Freeskiing champion Simon Dumont talks Maine, tricks, and the Winter Olympics.
By Will Bleakley
Photo by Andree Kehn
After winning seven medals at the Winter X Games and setting a world record for big air on the quarter pipe, it’s no wonder that Bethel native Simon Dumont was dubbed “the godfather of freeskiing” by Men’s Journal. That title takes on brand-new meaning this month, when freeskiing will be included in the Winter Olympics for the first time ever. Although Dumont didn’t make it to Sochi, his influence on the sport’s growth remains invaluable. We chatted with Dumont, 27, as he geared up for the Olympic qualifying events.
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with skiing?
Yeah. It was when I did my first 360. I was 9, maybe, and had been learning off little jumps. But there was this one jump at the park in Sunday River called Rocking Chair. When you see it and you’re 9, it’s just huge and massive. But I figured I’d try it. It felt, maybe not like flying, but different from anything I had ever done before. Then I just kept doing that run over and over and over.
How did you initially get involved in freeskiing?
People were telling me how to ski, and the correct way to do certain tricks. There were a lot of constraints there. But in freeskiing, you can have a little more expression. There’s no one way to do a trick, and that was super appealing to me. I could do whatever I wanted. I could go hit jumps, slide rails, go ski powder. There were all these different aspects. And then we helped build this sport from that bottom level, and grew it to what it is now.
How did you learn the sport growing up?
I never had a coach. The tricks weren’t even invented yet. I’d look at one of my friends and say, “I’m going to go try this.” I’d either nail it and have a new trick or fall, get back up, and try again. That’s how this sport got to where it is. It was just a bunch of friends trying out things. Now there are coaches, but in the past, it was just a bunch of us friends trying a bunch of things and filming it, competing, and trying to create this sport.
How did the Dumont Cup — your namesake freeskiing competition at Sunday River — get started?
My biggest reason for starting the Dumont Cup was to bring something to a place that had given me so much, and have a really high-caliber [freeskiing] event on the East Coast. So we have television coverage, really high-caliber athletes, and a great course. The East Coast isn’t really known for being a mecca of freeskiing, but Sunday River and I have designed an entire park just for the Dumont Cup. We had the designer of the X Games course come in and survey the property, show us how to cut the run, and we’ll probably have the best park on the East Coast now.
How would you describe your style?
I charge, try to go big, and just make sure that at the end of the contest that people remember me.
This is the first year freeskiing will be an Olympic event. Was it tough to get the Olympic Committee on board?
I wasn’t involved in the direct negotiation, but I was pushing and doing what I could. Snowboarding has been in [the Olympics] since 2002, so for us it took 12 years longer. That shows how much of a struggle it was.
How did you help out?
Our biggest thing was that we created an association of freeskiing professionals. It’s a way of creating some sort of structure within our sport. We got into freeskiing because we didn’t want constraints, so we decided to create our own sanctions — one, to make consistency within judging. We also valued certain events, so they had certain levels. And it’s another way that we can show somebody how they can go from a bronze-level event to a platinum event, like the X Games. So it’s kind of a roadmap for someone to see how to get to the X Games, or now, the Olympics.
Is there one moment in your career you’d consider the highlight?
That’s hard. I’ve had really great successes in competitions and filming. I’ve won slopestyle events, big air, pipe contests. For me to really think I’ve succeeded, though, I need to be one of the best skiers of all time. That is my final goal. Until that is said, and my career is over, I don’t think that highlight will be there.