Set Free
Max Silverson
It was actually a really tough decision, because since I could remember, I wanted to go to the olympics like my grandfather.

Max Silverson: You have the unique experience of having raced ski cross and skied big mountain professionally.  Which discipline do you think is more risky?  

Stan Rey: In my perspective I think ski cross is.  Because you don’t just have to worry about yourself, you have to worry about others around you, so if they make a mistake they might end up taking you out in the process.  In big mountain skiing you pretty much choose your own lines, so you pretty much dictate how much risk you take at any given time. 

Comparing the ski cross scene to the freeskiing world, which one do you feel puts you under more pressure?  How do those two compare to the Enemy Lines contest?  

Stan Rey: I don’t feel much pressure when I’m shooting, I’m just more having fun and if you try something new and you don’t land it, it’s no big deal, you can hike back up and try it again.  In ski cross or racing, if you mess up you don’t have a chance to go back up and try it again because your day is over.  You’re not going to make it to the next heat.  But for Enemy Lines, if you mess up, you have one run, winner takes all, so you’re outta’ there.  Definitely racing puts more pressure, and between ski cross and Enemy Lines, obviously Enemy Lines. And it depends on the event too, like I felt a lot more pressure at X Games than World Cups just because the course is a lot bigger and there’s more people watching...and you’re racing against five people instead of four.  Yeah, I was pretty nervous when I made it to the finals of that first X Games.  

Max Silverson: You were on the team with Nik prior to his accident and skied with him as a friend and colleague quite a bit.  How has Nik’s death changed your view of skiing?  

Stan Rey: It’s definitely changed the way I manage my risks, because, I mean, it was a freak accident for sure and those can always happen.  We know the risks are there, but we never expect what happened to Nik to happen.  That’s the worst case scenario.  You think about it, but you can’t dwell on it too much—the risks that we do take—because if you told someone, a fourteen year old kid, or told their parents that if they’re going to race (or do any sports that are somewhat extreme) that they have a chance to die, they would never put them in that sport.   It’s definitely made me a little more cautious about the risks I do take.  I like to say they’re calculated risks, because we don’t just go and—when you watch movies when you’re younger, you just think these guys are hucking themselves off cliffs, but we actually study the line and have ways of getting out if things go wrong.  So say there’s a slide or something, we know the safe zone, we know where to go and were to be at what time.  So it’s a lot more than most people think it is.  And even ski cross, when you’re visualizing for a race, you don’t just visualize yourself alone on the course, you think what if there’s someone in front of me here? what am I going to do?  Of course we make mistakes and it’s very unfortunate what happened to Nik, but he was going for it and he was trying to make it to the next heat. I think the course wasn’t set up that great either.  I think it was a course fault too.  It was just really unfortunate.  Everything that happened that day was all against him really. 

Max Silverson: Many people would see it as a very risky decision to leave the top echelon of ski cross racing for a career in freeskiing.  What made you take the leap?  

Stan Rey: I think the short answer is, for the love of skiing. It was actually a really tough decision, because since I could remember, I wanted to go to the olympics like my grandfather.  Since I was three years old that was my dream.  I started racing when I was 9 and worked up the ranks, then switched from alpine to ski cross.  Letting go of ski cross was actually really hard because I was still on the team and everything.  It was actually the same year Nik passed away, but I had already made my decision that year that I wanted to switch.  Just because I thought I had more talent in freekskiing and I enjoyed it more.  Every ski race season we’d be driving down the highway and I’d be stuck with my nose to the window looking for lines to ski and cool couloirs. 

Max Silverson: Do you think you’re more likely to get injured doing something obviously risky or something pedestrian?  How much do you think awareness factors into this equation?

Stan Rey: I definitely think you’re putting yourself at more risk skiing a bigger, riskier line.  But at the same time, when you do that, you’re a lot more calculated and a lot more focused.  Skiing on hill, for a person who’s been skiing so long, your biggest risk is probably hitting someone on the resort. 

Max Silverson: Where do you see the future of big mountain skiing heading? 

Stan Rey: A lot more tricks are starting to come into the backcountry, which is pretty cool I think. Also, I think adventuring more too.  A lot of the times we’re going up with snowmobiles and helicopters, which can only get you so far.  And by ski touring you can get a lot farther; there’s more reward when you make it to the top of a peak by yourself without a sled or helicopter. 

Max Silverson: What do you see as the biggest risk you take?  

Stan Rey: The reason why I like taking risk is because it’s risk-reward.  The more risk you take, the more reward you get.  The biggest risk I take I guess is trying to push myself further—not only in skiing but in everything in life.  You push yourself further to explore your limits.  It’s pretty cool to explore the limits of a human body, it’s crazy what we are capable of doing if we put our mind to it and take those risks.  And usually you’re successful and there’s really nothing more rewarding than that.

Professional free skier Stan Rey talks about leaving the national ski cross team, and how his relationship with risk has changed as a result.
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