Snowboarder Eric Willett going big for Sochi

When Eric Willett isn't shredding up the competition scene, expect to find him riding the park with his friends, hitting the skatepark, or ripping single track on his mountain bike; photo courtesy of USSA

When Eric Willett isn’t shredding up the competition scene, expect to find him riding the park with his friends, hitting the skatepark, or ripping singletrack on his mountain bike; photo courtesy of USSA

Snowboarder Eric Willett has made a career of going with the flow. Born and raised near Breckenridge, Colorado, Willett grew up sliding rails and boosting jumps in the resort's famed parks, quietly developing his skills while staying under the radar of major sponsors. When the sponsors finally did come knocking, Willett just kept honing his craft, winning major comps like the 2010 European Winter X Games slopestyle and the 2013 Innsbruck Air and Style and landing a spot on the U.S. Snowboarding team. Now the unassuming 25-year-old is on the brink of a berth to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with a shot at slopestyle snowboarding's first Olympic medals, but he remains a cool customer. While the rest of the world feels the pressing crush of next year's Winter Olympics, Willett is here to lay it down and have some fun.

What have you been doing in the offseason?
This summer I got into golfing, so I played a lot of that, and found out that will not be the next professional sport I get in to. Did a lot a mountain biking and camping as well. One of my wife’s and my favorite places to go is Moab, Utah.

Are there any specific training regimens your into these days?
I worked out for like a month at the beginning of the summer, and gave that up pretty quickly. I like to use my bike as dry land training.

Why is Breck the spot for slopestyle riders like you?
It always has been the best, and will continue to be the best. They put so much time and effort into their parks and it really shows. They always have the best early season park, and the best park to ride and practice for X Games, and now the Olympics. On any given day you will at least see a pro or two lapping the parks.

When it comes to competitions, are you more of a "get-pumped" person or "chilled out"? What helps you get it done on game day?
I would say I’m more of a chilled out type, but I use that to get me pumped. I just relax and have fun with my friends; we’re competing, but it’s still the most fun thing ever.

What's it like being a part of a national snowboarding team?
It’s been pretty rad! Everyone we work with is awesome. Everyone on the team is friends and loves to hang out even when we’re not riding. Our coach is the goofiest, coolest guy you’ll meet. And they hook it up with a lot of perks that make riding that much more enjoyable and stress-free when it comes to competing.

Eric Willett hanging out at last year's Grand Prix slopestyle event; photo courtesy of USSA

Eric Willett hanging out at last year’s Grand Prix slopestyle event; photo courtesy of USSA

Has the addition of the Olympics changed the way you approach the season? If so, how?
Umm, I wouldn’t say it changed my approach, but it’s changed everyone else’s who’s not riding. I’ve been successful doing things my way for so long that I’m just taking that same approach into this year. I would say the media and such is what's changed. Everything this year is so focused on the Olympics. But I love it; not many people get to experience it, so I feel very blessed to have this opportunity.

What would a spot on the Olympic team mean to you?
It would mean I get one of those sweet Olympic rings, haha! But seriously, it would mean a lot. You’re representing your entire country. People living in places where they only see snow in movies can actually watch, experience, and get a sense of pride when a U.S. athlete competes and possibly brings home a medal.

Besides competing, what's the one thing you need to see/experience in Sochi?
Russia is a crazy place! Just being there is going to be an experience in its own. I think I want one of those crazy big furry Russian hats. Also maybe see if one of the Russian cops will let me hold his AK47—that would be sweet. I’m also stoked to check out some of the other events. A hockey game would be really cool, or maybe some ski jumping!

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