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Photo by Will Wissman
Name: Cody Townsend
Base Camp: Santa Cruz/Squaw Valley
Occupation: Professional big mountain freeskier, aka “shred-sticker”
Sponsors: Salomon, Swatch, VonZipper, Hestra Gloves, Squaw Valley, EvoGear, C.L.U.B.
Favorite Ski Porn: “Dumb and Dumber”
Cody Townsend has had a big year. As if taking second at the invitation-only Big Mountain Freeskiing and Riding Comp in the European Alps (only eight international skiers were invited) and winning the Red Bull Cold Rush’s Chinese Downhill Championship this past winter, he also had the luck to ski with Chris Davenport in the Chugach Range in Alaska for a segment in the latest Warren Miller installment, Playground.
ASJ stopped him in his fresh tracks to ask him about his epic year and why skiing, especially big mountain skiing, continues to capture so much attention.
ASJ: Why take up skiing rather snowboarding? How did that happen?
I started when I was two so there wasn’t much snowboarding yet and by the time snowboarding became cool I was already dead set on skiing. My dad even switched to snowboarding while I still opted for the shred-sticks. It was quite the anomaly back then to have my pops snowboarding and me skiing but I knew what I liked and wouldn’t change for anything.
ASJ: When there are guys like you and Simon Dumont out there, skiing is starting to look cool again. Why do you think there’s a shift back toward riding sticks?
Statistically, skiing has made a huge comeback and snowboarding has stalled for the last couple of years – yet you wouldn’t know that by watching TV or checking out a magazine. The media still hypes snowboarding ten-fold more than skiing. But with guys like Simon doing his unbelievable stuff in the pipe and Sammy Carlson shredding park with a good attitude and a marketable style, skiing will continue to grow in the eyes of the public. Big mountain skiing is a bit different though. It’s always been here and will be here for the long run. Skiing’s history is rooted in the big mountains.
ASJ: You’re a Santa Cruz local and a surfer. Do you think that many of the guys in the water realize that you’re one of the best young guns on skis today? Any chance you’ll be getting competitive on the waves, as well?
Some of the surfers I grew up with and some of the Point boys (Pleasure Point) are starting to take notice. It’s cool, but at the same time it doesn’t really matter to me if they know about my skiing or not. Skiing and surfing are two totally different worlds for me and when you’re in the water the only thing that’s excusable to talk about is surfing. Oh, and a snowball has a better chance in hell than me ever competing in surfing.
ASJ: With all that’s happened, does this feel like the year in which you’ve officially arrived as one of the top young skiers?
I do have to admit it’s a little weird being recognized for something I would do every day regardless if people ever paid attention. But it has allowed me to ski in some amazing places and ski with some amazing people, and I guess I’ll take the recognition if it continues to allow me to do what I love.
ASJ: You’re also going to school at UC Santa Cruz to get your degree in language studies/linguistics. Tell us about how you’re juggling that, too.
I’m in school right now and usually attend summer and fall semesters with an occasional spring semester thrown in if I have to get some classes done. I’m one quarter away from graduating and couldn’t be happier to finally get it done. Balancing skiing and school has been extremely taxing and I’ve worked extraordinarily hard on getting through college.
ASJ: What’s up next?
A busy year of shred-sticking.