Freeskiing phenom Tyler Shockey finished last season ranked 18th nationally in slopestyle for his age group (16-19) by the USASA – the country’s premier amateur ski and snowboard association.
What makes this feat most remarkable is that Shockey is from Burley – not exactly a mecca for slopestylers. The nearest ski resort with adequate terrain for him to train is a 3 ½ hour drive to Park City or 4 ½ hours to Tamarack.
“Most of these (USASA) competitions are made up of big jumps and rails,” the 18-year-old says. “All the other guys competing are a 20-minute drive (from Tamarack). I ski around here and don’t get to hit any jumps at all. Then I get up there and have practice runs for two hours before the competition. But that’s all right – it makes it fun and a bigger challenge.”
Slopestyle is a form of freestyle in which competitors choose his or her route through a course that contains jumps and rails. Judges determine the winner based on the difficulty and execution of the tricks.
All the big names in freeskiing got their start with USASA. Its members have gone on to win worldwide competitions, including Winter Olympic gold. Shockey hopes to rise to an elite level, but he knows that he’ll have to leave Burley to do so. No offense to his home mountain, Pomerelle, but Shockey can’t wait to graduate high school and move closer to a mountain where he can hone his talent and hopefully one day compete at the U.S. Open and the X Games. His plans are to attend Boise State, which is a much-closer 144 miles to Tamarack Resort.
But even after moving on, southern Idaho will always be home to Shockey. At 3 years old, his parents Mark and Carla put skis on him. By the time he became a teenager, skiing wasn’t considered “cool” by his peers, who had started strapping into snowboards. But his parents told him, “When you learn to ski as well as we can, then you can try snowboarding.”
“It’s funny because when I could ski as good as them, I didn’t want to snowboard anymore because I loved skiing,” he says.
To keep from getting bored, Shockey began pushing the extreme side of skiing. At age 6, he started ditching his parents and went hot rodding through the trees. At 13, he was hitting jumps and landing 360s. It wasn’t long before he started pulling more progressive tricks, including one of his favorites, the Cork 7 (also known as a Corkscrew 720), where the skier makes two full rotations in the air (720 degrees) while twisting his body so that it’s parallel to the ground mid-flight.
Shockey, who is sponsored by Elevation Sports of Twin Falls, captured three consecutive slopestyle championships at Pomerelle and a second-place finish at the 2007 Grand Targhee slopestyle event. He is featured in the recently-released ski movie entitled “Hang Loose,” by ECR Films. He’ll look to improve on his No. 18 national ranking when the USASA season begins in January.
“I’m not really satisfied with that,” Shockey says. “It’s really cool and I’m really excited about it and I’m not complaining, but I’m not stopping there. I’ve dreamed of skiing since I was 3 and I have a lot of motivation to keep going.”
When he’s not throwing Switch 540s, Shockey can be found playing the drums. He was also the starting running back for the Burley High football team, where he hit holes with the same enthusiasm that he hits ski jumps.
“Skiing and football are different, but I like them both a lot,” he says. “In football you have your teammates and coaches pushing you to work hard. Skiing, to me, is the real test of how much of an athlete you really are. In skiing, the only way you’re going to test the limits is to do it yourself. That’s why I like skiing; it’s all on me, I don’t have a team helping me out.”
Although his is an individual sport, Shockey credits his parents for helping him get to where he is today. His biggest influences have been his older brother Matt, fellow USASA skier Ben Orton of Heyburn, and pro Sammy Carlson.
“The thing I love about (slopestyle) skiing is it’s amazingly fun,” he says. “You do it once, and you’re like, ‘Holy cow that was awesome!’ It’s the biggest adrenaline rush ever. You do it once and you’re hooked; it’s an addiction.”
Video By: Josh Draper