Not many pro skiers can say their careers started shredding wet carpet. But, if he hasn’t proved it already, Great Britain’s James Woods is not your average pro skier.
Woods’ journey began back at Sheffield Ski Village, in Sheffield, England, where he began his ski days on the resort’s artificial turf, a surface known as dry slope. From those humble beginnings, the slopestyle skier shot through the competitive ranks, landing a bronze in his inaugural X Games in 2013 and finishing second in the 2013 World Championships.
Despite all of his success, Woods has never topped the Dew Tour podium (though he has qualified for finals in first on several occasions), a streak he says he is looking forward to ending in 2016.
We caught up with Great Britain’s favorite skier to hear more about his pursuit of the endless winter, what it was like to grow up as a skier without snow, and how he plans to shake up the podiums this season.
WELL, I THINK MCRAE SUMMED IT UP NICELY. HE LIKED TO SAY, ‘IT’S CALLED DRYSLOPE, BUT I’VE NEVER BEEN WETTER.’
How was your offseason? What were you up to since we saw you last?
Fantastic, after the northern hemisphere ski season was over, I spent time in Norway with friends just hanging out. Once that little holiday was done, I went down to New Zealand for their entire winter. I’ve been doing that for ages. That’s my summer. I go down there and ski everyday.
You also spent a lot of time surfing this offseason. Get into anything big this summer?
I’m always trying to push myself, so surfing is one of my other favorite activities. I get a big buzz.
Went to Indo[nesia] for three weeks. It’s the place to be for barrels.
Surfing is fantastic. It’s another thing to push my limits. I’m getting better, the waves are getting bigger, and so are the falls. I’ve got a long way to come. I’m getting scared though which I think is a good thing.
Get into to anything else?
Got my sky diving license. Now I’m skiing, surfing, skydiving. I had two big trips— Indo and then went to different spots for skydiving.
When I was in Norway, I was hanging out with Klaus Finn, and with the season done, we were all fizzled out, so I went back and helped him out on his family farm. Then, just a 10-minute drive from his house is a world class skydiving facility, so before I knew it I was out there jumping with Klaus and I got hooked.
You grew up skiing on dry slope hills back in England, which is essentially a slick carpet. What’s it like to spend most of your year on snow nowadays?
It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true. All of these experiences that I’ve been getting, to become a pro skier and literally live my dream. It’s a bit of a blessing. I’m forever grateful. I don’t ever want to lose this.
Did little Woodsy ever imagine that you’d be here?
I never let myself believe that anything else was going to happen. I dipped from that life in England to be a skier. I never realized what it would be like exactly, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. Honestly, I never knew how cool it would be.
What’s something most people don’t know about dry slope?
You actually get really, really muddy. It’s outside, and not so much muddy, but like a sludgy stuff.
You can ski all year round, but it’s wet, and that wet gets in your clothes. That’s the big shocker though.
I took some of the guys—Jossi Wells, Jackson Wells, Noah Morrison, Vinny Gangier, McRae Williams—back this season to show off the dry slopes in the UK. We called it the Mad Dogs Tour.
What’d they think?
Well, I think McRae summed it up nicely. He liked to say, ‘It’s called dryslope, but I’ve never been wetter.’
How do you think dry slope helped you become the skier you are today?
I wouldn’t be here without it. I didn’t know skiing was about. I could ski there every day, I went everyday after school. I was part of the community.
What’s the first thing you do when you get back to snow? What trick makes you feel like you’re back?
To be honest, what I love the most about a long break from snow is going for a blast around the mountain, going for a charge on the hill. Skiing fast and carving, the classic people being pumped about being on the mountain. That’s when it really hits home how amazing it all is. That’s when I’m like, ‘Booya, I’m back in business.’
What are you looking forward to most with the new Dew Tour?
The most impressive thing that you’ll see from all the riders is how hard they’re going to go in the rail section.
During normal slopestyle competitions in the rails you can do a technical and good stylish rail line, but no one can tell what your maxed-out talent is. You’re just trying to get through the whole run.
It will be good to see everyone going bat shit crazy on these rails. They’re not worried about bobbling. There’s always been a bit of curtain to hide behind, now there’s nothing to hide behind.
Who are you excited to watch at Dew Tour this year?
For some reason in the last second half of last season, Alex BM I don’t know what happened inside his brain but he’s gone from incredible to intergalactic. I’m excited to see what he puts down out there.
You have a fellow Brit and Sheffield Ski Village alum Katie Summerhayes competing this year. You think you’ll make it over to check out her runs?
Oh yeah, she’s basically my little sister, I grew up with her. We’ve been along this crazy path together, she’s been there every step of the way for me and I try and do the same for me. She’s had a couple of crappy years with injuries, but coming back and competing, I think she’s well and truly due for a good winter.
You rocked the Skrillex hair cut pretty hard there for a while, any big hair plans for this year?
I had a real haircut recently. It’s long and out of control but a little less out of control. Now I’ve that I’ve said that out loud, I think I might need to go do something crazy.