Simon Dumont catalogs his freeskiing injuries with complete nonchalance. Been there, done that, broke it. A pelvis fractured in three parts, a ruptured spleen, a torn ACL, a shattered ankle, a pair of busted wrists.
For Dumont, it’s all part of a daredevil, even death-defying life spent catapulting out of superpipes, sliding down rails, and flying over snow-covered cliffs.
When Dumont does freeskiing right — and he does it right much of the time — his 5-foot-7-inch frame rockets skyward and reaches impressive heights. He set the world quarterpipe height record of 35½ feet at his home ski resort of Sunday River in Bethel, Maine.
At his best, Dumont makes spins, flips, and grabs look effortless and stylish, delighting fans and filmmakers. Mistakes lead to cringe-worthy yet still film-friendly crashes.
“There’s always that aspect of serious injury, but there’s almost an allure there,” says Dumont. “You get super nervous and you know there’s all those consequences, but that’s where you’re testing your body and your will.”
Dumont, 27, has been called “the godfather” of freeskiing, a testament to his limit-pushing and longevity. He knows it’s “a younger person’s sport,” but believes he can compete with anyone when healthy. With slopestyle and halfpipe skiing making their Olympic debut at the Sochi Games, Dumont is seeking a spot on the US team while facing competitors nearly a decade younger.
To rehab quickly from the shattered ankle he suffered on an airbag jump in May and get ready for younger halfpipe rivals, Dumont lived out of a Park City, Utah, hotel room last summer and trained at the US Ski Team’s Center of Excellence. The intense regimen molded Dumont into “some of the best shape of my life.”
“I love the sport,” says Dumont, who lobbied hard for the inclusion of freeskiing in the Winter Games. “I probably would’ve pumped the brakes on the competitive side a little bit more [if not for the Olympics]. I would have selected what contests I would have done. I would have kept doing the X Games, but I probably would have moved on to more filming. The Olympics has kept me on the competitive track.
“Mentally, I feel really strong. If I didn’t have injuries the last two years, I would have 10 times the confidence that I have. But it’s the situation that I’m in and I’m going to perform to the best of my ability.”
Currently, the competitive track consists of five Olympic qualifiers in Colorado and California. Dumont missed the first in Breckenridge, Colo., with a concussion. Last Friday, he finished fifth at the FIS Freestyle World Cup/Visa Grand Prix halfpipe event in Copper Mountain, Colo.
That gives Dumont three competitions to fulfill the Olympic selection criteria, namely two podium finishes. Athletes who make the podium at least twice will be ranked by their two best results. The US team will be named in late January with up to four freeskiers chosen in both the slopestyle and halfpipe events.
But the measure of Dumont’s career cannot be taken in a month of Olympic qualifying. Far from it. Over the last decade, he has collected 10 X Games medals and countless film highlights away from competition. One almost unbelievable video shows the veteran spinning his way down a deconstructed superpipe — basically a series of ramps — a feat that demanded both fearlessness and impeccable trick timing as he flew from ramp to ramp.
‘That next statement’
Dumont has always set himself apart by taking risks, reaching extreme heights, and expanding his repertoire.
“Simon is one of the hardest-working freeskiers of our generation,” says Tom Wallisch, the reigning world champion in slopestyle. “He’s been around competing for 13 years now and he’s one of the kids who’s really been innovative and pushed the sport, especially on the halfpipe side.”
As he was growing up in Bethel, in the shadow of Sunday River, the sport’s freedom attracted Dumont. He didn’t like being told where to ski, when to ski, how to ski, so he “kind of did my own thing,” with nothing out of bounds.
At 14, he qualified for the X Games and, as he says, “everything kind of took off from there.” Dumont progressed as the sport progressed, and both gained popularity.
The Olympics represent welcome new territory for Dumont, as well as an opportunity to introduce freestyle skiing to a larger audience.
“To finally be noticed as an Olympic event, it’s been crazy to see our sport evolve to that level,” says Dumont. “For me personally, I’ve won almost every contest or podiumed at every contest there really is, and it was hard for me to keep finding that next thing.
“I’m always looking for the next thing that I can do, the next contest. How can I keep progressing myself?
“I was kind of getting a little stagnant. You do something for half your life and it’s the same contests. They’re great and I still love them, but I was looking for that next statement. The Olympics is that next thing.”
Growing the sport
To find the next great freeskiers and encourage the growth of the sport, Dumont hosts an annual competition at Sunday River. Started in 2009, the Dumont Cup is a pro-am slopestyle event that features some of the country’s best. Wallisch, 26, grew up in Pittsburgh and won the first Dumont Cup. Now he’s vying for a spot on the Olympic slopestyle team.
“Our sport is so young that there aren’t a ton of open events,” says Wallisch. “There aren’t a ton of opportunities for younger kids to work their way into an event like the X Games. So, seeing Simon put an open event on like that for kids on the East Coast to come, make a name for yourself, get a result, and work your way up to the bigger events is really cool.”
Next year, the late March competition will take place on a terrain park trail designed by Dumont. He hopes the Sunday River park becomes another hub for the sport, giving up-and-comers and Olympians from the East Coast a place to train closer to home.
“Being from the East Coast, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten noticed as quickly if I didn’t go to where people think the mecca of freeskiing is [out west],” says Dumont. “So my big thing was to bring back high-caliber athletes.
“If people aren’t competing right away, maybe they see this sport and they see the high level and then get an idea of where they need to be to get to the X Games or get to the Olympics.”
While Dumont may throttle back on the number of competitions he enters after this Olympic cycle, he will keep seeking challenges on and off snow.
In addition to the Dumont Cup, he’s already leaped into restaurant ownership in Florida, real estate development in Maine, and ski glove design.
But at the moment, making sure freeskiing puts on a good show in Sochi is his first order of business.
“I hope people see it at the Olympics, get excited, and figure out what freeskiing is,” says Dumont. “I hope the sport grows and people can get as much joy out of it as I have.”