John F. Russell: Born freestyle | SteamboatToday.com

John F. Russell: Born freestyle

Steamboat Springs — Ten years ago this February, a young skier named Jonny Moseley exploded onto the Olympic scene in Nagano, Japan, with his gold-medal run. — Ten years ago this February, a young skier named Jonny Moseley exploded onto the Olympic scene in Nagano, Japan, with his gold-medal run.

— Ten years ago this February, a young skier named Jonny Moseley exploded onto the Olympic scene in Nagano, Japan, with his gold-medal run.

Four years later, in 2002, he turned the freestyle skiing world upside down with his “dinner roll” maneuver in Salt Lake City, sending the sport of freestyle skiing into a new and less-predictable direction.

He is, without question, one of the biggest names in freestyle skiing and one of the great innovators of the sport. So when the Steamboat Ski Area announced that the California native would be taking on a public relations role with the resort, it wasn’t all that surprising. After all, he fits into the Steamboat tradition, which has been forged by names like Park Smalley, Nelson Carmichael, Kris Feddersen, Maria Quintana, Copper Schell, Ann Battelle, Travis Mayer, Jeff Good and Bobby Aldighieri.

The funny thing is that before last Thursday, I had never had an opportunity to sit down with Moseley and really talk to him. Sure, I may have gotten a quote in the finish area of a World Cup event, or listened to him chat it up with other reporters at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002, but all of those conversations added up to 10 less-than-memorable minutes. But when I was lucky enough to sit down with the two-time Olympian and World Cup champion, I got a feel for who he really is.

I’m happy to report that he is a perfect fit for Steamboat, and if he ever decided to leave his California home on a more permanent basis, it wouldn’t take long for folks around here to call him a local.

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He fits so perfectly because of his love of skiing and his desire to see freestyle grow, for all the right reasons.

Moseley wants the sport of freestyle to stay free. So instead of sticking with the standard twisters and spreads, he stretched the rules in Salt Lake City. The result was more exciting freestyle events.

Some would argue that the change was already coming. If the sport had stayed on the course it set prior to the dinner roll, the top freestyle skiers would have left the sport in favor of a new generation of free spirits that gravitated to things such as the X Games. But Moseley’s actions brought the point to a world stage and, in my humble opinion, moved the sport forward.

But Moseley doesn’t want it to end there. He thinks that freestyle could be even better with wider, more sweeping changes in judging and attitudes.

He no longer competes, but he wants today’s stars to continue to push the limits and to keep the sport fresh and new.

The last thing Moseley wants to see is a structured sport where every run looks exactly the same and judges require skiers to perform specific tricks in an effort to score the points it takes to win.

He wants the sport to reflect the seat-of-their pants generation that inspired the sport he loves.

Like I said, a perfect fit for Steamboat.