Consider your favorite activity of all time — the one you could do all day, every day. Then imagine being #blessed enough to spin that into your dream job. That’s exactly how freeskiers Maddie Bowman, Aaron Blunck and Devin Logan feel about spending time on the slopes. It’s not a 9-to-5 for The North Face-sponsored athletes — it’s a lifestyle. As they put it, they’re just three ski bums turned Olympic medalists who want to laugh with their friends down the mountain.
And they do — right before speeding off to vie for another spot on the podium. This year, that competitive stage will be in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (They’ll find out the final Team USA roster on January 22.) But these three skiers have already earned top medals, a few times over. California native, Bowman, 24, snagged gold at the 2014 Olympics in halfpipe and four from the X Games. Vermonter turned Utah resident, Logan, 24 — who competes in both halfpipe and slopestyle — won silver in Sochi. And Blunck, a 21-year-old from Colorado, won gold at the 2017 Winter X Games in the men’s superpipe.
While the hardware provides a little incentive to work harder, Bowman, Blunck and Logan still gush that it’s their love for the sport that really keeps them going. Here’s a glimpse into their lives, on and off the snow, and why they’re stoked to hang at the start gate of the 2018 Olympic Games.
Olympic Hopefuls Talk Fitness, Nerves and Their Passion for Skiing
On their love of skiing…
Maddie Bowman: “I love it because, honestly, it’s the place where I feel I can be myself. It’s very freeing and challenging — and there’s just nowhere I’d rather be. We’re all just ski bums at heart. I think I’d be doing this even if it wasn’t my career. I know I’ll be a skier for the rest of my life. That really makes me happy.”
Aaron Blunck: “I never expected to be a pro skier. Obviously I had dreams as a kid. I loved skiing. I started at 18 months old. But it wasn’t that I was doing it because I needed to get to the next level… At the end of the day, there’s really nothing better than sliding down the snow as fast as you can and flying through the air. It’s the closest thing to being a bird that you could do.”
Devin Logan: “The friends I made through skiing are my closest friends. It’s just a level you connect on — being outside and being silly, going fast. All I wanted to do was be Picabo Street and go fast and not have poles. It’s that freedom that not a lot of people can get. You can express yourself in different ways. You can just fly and get away from everything… The wind in your hair is the best therapy you can get.”
On doing it for family…
DL: “My brothers went to a ski academy five months out of the year, so I followed in their footsteps. [My family] believes in tough love. My brothers were always saying, ‘You’re doing this trick and you’re doing it now or else you’re not eating.’ So I definitely progressed quickly and then started going to bigger competitions and realizing that my skill level was above norm… The biggest thing was the approval of my brothers. [My relationship with them] made me who I am today. It made me tough in this sport — which is a tough one. You definitely take some hits.”
AB: “Just like Devin’s brother, my older brother kind of paved the path for me in skiing and every sport I did with him. I’m still always super thankful I grew up skiing with him because, I don’t get to ski with him all the time, but when I do, it’s typically the best days out of my year. He’s always someone who’s cared about not necessarily me as a skier, but me as a person.”
On what their gym sessions look like…
DL: “A main focus in our sport is the landing. We try to focus on the hips to take the impact off our knees. And you need to be ready for single-leg landings… I’ve gotten a little bit more gym time to buckle down, get strong, and help me get through the season. In the last year or two that’s what I’ve focused on and I’ve really felt a difference. [It’s helped me] make it through the whole season, feeling good and strong. Competing in two events takes a lot out of you.”
AB: “I do a lot of cardio and more bodyweight exercises, just because we don’t want to be the biggest.”
On their favorite way to cross-train…
MB: “I am an activity addict. I like to go mountain biking or go to the beach or go out on the boat. Then in the winter, I go to the gym…When we’re not skiing or training for an event, we’re still skiing, whether it’s just around the resort, or hiking and then skiing.”
AB: “I mountain bike, as well as skateboard, and then I recently got into running. It’s cool getting out of my comfort zone, because I’ve never trained for running before. Now that I have a trainer, she actually helps me with my mechanics — like learning how to have less impact on my heels, ankles and knees…. I’ve also recently started doing hill sprints, which is brutal. I’d almost rather do that than a 10-mile jog, though, because it’s only 500 yards up a hill. You get back a lot quicker.”
DL: “I actually just bought a road bike. I’ve been getting into that for cardio, and I’ve been getting into running a little bit, too. I’m definitely not a long-distance runner. I try to ride the bike for 20 minutes, then run a mile and get back on the bike…. But also, I’m a big proponent of sleep and rest. I’m always go, go, go, so when I get the time, I just sit. I’ve learned now, over the past few years, that the best recovery for me and my body is to rest. I know deep down I need to physically just rest my body because the next day, it will be even better.”
On coming back from injuries…
MB: “I’ve had two major knee surgeries… And you just try to do as much as you can with the rest of your body while you’re waiting. I think that really helps you when you start going back to the gym. You have to start out doing small movements, like learning how to do a squat… Then, when you take your first step again, you’re like, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ You do take those things for granted [when you’re not injured], but when you get back, it’s a big realization of, ‘Wow, walking is pretty awesome.’”
DL: “The injury was an eye-opening experience that the gym is a crucial part of our sport to maintain strength and overall abilities. It’s kind of a shocking realization when you get hurt and then your life is the gym. Mentally, it’s exhausting. You try to do something that seems normal, like walking, and you can’t for a little bit. It takes a lot of mentally strengthening… Slowing down is super hard for me. I had to occupy my time with other things.”
AB: “I have such a hard time taking myself out and it’s come to the point where — Devin has done it to me a couple times — she’s come up and said, ‘You need to stop skiing.’ I’ve had some back issues for a few years now, and doing core exercises has been the best thing I could have ever done. I swear to it now. I do it every single day, even if it’s really quick, like a set of 50 crunches and push-ups, and a two-minute plank.”
On what it’s like right before a big run…
MB: “I think we still get nervous, but for me personally, I like to just keep it light and fun at the top of the halfpipe and joke around and chat with people. Everyone’s super nice and fun up there… You’re up there with all your friends and you’re genuinely happy to see everybody and talk. It’s nice.”
AB: “I definitely found out that the more I mess around and joke about things [at the start], the better off I am.”
DL: “I mean, the nerves have definitely calmed down, but they’re still there. I think it just means you’re still passionate about it. You still care. You still want to do well. But I express it, again, in a fun, joking way. I also have to listen to music when I ski. Either you have that pump-up song [often DMX], or you’re too pumped up and you need to calm it down a little right before your run. So I’m up there listening to music, most likely singing out loud, being tone deaf, hurting everyone’s ears. But again, I just can’t think about it too much. When you’re relaxed, you perform better.”
The Opening Ceremonies for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games will air on Friday, February 9 on NBC.