After a dominating presence with nine straight Winter X Games including seven gold and 12 overall medals, Tanner Hall’s absence in 2010 was certainly notable. In May of 2009 Tanner suffered extensive knee injuries after overshooting a jump at Stevens Pass. The road to recovery was challenging, but Tanner applied the same focus and commitment that he applies to his skiing and is back competing, with a full event schedule, including Winter X Games for the first time since the injury.
Tanner – who’s quite the Jamaican culture aficionado – may have made his name in skiing by slaying the park and dominating the Winter X scene, but he also knows that’s not all there is to skiing and if anyone has the talent, personality and determination to lead the charge in getting people outside of the tight-knit ski community hooked on the insane antics of backcountry freeskiing, it’s Tanner.
In his downtime, Hall created the Inspired Media Concepts company, which produces film documentaries starring some of his best friends on the ski circuit, including Phil Casabon, Henrik Harlaut and more. He’s become quite the pioneer on and off the mountain, giving a voice to many of today’s most famous skiers and music personalities.
Q & A
This isn't an interview. This is provoked discussion. There is hardly a person in the world who knows and understands skiing and its tricks as well as Tanner. He knows that he made his name in skiing by slaying the park and winning the X Games, but he also knows that's not all there is to skiing. At first glance, his opinion of park skiing sounds negative, but in reality it is quite the opposite. To Tanner, park is only the beginning. - Freeskier's Matt Harvey
I look at a pipe and I'm like, I could get hurt. I look at skiing lines and I'm like, I could die. When the whole death thing comes into play, your shit has to be a lot tighter than when just doing something you do every day. That's why skiing is so cool. What people need to realize is there's so much opportunity. We all think skateboarding is so cool because they've ventured out and done so much stuff, you know what I mean? I think skiing park could be limited a little bit right now, especially because there are so many tricks and so much shit going on that nobody's really tapping into backcountry, like what it could be.
Skiing could be so off the hook if people actually knew what is possible in the backcountry. You can go to a park every day and ski the normal shit, which is great and I love that, don't get me wrong. I love going up to the park and watching Sammy and TJ. I just know a park is there for you, it's at your calling whenever you want in the winter time to go get better at that. Backcountry is so cool to me because the conditions are not going to be pow all the time. To go out and get the right conditions, to get the good jump and to stomp some good shit and go home stoked. That feeling is so rewarding man, so nuts.
Is that the way you've always felt about backcountry or is that a more recent thing?
It's kind of a more recent thing with getting more into it, but I've always felt that way. Like when we would go hit a sick jump, back in the day when we were filming for Happy Dayz, and we'd come home, the reward was like, Fuck yeah! That was a mission but we got it done and we got the shots.
What was your favorite part of skiing when you were 10?
My favorite part was skiing the whole mountain and hitting jumps that we had all over the mountain, trying to get as much air as possible. You know I almost love being in the air way more than I like being on the ground, so we just tried to go around and find as many jumps as we could on the mountain. You know we had our little crew, so it was perfect.
What was high school like for you?
High school here was definitely a little bit different. We originally thought this was a school for just winter kids, but basically, we got down here and it's a school for winter kids but it's also a school for the Park City race team, and it was just kind of tough you know. A lot of the teachers didn't really mesh well with what I had in my mind and what I wanted to do with skiing and the way I lived my life. After one year it was all good, but halfway through my sophomore year, it just got really tough, and you know, made some bad choices. I've grown smarter from the choices I made back in the day, but I had to part ways with the Winter Sports School. It was probably the best decision of my life, to part ways and go into the next winter because that was the winter that I started winning a bunch of contests. I'm just stoked that I had a family and a bunch of friends that backed my decision and had my back through hard times, and are still behind me today.
What was your first X Games experience like?
