For this freeskier, it's more fun being a pioneer than just another clone.
"Skogen, Skogen, Skogen," complains a fellow pro freeskier, rolling his eyes. "It's all I ever hear anymore. The guy is everywhere."
When SKIING caught up with 22-year-old Skogen Sprang, the one-time snowboarder turned new school skiing sensation was killing time in an Econo Lodge in downtown Philadelphia, watching skateboarding on TV.
"I didn't even think you could be a pro skier," said Sprang, who was waiting tables at Rosie's in Tahoe City as recently as the summer of 1999. "Then one day it just hit me."
Today the agile redhead is a freeskiing rock star. Philadelphia is one stop on a 10-city autograph-signing ski-movie tour. A big-time agency is representing him. Line Skis has released a Skogen Sprang pro model. But best of all, Sprang's smoothly centered style in the air is redefining new school cool.
"I guess you could call it snowboard style," he explained. "It's more relaxed. A lot of people tense up in the air and huck the trick. But I can feel the rhythm to each trick. I can feel it so much, it just flows."
Sprang -- originally from Mill Valley, California -- started skiing in Tahoe at age three. At six, he began skateboarding. At 16, he was throwing 540's on in-line skates. ("That's how I learned how to spin and land really centered," explained Sprang. "You can't get off-center on Rollerblades.") The next year, he tried snowboarding; within three seasons he was bagging podium finishes in Tahoe-area halfpipe and big-air events and working on a slate of new tricks that he hoped would distinguish him from the snowboard crowd.
But in 1998, the hot-wired ski crowd at Alpine Meadows caught his eye: "They were straight-lining all over the mountain," recalled Sprang. "Doing huge airs, going really fast. You can't do that stuff on a snowboard." The next season, he switched back to skiing."It's faster and more powerful," said Sprang of his new, old sport. "And it's more fun being a pioneer than just another clone, doing the same old thing."
Born: January 14, 1978
Lives at: Alpine Meadows, California
Skis at: Mammoth Mountain, California
Milestone: In 1999, skied a 100-foot gap jump over a moving train at Donner Pass, California. "After that, good things just kept happening."
Signature tricks: Skodeo (a rodeo as smooth as only Skogen can roll it); switch rodeo 720 (reverse takeoff, two full rodeo flips, reverse landing); rail slides.
Results: Second, Red Bull Huckfest 2000; second, big air, X Games 2000; first, big air, and third, quarterpipe, Core Games (Japan) 2000.
Destiny's child: "I just knew I didn't want to work in an office and be some grumpy old rich person."