Calm Under Fire: Torstein Horgmo

By Mary Walsh

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Shortly after Torstein Horgmo stomped a first-place finish at the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final at Mount Snow, we had a chance to catch up with the Norwegian shredder (who, in second place overall, goes into the Toyota Championship with 165 points; 25 behind Shaun White, who finished second at this Slopestyle Final). Here we talk about his laid-back approach to contest riding, the merits of backcountry filming, and the mindset that has allowed Torstein to keep ripping so hard despite having sustained a potentially debilitating vertebrae injury in early 2007.

Let’s start off with this stop of the Winter Dew Tour. It’s been a really good last couple days for you. You started off with a first in the Slopestyle Prelim, which you took all the way to Final. How was it to start off with your first run and just kill it?
Well you know, the Prelim was kind of sketchy because we had a full-on snowstorm going into it. I think everybody wanted to do good in the Prelim but worrying about getting hurt is always a big factor. Winning the Prelim definitely felt good. I got it right out of the way first run and it was just like ‘phew’, I didn’t get hurt. I was stoked about that. And today, waking up seeing the sun outside, I think everybody was like ‘man it’s gonna be a good day, this is gonna be the best day’, you know, and it was really good that way. Everybody put it down. I was up there with Mikkel [Bang] and Andreas [Wiig]. Those guys are good friends of mine, I was so stoked to be side-by-side with them up there, watching them kill it and being able to kill it myself. Just being able to put down what I wanted to get with those guys means a lot to me. Those guys are my idols, too, you know?

Everyone noticed you three guys from Norway at the top there, battling with everyone else and with each other. There must be something in Norway that seems to turn out amazing riders. What do you think that is?
I don’t know. Haha. You know how they say we’re born with skis on our feet. I mean, we’re just used to the cold and I feel like coming here to Vermont seems a little bit more like home in a way. I don’t know why but, the weather’s always … you’re not expecting to get sunshine every day, and once you do, you get really amped about it.

Hard snow.
Yeah, it feels good, you know and the people coming out here, so many people showed up feels like… it’s the true essence of snowboarding right here. People are so stoked about snowboarding here just in general and everybody’s just screaming. When you come down from a run like that it feels really good to know that people are backing whatever it is you’re doing, you know? It doesn’t seem like an every-day contest at all. Today was really fun.

Today you took down the man from the top spot in Breck, Shaun White. How’d it feel to win slopestyle at this stop?
Yeah, to be honest, I don’t really feel like I beat anybody today and that’s not what I’m going for, either. I don’t come into a contest hoping to beat people — other than myself I guess. I always want to do better, like I’m setting some goals for myself and you know, if I can do what I want to do I will only have beaten myself. Today was just my day. Everybody has their moment. I mean Shaun, he’s won probably 100 contests, Andreas has probably won 100 contests, and all those riders are really good, but I don’t feel like I beat them. I’m not like “yeah, you know, I beat those guys, I’m better than them.’ I don’t feel like that at all. That’s not why I’m here, at all.

I feel like in an event like this, everyone’s really stoked for everyone to do really well, like you said.
For sure, like, I’m up there and I’m going like third to last and Andreas is going before me and I see him just killing it out there and I’m like “oh man, I’m gonna have to beat that, to win, but I’m stoked for him, you know? He put down a cool run and I’m stoked for him. That’s cool. He’s a friend of mine. Like, like, everybody else up there. I’m not saying I know everybody up there. There’s a lot of new faces were up there too. It is cool to see, a little different. The course is nice and different too, like seven hits in a row. I like that. It’s not like three hits and you’re done, it’s like you can kind of put your own flavor into it and I like that.

That’s very cool. It kind of goes back to the heart of snowboarding, in the end, we’re all here for the same reason. You also do a lot of filming. The mentality you’re talking about of just being out there competing against yourself translates to when you’re working with filmers. How do you like that in comparison to competing?
Um, I mean it’s different. It makes you feel probably just as good but in a different way. You know, if you get a banger shot and you’re like, you know, this is going to be in the movie that’s coming out and you’re like ‘yes!’ so happy. But it’s in a different way, right? Like, when you’re out there in the backcountry, it’s way more mellow you can take your time more but it’s kind of just as serious, you know? I guess the key to everything is like if you’re able to stay focused and have fun at the same time I mean that’s a hard thing to do, but if you can put those two together, you’ll always do good. You’re up there, you’re chilling with all your friends, but as soon as you put your goggles on, and you’re there, you’re like at peace with yourself. You’re about to drop in and you’re able to have fun at the same time.

Cool. Are you filming with the same crews this year?
I’m gonna, I think so. I want to try to do as much as I can with as many people as I can and as many projects. But I’m still probably going to keep one main focus and try to expand from that.

