By the time he was just 16 years old, Candide Thovex was already a legend in freestyle skiing. This year, the 25-year- old phenom slayed the competition with a gold in X Games slope-style and the highest score ever posted in the event. Months later, Thovex came up short attempting one of the biggest jumps in skiing history—a 125-foot air—and broke two vertebrae in his lower back. He is already back on his feet with his sights set on a return to skiing. MF caught up with Thovex during his recovery at his home in La Clusaz, France.
MF: You started skiing when you were just 2 years old—how is the sport different today?
CT: Back in those days, people were skiing on really narrow skis. Even though there was a bit of mogul skiing, it was mostly seen as Alpine skiing—just going straight downhill. There was no way you could imagine skiing backward or sliding handrails in town.
What do you think caused the change?
About 10 years ago, skiing was becoming old school, then snow- boarding appeared with a new vision of the mountain and a new style of riding and clothing. Magazines, videos, and snow parks were developing all around the world. All that influenced us a lot, and we started to do exactly the same but on skis.
Thovex goes big at his home resort, La Clusaz, in France.
There are a lot of physical challenges in reaching the top of any sport. How do you train and prepare for them?
Skiing almost every day of the year requires you to be healthy and in good form; you also need to be flexible. I prepare my body for it, but I don't want the training to become too serious and boring like other sports. I don't have a coach; I'm just doing it myself. It still has to be a plea- sure in the end.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done on skis?
Maybe a cork 810 to rail—that's two and a quarter rotations off- axis, head down, before landing on a rail. And then just skiing these huge, steep mountains in Alaska was pretty crazy in itself.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into the sport?
First, have fun. If you want to try some difficult tricks, you should try them first in the powder, where landings are softer. Also, don't skip the progression—free- style skiing is not just about jumping; you need to learn good base skills before you learn difficult tricks.
Any other sports you love to do that aren't so cold?
It's so important to take a break from skiing sometimes and get some energy back. I love skate- boarding and surfing; those are great sports—different than skiing and similar at the same time.
You conquered the X Games and took home gold in 2007. How important is competition to you?
The X Games are the biggest competition in our sport, and they make it evolve with all the big media focused on it, introducing it to a larger public. All that is good and important for the development of our sport. Even though competitions are important, they are not the main thing in my career. The most important thing for me is to have fun, no matter what I'm doing.