Northstar pro team skier, Olympic gold medalist and Reno native David Wise recently returned from Sochi, Russia, after winning a gold medal in Men’s Ski Halfpipe. We sat down with him to get his take on the Olympic experience and what it’s like to compete on the biggest stage in sports.
The whole Olympic experience was pretty amazing for me. We got to show up early, go to the opening ceremonies, meet all the famous Olympians and just be there for the whole thing. I really enjoyed being able to go to hockey games and watch ice skating and cheer people on and just be part of team USA.
Opening ceremonies was amazing. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. It’s like trying to force a bunch of information through a funnel. My brain is just like “I don’t know if this is real!”
Being the favorite going into a contest like that is a lot of pressure and a lot of people will be like “Oh we know you’re going to win. Gold medal for sure.” But you have to look at things from the perspective that you may be the favorite, but that doesn’t mean anything on game day. I had to stay as focused as possible. I just went into it with the perspective that I was going to go out and have fun – it’s just another contest.
It was really cool for me seeing all the worlds collide. There are the ice skaters who are really regimented and focused, and then there are the freeskiers who are walking through the cafeteria with their pants hanging down. Just all these different athletes all in the same spot. It was funny because you can’t be cocky when you’re surrounded by the best in the world. Everybody has their own swagger but you when you get there you think “Well he’s actually just as good at what he does as I am at what I do.” It’s a humbling experience to be surrounded by greatness like that.
I think a lot of people think we just go out and ski and that’s all there is to it. But you know there is a lot of work that goes into it, and I’ve always told people I was never the most talented. I was never the young phenom. I always had to work for it. But I’ve always said that if you work hard, there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you just get a little better every day. So the Olympics was sort of a culmination of this lifelong journey I’ve been on. I knew I could do this if I just kept working hard and kept chipping away at it. So to be able to come down with a gold medal was amazing.
The Olympics are cool because there’s all this national pride on the line. You can’t help but feel that. When I was standing on top of the podium hearing the national anthem play and thinking about all the history that went into it, what the national anthem is about and the history that is the USA, was really an emotional moment for me. And to come home and have people say “Oh thank you so much for representing America, thank you so much for what you do for our country.” It was kind of weird. My sister is a pilot in the Air Force and I’m used to seeing people honor her for what she gives to the Armed Forces, but to be seen in that light was pretty interesting, especially to come home to Reno and have this huge crowd there that was just so excited to see me. It was just a whole new thing because I’ve been skiing for a long time and competing for a long time but the Olympics is on a whole other level as far as getting you in front of the main stream and getting people excited about it.
Reno/Tahoe is a unique community in that everybody is outdoorsy. You live here for a reason, you know. We have everything available. We have amazing skiing out here, we have amazing mountain biking in the summer, and I do a ton of hunting and fishing here. So everybody gets excited when you have something to celebrate, especially when it comes down to sports. In Reno/Tahoe they just love their sports, so it was really cool to be that celebrity, to be the guy who gets to represent the area and represent skiing to the masses. I got off the airplane and there was the Governor and the Mayor sitting there waiting to shake my hand. It was the craziest experience I’ve ever had. I mean it’s funny for me because I’m just a skier kid and I don’t really take myself too seriously, and they’re like “It’s such an honor to meet you! We’re so glad you’ve done this for our community.”
I’ve been given this platform, and one of the things I’m using it for is to get people excited about skiing. I want to get as many kids out there on the slopes as possible. So we partnered with the Boys & Girls Club and had a bunch of kids up here at Northstar shredding around with me and I spent the day meeting them and showing them that they may see me as a celebrity but I’m just a normal guy like them. They can do whatever they set their mind to. I’m really excited to get kids out there skiing.
I’ve always been a shoot for the stars kind of guy. I’ve always set really high goals and most of the time they’re so crazy I never get to them. But for one time in my life I set this really insane goal and I was able to pull it off. I won the Dew Tour, then I won the Grand Prix in Breckenridge, then I won X-Games, then I won the Olympics. It was just this crazy run of all this fortune. I keep looking around thinking “When am I going to get struck by lightening?” It’s just been so amazing. To me that’s just a testament that you really can be anything. Whatever you’re passionate about, if you pursue it wholeheartedly you can do some amazing things. That’s what I’m excited to tell people. “Hey, I was a normal kid, and I still am a totally normal kid, but I happen to have a gold medal hanging around my neck now and people take that a whole lot more seriously.” Every day I went about it with the thought that I wasn’t going to have anything left on the table. That was the easiest thing for me when I was at the Olympics – that I had literally done everything I could possibly do to be ready for this.
Up next I have a 10-day European trip planned. I’ll be doing some film- and photo-friendly events, getting some shots, and enjoying some European spring skiing. Then I get to come back and meet the President with the rest of the Olympic team so that’ll be cool. Then I’ll be back here at Northstar shredding around, shooting some park edits.
The thing about Northstar is that there’s a little bit of everything here. You have the Village and everything that goes with it. I love skiing the park but my family doesn’t necessarily want to spend their whole day park-rattin’ it so I can come up and do my thing, I drop them off, my wife takes my little girl up skiing, and then we can go have hot chocolate in the Village, do some ice skating or roller skating, and just enjoy this atmosphere here at Northstar which is so cool. It’s a place I’ve always been to over the years but now it’s home so that’s a proud thing for me.