It wasn't really a good one. We were sitting there, training on the jump, and it was a super windy day. Shane Anderson was training and on his first jump off the big air jump he tried a big back flip and was just taken by the wind, so far down the landing. He ended up breaking his back. That was definitely a big eye opener for me. That same year I think Jay Michelfelder went down as well. The first X Games was pretty nutty for me.
What other contests did you hit up that year?
It goes from the X Games Qualifier to the Red Bull Huckfest, then the X games, then the US Open and then we went to Japan and I got second in the quarter pipe and second in the big air, then WSI and won that. So that was a good winter.
Tell us about the crash that was documented on MTVs Scarred and was shown dozens of times in Show & Prove.
When I was taking off from the jump, the one thing in my head on the take off was, "Oh crap, this is going to be really bad." I came around 720 and looked at the wall, slammed and knew it was really bad. The first thing that flashed through my head was, "I'm not going to Finland." The next thing that flashed through my head was, ˜I'm not going to Alaska." And the next thing that flashed through my head was, ˜I've got two broken ankles. I'm not probably gonna walk for awhile so here we go." It was a super intense feeling in my head and I never want to feel something like again. So hard to deal with.
That was the first time you got badly injured, right?
Yeah, totally. And the first time rehab really came into play. Being 100-percent smart on how I came back and giving myself time and doing what the doctor said. I just followed it and everything worked out. I couldn't be more grateful.
What was the most rewarding thing once you got back to skiing?
Being blessed with one of the most insane winters for snowfall, granted it was the season that CR got hit in the head. Right after I got hurt, that was even more to deal with. We were blessed that CR made such a quick comeback and that he even got to get out a couple months later to enjoy some of the snow with his dad and his sister. That's just sick, you know? To see him come back so quick and for us to have a winter like that.
How does doing contests come so natural to you?
I don't know. I think I have the worst ADD of any kid out there. Actually no, not even close: Sammy Carlson definitely has way worse ADD than I do. But I'm kind of like Sammy in a way where when you're on your skis, all you want to do is ski and ski and ski and just have fun and push yourself to the limit every day. I started doing that at a young age, so when I got to contests, it wasn't really like I was doing hard tricks or anything. I was doing something that I did in the park every day, and it was fun for me. I think that early on, that kind of got in my head so when it got down to really training and getting down, it made it that much easier.
What is your opinion of contests?
My opinion is that contests are really cool and I think they're really good. I think they open up a lot of areas for athletes coming up in the ranks to grow and get opportunities, like going out in the backcountry to really progress their skills. A lot of kids can make a lot of money. And it's really cool, what we all get to do, be on our skis all the time and not go to school and basically get paid to ski. That's a blessing. So when you get opportunities to go to the final frontier up in Alaska, or to British Columbia, or anywhere to throw down on a helicopter and go back to the roots of skiing and get to see what it's all about; scare yourself in the mountains. Because when it comes down to it, we're all skiers and we all love skiing and we can't deny that we love powder and we can't deny that one day we would love to jump in a helicopter and go ski an untracked mountain of snow. You know, it'd just be cool to see a lot more kids getting out there, and I think they will. I think it's still just the early stages of skiing and I give props to all the contest kids because it's just retarded what they're doing right now and I'm so stoked on the level of skiing and it's going to be scary to see when those kids actually step out and are hitting big cliffs and hitting really big jumps out in the backcountry. With the knowledge that they have in the park, they're just going to translate with no problem and start crushing it and I'm stoked to see that, you know? It's going to be really cool.
Why do you think that people feel the need to talk shit on you?
I think a lot of people talk shit on me because a lot of people don't know me. Everybody who talks shit on me doesn't know me. But you've got to get passed that because I think that if people met me, they would realize that I'm a pretty mellow guy and I consider myself pretty easy going. I respect other people and it's all good. I think sometimes when you're on top of a contest level and I've been on top for a while now, people want to see me go down. They've got to tear them down one way, whether it's on the Internet, whether it's trash talking to one of their friends or whatever behind the back. I've learned to really look passed all that stuff. It's all good, you know what I mean?