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The Year of the Kuch: The Sam Kuch Interview

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For BC ski athletes, 2020 has come up all Kuch. Powder Mag Skier of the year, feature athlete in MSP Return to Send’er, and a fresh contract on Arcteryx’s pro athlete team. And there’s no surprise why. Everyone loves seeing big tricks executed on big mountain lines and Sam’s your guy for that. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly reserved, modest, and a good guy to be around. In between a couple of his ski trips this winter, he had the time to answer a few questions so we can all find out what makes this guy tick. (Lead image photo cred: Bryan Ralph)

Full Name: Samuel Michael Ernest Kuch

Age: 22 as of a couple weeks ago.

Sponsors: Head, Tyrolia, Arc’teryx, Mons Royale, Village ski Hut, Whitewater Ski Resort.

Hometown: Nelson BC

Oh shit, you’re from the hippy fairyville wizard village of Nelson. Well, then there’s a bunch of totally different questions I need to ask you:

Astrological Sign: Capricorn (don’t let that fool you, I can be a fun guy)

Current Diet Fad you’re doing right now, but will give up in about 3 weeks: Sobriety

Power Animal: Black Panther

Solar Power Animal: N/A… I put gas in my sled and truck.

Favorite Kombucha Flavour: Not everyone from Nelson loves fizzy vinegar water.

Who would win in a fight? Harry Potter or Froto Baggins? Harry is made-up but there are plenty of Frodos in the Slocan valley Shire… So, Frodo.

BC kid skiing BC pow in the BC. Photo: Grant Gunderson.

You’re constantly referred to as “The Newcomer,” or ”The Rookie” in magazine articles and media. However, you’ve been known in the competitive freeskiing circuit since you were about 14. Is calling you a rookie fair? 

There’s a couple different fish ponds in skiing. The way I see it, I made it to the top of the smaller junior fish pond and graduated to the pro-pond, now I’m back to being a lil fishy.  People love the “underdog rookie” label, I’m receiving more fist bumps than ever!

Sam’s award-winning Return to Send’er segment.

In ski movies, we’ve historically had big mountain skiing and park skiing. Since the early 2000s, skiers started to blend the two, flipping and spinning off cliffs. Sort of a backcountry freestyle scene. In Return to Send’r, I thought there was a change. You’re segment wasn’t backcountry freestyle, it was big mountain freestyle: throwing tricks off cliffs that had bigger consequences. You know, exposure to roll over if you crashed. And you were also tricking 2-3 features per run. Was this always your goal? 

I’ve always admired backcountry freestyle and I kind of just naturally started skiing in that direction. The more I manage to clean a trick or land a harder air, I gain a kind of subconscious confidence that changes the way I look at the terrain and decide what is personally possible. I feel like I progress in one way or another every day I go out.

How did competitive freeskiing help you get to this style of skiing? 

To do well in a free ride contest, you kind of have to think outside the box and do something that nobody else is doing. I took to doing tricks and spins off of unlikely booters which translates into my everyday style I guess.

Another Nelson hippie kid hanging with his coniferous counterparts. Photo: Grant Gunderson.

What’s next for 2020? 

Learning how to manage my time! Also a few awesome trips lined up and another segment with MSP.

Two years ago, you showed up to help show Stan Rey and Jeff Thomas around Whitewater. That two day job ended up getting you cast in this year’s MSP and Blank Films. It also helped you win an IF3 award last year. How important was this experience? Was it just being in the right place at the right time? 

Yeah that weekend was definitely my lucky break. The stars aligned and I happened to be on my A-game. I am super lucky to have a community of people supporting me with guys like Bryan Ralph (Ralphie), who initially connected me with that fateful film shoot. If not for those couple days, I’d still be throwing shingles on roofs.

Sam’s breakout performance from 2019 that landed him the IF3 Discovery of the Year Award.

Who inspires you?

I take lots of inspo from various pros in the sport but mostly I’m inspired by badass locals!  Ed Natyshak for instance, life has dealt him some pretty tough cards but despite that, he still continues to train anyone from professional athletes, to moms and dads, into literal athletic monsters, all from his wheelchair. Other people who inspire me are the coaches of the Whitewater Freeride Team, it is kind of their job to inspire kids but it goes far beyond that, they are life coaches as much as ski coaches and they’ve shown unconditional support to every kid on the team.  Also my extremely talented friends who go out and send harder than anyone I know, not for a camera or an instagram post, but just for fun.

Sasquatch Performance Training: Be the Myth. Doc project courtesy of Jeremy Grant (Catch him skiing Little Mucker all day every day.)

Who do you like skiing with?

 Friendly people.

What do you do off the snow that makes you a better skier?

Go to SPT-Ed Natyshak’s gym. Ride bikes. Lots of day dreaming and visualizing.

Tell me a little bit about your little brother, The Fully Automatic, The AK, The Silent Killer, The Rock and Roll Assassin, the Adam Kuch. What do you see him doing in skiing?

Every time I see Adam, he looks like more of a man. He is so strong and such a talented skier with a smooth style. He is currently slaying contests and picking up a few sponsors. I hope that I can help him in any way possible to achieve his goals. I reckon you’ll see him at the top of a lot of podiums this year.

A 15 year old Adam Kuch’s 2019 Edit. He’s qualified for the IFSA World Juniors Finals this year.

How important is your family? 

Super important, other than raising and loving me properly, they are my biggest fans and have supported me in ways that I could never return. Super grateful.

How important is your ski community? 

I love the Nelson/Whitewater ski vibe, everyone here uses skiing as a chance to disconnect and just have fun and there’s no pressure to do anything other than that.

Some classic WH20 lines in this B Roll segment

How important is Jeff Holden in shaping the future of freeskiing. I see that guy working so hard all year in competitive Jr. Freeskiing and is so focused on keeping the kids positive, keeping the vibe high, making sure things are first and foremost fun, keeping the vibe high, ensuring things are safe as possible, and judging is accurate. Why is Jeff important? 

In any competitive sport, there is lots of pressure to perform the best and I understand why that kind of pressure takes the fun out of the sport. That being said, competitions can also be a good way to progress your skiing and build a cool community. Jeff does a great job of staying true to the competitive aspect while keeping kids stoked no matter the outcome of the contest. He even made a music video about keeping the free ride vibe high. If anybody is keeping the spirit alive, its Jeff.

Putting the Freestyle in Freeride, Holden spreading positive vibes on the mic.

You’re a talented skier, but you’re pretty quiet and reserved. I imagine this doesn’t help you get places in the ski industry, when you essentially have to tell companies that you’re worth them investing in you. Who has been helping you out there? 

So far it’s been people that I’ve met in the industry that like me who reach out and put my name in companies ears. I’ve learned that Humbleness only gets you so far, but I’m not changing! Lucky that I have lots of good people on my side.

What’s important to you? 

My friends, family, health, my cat-“Sweet Baby” and being true to myself.

Name your top 5 ski legends (keep in mind, due to banned substance use, I’m not available for this category). Damn I was going to say Chris Mansbridge. Ok, Scott Gaffney, Travis Steeger, Adam Kuch, Shane Mconkey, Jeff Holden.

Who do you want to thank? Nelson community, Whitewater, parents- Cam and Sheila, Sponsors, Megan.

Why does skiing matter? Cause I hate being bored.

You like to throw tricks off big cliffs. Does size matter?  Yes

Skier: Kuch, Powder: Ullr, Photo: Grant Gunderson

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