The Yoke’s Outrageous Air Show at Schweitzer brings in some big-time freestyle aerial talent. Tonight and Saturday night, world champion Steve Omischl will be amplifying the wow factor.
Omischl, 32, is taking a year off from World Cup competition after 10 years on the Canadian freestyle ski team. He’s competed in three Olympic Games and more than 100 World Cup events, winning 20 titles and making the podium 40 times. He’s also won four overall World Cup titles and a World Championship in 2005. His three other World Championship medals include a silver in 2009.
Despite Omischl’s consistent excellence, an Olympic medal has eluded him. He finished eighth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in a competition that separated him from the gold medalist by five points. In the aftermath, he decided it was time to decompress.
“I was leading the World Cup tour in 2009 and jumping pretty well,” he said. “It was pretty disappointing to go out like that, so I needed to take a break. I had spent 10 years never thinking about anything other than competing. For a year I’ve been off and having fun. I wish I would have done this earlier in my career, then come back to it.”
On the World Cup circuit, Omischl’s signature tricks were two variations on a quadruple twisting triple back flip. He said he’s pulled off a quint-twisting triple back flip in training a few times but could never get the trick ready for competition. On a water ramp Omischl pulled off what he calls the hardest trick that’s been done – six twists with three back flips.
So what does a guy like that do for excitement when he takes a year off?
“I wanted to take a year to do all the things I’ve wanted to do for the past 10 years,” he said. “A little bit of rock climbing, sky diving, fly fishing and mountain biking. I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago finishing up my ‘A’ skydiving license. So I still get my kicks.”
The jump site at Schweitzer is about half the width and length of a World Cup freestyle course. It may seem like a bunny hill to Omischl, but he’s looking forward to jumping just for fun.
“You get so caught up in the traveling circus of World Cup,” he said. “You don’t do anything but train and compete. It will be nice not worrying about the stress of competition. There will be fireworks, music and people having a good time. I can actually enjoy it and have a beer afterwards.”
The biggest kicker at the Schweitzer jump site is the center ramp. It’s about 30 feet wide and 12 feet high with a 65-degree pitch that will launch multiple performers simultaneously into double and triple back flips. On each side are smaller kickers with a 45-degree pitch for single back flips and upright maneuvers like d-spins, spread eagles, backscratchers and daffys.
Joining Omischl will be fellow Canadian freestyle veterans Brad Suey and Jean Marc Rozon. Rozon won gold in freestyle aerials at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. Suey was Omischl’s coach his first year on the Canadian team. He built the jumps at the Vancouver Olympics and creates the venue at Schweitzer.
“The venue is a little smaller than what I’m used to, so it’s a bit harder to get the speed and air,” Omischl said. “I won’t be doing any quint-twisting triples, but I’ll definitely put in a good effort.”