Will that be Standard again this year?
I think so. Yeah. I think I’m gonna try and put together a good part for Standard. Like that was my goal for last season as well, but I ended up filming with Park City, you know, and I got a part with them, too, and that made me really happy and I made a lot of friends there too. And, I hope to do the same this year. For sure.

You probably have a very busy competition schedule coming up in the next couple weeks as well?
Not as busy, I mean, I’m going to try to go straight to some chill time now, cruising, and probably try to make some filming happen somewhere, maybe get a couple shots somewhere. I don’t know what I want to do though, I hope there’s pow somewhere, but I’m probably just gonna do that up until X Games and then there’s gonna be an open window again to try to film a little bit up until Northstar-at-Tahoe. I’m just trying to stay healthy. If I can stay healthy I know I can do a lot of things. Hopefully great things, but I just want to stay healthy and not get hurt or get sick. Just stay healthy and have as much fun as I can.

Not bad plans. I have kind of a loaded question for you.

So I read an interview with you earlier, I think this year? That spoke about a gnarly back injury you had.

And I think everyone that saw you ride today and everyone that’s seen you ride before knows that you’re obviously an amazing rider. Knowing that you had this pretty gnarly injury, how do you go back to the top [of the drop in, etc], when you’re either filming or about to take a run and mentally get back into it after going through something like that?
I don’t know. During the Prelim there was a snowstorm and it definitely brought back a lot of memories from the previous contest where I did break my back. That took me a long time to heal. I actually got really lucky and got out of it fast but still you know it brings it back for sure and uh, I wanted to land a run but I still wanted to be a bit careful . So the first jump today I did a nine, that day I did a five. I mean, no, yeah like second jump today I did a nine, that day I did a five, just to be a little mellow. Same with the next jump, I was gonna do a nine there. I just did a five there and I just switched up some things and as I was going through the course. I had something planned but I didn’t want to be 100 percent on that. I wanted to make changes if I needed to, because sometimes if you drop in, right away you can feel like a huge gust of wind come against you. That’s happened to me before like I’ve gotten I’ve hit a quadro—like four jumps in a row — and on the last jump, thinking I’m all good, you know stomping all my tricks, get a gust of wind at my back and just fly off and break my back, you know, it’s happened before, so I’m definitely cautious. But today when I woke up, you know there’s a lot of trees outside my house where I’m staying, and I looked at a branch for like five minutes, just seeing how it moved, like, I’m all good today. There’s no wind. It’s sunny. Today’s gonna be a good day. I’m just gonna have fun with my friends. Did I track off, way off there?

No, that’s awesome. I don’t mean to bring up something…
No, no, it’s fine, but I’m definitely… it’s been a long time since I got hurt, and I think that’s got a lot to do with the last time when I broke my back. I learned from it, you know? Like I learned from every little thing, and it helps me pick my battles. It’s knowing when it’s a good time to charge it and when it’s time to take a step back and chill. Hopefully I got 10-15 years ahead of me of keeping this up, trying to snowboard every day. If you do stupid things you can easily narrow that down to a couple days and you’re out [laughs].

I just think what you do, like throwing down your 12 especially on Thursday, is pretty mind blowing for a spectator, with you coming out of the fog and snow. I think that kind of injury would be hard for someone to get though at all, let along being able to drop into jumps.

Final question, so you have the switch back 12, and you do that with tons of style and you have that in your repertoire now. That is kind of the biggest anyone’s gone and kept it really smooth. What’s next for yourself?
I don’t know [laughs].

Loaded question again, I apologize.
As far as progression goes, I’m just gonna see. I usually just take a step back and see what happens. If you’re out there—either in the backcountry or at a park session or a contest—if you feel super comfortable doing some tricks and you feel there’s something there that you think you can do and you try it and you land it, sometimes it ends up being something new that nobody’s done before. I think a lot of riders have felt that before. I’m not saying I have, but I kind of know what it feels like. And that’s not something you can plan. Progression, I think, just happens when it’s just the right time. You have some people who land a new trick first, and then you have other people who come and make it look good. I’d rather be that guy that kind of watches people and see what they do and then go out and try to do the same thing but kind of like, make it feel good. I like doing tricks where they feel good. As long as they feel good to me they usually like look a certain way and if people think that’s bad, if people look at that and see, ‘that wasn’t cool’, I don’t care because it felt good to me. And that’s what I think. That’s when the style comes out. When people do stuff and it feels good to them, that’s their style. That’s what I love about snowboarding. That’s a different part of progression. You have the new tricks, people doing new stuff all the time, that’s progressive riding right there, but I think style is also progressive. It comes shortly after.

That’s cool. You summed it up perfectly.