three American athletes; only one of the four athletes competing in slopestyle at those Games, Mac Forehand, did not qualify. Colby Stevenson, who was the first American to qualify for the Beijing Games in December thanks to his world No. 2 ranking, came seventh in the final.

As slopestyle skiing progressed rapidly after its Olympic debut in 2014, skiers upped the ante with bigger pirouettes and more flips. Hall landed the first-ever 2160 (six full rotations) in competition at X Games Aspen in January, just before the Olympics. The trick is called a “future spin” because the degree of spin is higher than in the current year.

And yet, in Beijing, it was Hall and Goepper’s individual style and creative use of the slopestyle course, not a whirlwind of future pirouettes, that propelled them to the podium.


Hall wowed with his double straight cork 1080 pretzel 180 on the third jump, a trick that required him to “rewind” his spin from 1080 to a 900. It was a risk, but it paid off with his best score of 90, 01.

And Goepper was the only skier in the peloton to take advantage of the quarterpipe takeoff on the second jump, with a double left cork 1440, leading to his score of 86.48 on his second run.

“My strategy was to do the kind of skiing that was the most authentic and fun for me, but to make it technical and hard to get the points,” Goepper told me by phone after returning from the Games. “On the Beijing course, there were two features in particular – the house with the rail on top, what we called the ‘shred shed’ and the second quarter pipe jump feature – that were features that I would love to ride in a regular park every day.They were just super challenging and fun.

The judges rewarding Goepper for his creative use of the course validated his approach. “It’s nice to keep telling me to do what you’re good at and have fun doing it and it’ll usually get you the furthest,” Goepper said.


Goepper’s rail prowess and creative flair are by design. Growing up in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, her native mountain, Perfect North Slopes, features a top elevation of 800 feet and 400 vertical feet. But the 100-acre ski area is where Goepper cut his teeth as a young skier, debuting at age five and competing at age 11.

Always drawn to speed and scale, Goepper landed his first double backflip at age 13.

And while the Midwest did for Goepper what it does for many professional freestyle skiers – requires them to hone their style early and excel at rails and other street-style features, Goepper’s pro career has it. seen chasing every type of feature he didn’t have available to him growing up in Indiana.

“Growing up on smaller jumps, smaller rails, on a 400 foot hill in the Midwest, when I get the chance to do something big, I take it every time,” Goepper said in laughing. “I never had that growing up, I could never hit a rail 10 feet off the ground or a quarterpipe-style crazy jump. After skiing smaller stuff in the Midwest, I’m now drawn to the big, gnarly stuff because it’s so much fun and off the beaten path for me.


That’s what makes Goepper the ultimate competitor: he loves big features, but he’ll never leave creative functionality untouched on a course. “In skiing, the judges love it when you use something that’s there and is supposed to be a hit,” he said.

But it’s not just their elegant flair and arsenal of tricks that contribute to the US Freestyle Ski Team’s success in international competition. It’s embedded in their DNA.

“Our success has a lot to do with the individuals who are part of the team,” Goepper said. “It all comes down to culture; whatever kind of culture you foster on a sports team or in business or whatever is going to shape the mindset and the results that come with it. Within our team, we have a mix of super innovative, hardworking and progressive personalities, but who also work really well together and are super competitive. We have rockstars on our team.


The US ski team also employs what Goepper describes as an “entrepreneurial mindset,” which sets it apart from most other dominant national ski teams in the world, such as Norway or Japan.

Because the United States does not fund the USOPC at the federal level, relying instead on support from private donors and individuals, American athletes are especially dependent on finding sponsors who will help them travel the world to train and participate in competitions.

“That mindset is what has made us so dominant and so good over the years,” Goepper said. “In America, the culture is very different from, say, Norway. If we play to our strengths, we will be the best we can be. By trying to do it the way someone else does, you may run into problems; I’ve seen him play over the years.

Goepper has always relied “heavily” on private sponsorship and finds it rewarding to gain that support through his skiing success; its main brand partnerships are with Red Bull, Kulkea and Völkl.


“I love having that on my head,” Goepper said, pointing to his Red Bull hat. “Biggest ego boost ever.”

In addition to helping athletes travel around the world to compete, sponsors also pay out podium bonuses, which can reach five figures.

Another crucial element behind any successful Olympian? Supportive parents, says Goepper. From his earliest days of skiing, his parents encouraged his dream by building permanent ski jumps on the family property.

He returned to his home resort of Perfect North Slopes with fellow Lawrenceburg Olympian Justin Schoenefeld (antennae) for a homecoming party, where he snapped photos with local fans and signed autographs – and showed his last medal to his parents.


The station awarded lifetime passes to Olympians.

At 27, Goepper’s career is in a period of transition. Fellow freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who competed with Goepper for Team USA in slopestyle in 2014 and 2018 but represented Team UK in halfpipe in Beijing, has just announced his retirement at 30.

And Goepper found plenty of satisfaction off the slopes. After a recent divorce, he is dating someone and is looking forward to spending time with her once his ski racing season is over. In the summer, he trains on his bike and skateboard.


As I get older, “I just want to hang out with my best friends and be more of a best friend, be more of a brother, be more of a son,” Goepper said. “I had to put it all on the back burner for a little while, and I want to be a people person again.”

Goepper also bought a property in Utah last summer and would like to launch an after-ski career by investing in Airbnbs.

Throughout his career, Goepper dreaded being asked what he could do after skiing. Now he finds himself looking forward to what that future might hold.

“I would be okay if my career ended tomorrow,” Goepper said. “People always ask me what I would do after skiing, and I was like, ‘I have no idea, stop asking me that question.’ Now I finally feel like I could figure something out and everything would be okay.


But the hunger is still there. Goepper won a bronze and two silver medals at the Olympics; he would really like to add this elusive third color to his collection before his career is over.

That’s no longer his only goal…but don’t count him out for the 2026 Winter Games.

“I would definitely do that again in four years,” Goepper said. “I really wanted that gold this time. But I feel like it’s less about the gold now; if I were to keep doing that it would be for different reasons.

“Earlier in my career, skiing was all I cared about and what I lived and breathed. Now I have other things going on. I have a new road map for skiing, how to do it, how to succeed and what is fun; how much energy I want to put into it and how many sacrifices I want to make to get to the end of it. The next four years would be truly rewarding and exciting. I have options; it’s just an option to know if I want to do it again.


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