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Red Bull Signature Series: One-On-One With Gus Kenworthy

We speak with the up-and-coming skier about the Playstreets event, his favorite place to shred and more.

Charles Gagnier, Gus Kenworthy and Vincent Gagnier celebrate after winning at Red Bull Playstreets 2013 in Bad Gastein, Austria on February 23rd, 2013

Red Bull has been quite busy this winter with a number of outdoor events – like the Ultra Natural and Crashed Ice events – as part of their Signature Series.  Well, before summer sports season kicks off, NBC will air Red Bull’s Playstreets ski event from Bad Gastein, Austria, which took place February 23.  The event is set to air on April 28 at 5 p.m. EST and will feature several up-and-coming skiers competing in a city atmosphere using buildings and surrounding terrain as their course.

The event will feature 21-year-old Gus Kenworthy who has recently made some noise at X Games Tignes 2013 and was only one of two skiers to compete in slopestyle, big air and superpipe.  We recently spoke to Kenworthy about the event, what it took to prepare and his favorite spot to shred.

 

We were hoping you could tell us a little about the Red Bull Playstreets events.

It’s part of the Red Bull Signature Series of events.  It’s basically an in-city ski slopestyle event that happens in Bad Gastein, Austria.  There’s a group of guys that are invited to come and compete on this really unique course that’s set up between tight buildings in this city, this old European city.  And then there’s a qualifying round where you’re whittled down to I believe eight people and the first place goes against the eighth place head to head and you just have a two round format and each guy goes down twice and you knock the other person out until there is a champion.

Can you tell us a little bit about Bad Gastein and what makes it an ideal setting?

It’s old, I think it was a pretty wealthy city at one point and now it’s a little abandoned almost, it seems like when you get there, but then once the event starts it’s super busy, there’s so many people that came to watch, huge crowds and I think it’s pretty close to Red Bull’s headquarters.

What do you like most about the event – what drew you to it?

It’s an event I remember seeing highlights from and photos from it and I remember thinking, “how cool is this, it’s so strange or I’ve never see city Big Air before.”  It’s one jump in a city at an exhibition and there’s never really been any other event like this where they incorporate multiple jumps and rails into a true city atmosphere the way this is done.  And so this is something I wanted to try out, I mean I’ve never done anything like this, it’s a new experience and really exciting.  I was already over in Europe so it just worked out perfectly.

And the course looks pretty elaborate, what’s going through your mind just before you’re getting ready to go?

The first time it’s definitely – basically, you’re just like “I just gotta get to the bottom.”  It’s kind of a strange one because there’s not any point where you can see the whole course.  I mean, we’re televised so you can see everything but from a spectator’s stand point, you can only see snippets of the course. 

So, when I was standing there at first I didn’t really know what I was getting into, I was trying to see if there was a hip at the beginning into a jump and then I had no idea what was after that.  The first time I was just dropping in and hoping for the best and making sure, I don’t know, you’re getting to the bottom safely and then once you’ve gone a few times you start to feel pretty comfortable.  Its features are kind of smaller, so it’s more good.  You just have to be on it with how you’re landing and everything.  You get speed as well as in control.

So you’re basically going down it blindly the first few times until you get a good feel for it?

Yeah, I mean definitely the first time.  The first time is super blind.  I didn’t know.

Is there any specific music that you listen to, to kind of get you amped up and ready to go – what does it take to get you ready?

I mean, the announcers usually do a pretty good job of that.  There’s so many people that are at that event in particular.  But the crowd just kinda gets you amped up, you hear them cheering, you hear them announce your name, you’ve got butterflies in your stomach.  I don’t know, it’s a good feeling.  But it gets you going, for sure.  But I don’t really listen to music too much when I’m skiing.  Most of the guys do but it’s not really something I’ve ever done.  I like it when the event is playing music and there’s people and there’s a lot of noise but I don’t know, I don’t like having the headphones in.

And how long have you been skiing competitively?

I did a couple of regional contests just around Colorado, where I’m from, when I was 14 or 15 and then when I was 16, picked out my first sponsor, dabbled a little more, went to a few contests that were a little farther from home and then when I was like 17 I competed more regularly during all of the amateur events, trying to get into the professional events.  When I was 18, three years ago, I did my first X Games, competed in all the Dew Tours and came on the pro circuit.

What has been the highlight of your career up to this point?

I don’t know, there’s been a few.  This season will be my third season in a row as the overall ASP World Champion.  The ASP is our ranking system that determines how everyone is seeded based on contest results and the overall champion is whoever has the most points basically for halfpipe, slopestyle and big air, so it’s the accumulative score of all three.  This is my third year winning now, which is pretty exciting.  For me, I just got my first X Games medal the other week at the European X Games in slopestyle…

Congratulations.

Thank you.  I mean I know a bronze isn’t as good as first or second but I was pretty happy with it.  And then had a couple of wins last year I was pretty proud of – first place at Dumont Cup, first place at Jon Olsson Invitational.  I don’t know.

You’ve traveled all over the world, so where are some of your favorite places to shred?

My favorite place to travel to is Whistler British Columbia, Canada. The biggest skier zone in North America, as far as terrain, you pretty much got everything and a lot of it.  They get a lot of snow, it’s close to Vancouver so it’s pretty easy to travel into, bunch of fun bars and great restaurants.  The last competition of the season, WSI Skiing Invitational, always takes place there.  I’m looking forward to going back.

You mentioned the last event of the season, what do you do once skiing has died down during the summer months?

I mean, I’m still skiing almost year round but when there’s some off time I like to skateboard, I like to mountain bike, go to the gym a little bit but mostly it’s like the contests are done at this point.  But then I’m heading down to Mammoth [California] for training camp with the USA ski team and then I’ll be up in Whistler in the summer at summer camps, skiing the lanes, hanging out with campers and the kids and everything.  And usually I go down to New Zealand in like August for a couple of weeks or a month for a couple competitions down there and get training and then it all continues until back to the season.

 

Ed is an MMA/Extreme Sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: Erwin Polanc/Red Bull Content Pool.