Skiing’s about more than just winning medals for Olympian Colby Stevenson | AspenTimes.com
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Skiing’s about more than just winning medals for Olympian Colby Stevenson

Brendan Farrell
Park Record
Park City native Colby Stevenson earned his first Olympic medal by winning silver in big air.
David Jackson/Park Record

PARK CITY, Utah — The first sign that Park City freeskier Colby Stevenson had that Feb. 9, the day of the men’s big air competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, was going to be his day was a song.

Stevenson was listening to music on shuffle on a bus heading to the competition venue when the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” happened to come on.

“That’s when I got the chills and I was, like, ‘No way, I’m flying like an eagle, I’m competing in the Olympics for the USA,’” Stevenson said. “Like, how perfect of a moment is this? So, I just kind of had a good feeling about the day.”



Big air isn’t Stevenson’s specialty. Stevenson’s better known for his success in slopestyle events, as evidenced by his X Games Aspen gold medal in 2020 and his Crystal Globe for finishing the 2020-21 World Cup season in first place in slopestyle. Stevenson had never posted a podium finish in a major big air event heading into Beijing.

Stevenson did not fly like an eagle on his first of three jumps, not quite sticking the landing on his nose butter (which Stevenson describes as, “(doing) a 180 before you go off the jump and pop off your tips”) triple cork 1620. It put the pressure on Stevenson to land his next two jumps, but it also gave him the confidence to give it another go.




“I did the first one, and I remember being in the middle of that triple cork and kind of being uncomfortable or not trusting it, so I over-rotated a little bit and landed and kind of touched a hand or whatever,” Stevenson said. “I knew (that) I got this now, I don’t have to think about this now, I can just do it.”

Stevenson attempted it again on his second jump and landed cleanly, scoring 91.75. His medal hopes all came down to one final jump, which couldn’t be the same trick as his first two. Stevenson wanted to attempt a switch double 1980, but his coaches talked him into a switch double 1800 instead and grabbing it for as long as possible.

“I remember because he told me something like this at X Games — I didn’t listen to him,” Stevenson said. “And I was, like, ‘Alright, I’m going to listen to him this time,’ and did a perfect switch 18. I grabbed my skis as long as I could, almost until I landed. After I landed that, I was so happy with my performance that it didn’t matter where I ended up.”

Stevenson scored a 91.25 on his third jump, bringing his score up to a flat 183. It wasn’t enough to unseat leader Birk Ruud of Norway, but Stevenson ended the day with a silver medal around his neck.

“It was just kind of a euphoric moment,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it, really, other than it was like watching a movie or in a dream. Like a very vivid dream where the energy is really high. Euphoric is the only word I can think to describe the feeling it was being there and knowing everyone back home was just losing it.”

It wasn’t the first medal that Stevenson has won in his career, and it almost certainly won’t be the last for the 24-year-old Parkite. But there’s a different aura about an Olympic medal than even an X Games medal or a Dew Tour medal. An Olympic medal, no matter the color, has a different gravitas.

Colby Stevenson trains ahead of the men's freestyle skiing big air qualification round of the 2022 Winter Olympics on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing.
Matt Slocum/AP

“It wasn’t (like) I just went out there and won a medal, it was my whole team, everyone that’s helped me — all my PTs and doctors and, of course, my family and friends,” Stevenson said. “That’s what’s so cool about the Olympics is that it has such an influence on all people you know. And I think that was the biggest honor of it was feeling that and being able to share that.”

May will mark the six-year anniversary of Stevenson’s near-fatal car crash after he fell asleep at the wheel. He miraculously worked his way back to competitive skiing and became one of the world’s best skiers in his discipline.

But he doesn’t think about the accident anymore or how close he came to not having a career as a professional freeskier. He’s more concerned about what’s next and how to keep moving forward.

However, he will point out that he’s heard from others about how his story has inspired them to keep going. Stevenson even starred in a re-creation of his accident and his recovery for a short film produced by Monster Energy.

“That was also probably one of my favorite responses from the whole Olympics was people reacting to my story and getting so many messages from people who are injured or having a rough time,” Stevenson said. “It all comes full circle and it helps other people. And I thought that was awesome.”

But Stevenson isn’t driven by his results. Everything that he does is out of an undying love for skiing. The Olympics are the pinnacle of so many athletes’ careers, but for Stevenson, it was another trip to do what he loves.

“All my medals and things, I’m just out there skiing,” Stevenson said. “It’s just another day of skiing, and that’s what’s so special about it is because I’m able to feel like it’s just another day of skiing.

“I remember when I won X Games in 2020, I landed four almost perfect runs. And I felt like I didn’t even do anything, that was just automatic. … When I’m skiing, it’s like I’m not even the same person, I’m in the zone. When I’m not skiing, I got all these thoughts bouncing around and personality. But all that stuff vanishes when you’re skiing.”

That attitude sums up his Olympic experience as well. Plenty of athletes face a relentless amount of pressure at the Games, but Stevenson and his teammates kept it light until it was competition day.

Colby Stevenson competes during the men's slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China.
Gregory Bull/AP

“It was funny, the freeskiers were the only athletes in the Olympic Village that were hanging out with each other,” he said. “We were chipping foam golf balls around the village and made a nine-hole course of par 3s with foam golf balls. People would walk by and be, like, ‘What? Who are these people?’”

Stevenson’s slopestyle performance didn’t go the way he planned, as he couldn’t quite piece together the run he wanted and finished seventh. Stevenson chalked it up to a higher level of difficulty compared to what he could have done, and he said he could have medaled if he went for an easier run.

But playing it safe isn’t true to Stevenson’s style, not even when another Olympic medal is on the line. It’s all about doing something bigger and better and, much like his attitude toward life after his accident, moving forward.

“It’s just the way I’m wired, I guess, and it’s fun,” Stevenson said. “Because it just makes it that much more special when you do land that run because you know that it’s the hardest run you can do. Every competition, I’m trying to do harder tricks than the last one, just always progressing. I feel like I’ve never gone backwards with a difficulty on my run. It’s always been, what’s harder? I want to do that.”

Not even the Steve Miller Band would say that flying like an eagle is easy.

brendan@parkrecord.com


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