Welcome to Keystone

On and Off the Snow with Andreas Wiig

The snowboarding industry hasn’t heard much from Keystone team rider Andreas Wiig this year. He sprained his ankle during a practice run at the Winter X Games and has been laid up pretty much ever since.

“Just been sitting here doing nothing,” he said via Skype from his penthouse condo in Oslo, the biggest city in Norway. (Doing nothing, as it were, also means spending time with his girlfriend, the gorgeous Norwegian rocker Marion Raven.)

This week, Wiig drove north from Newport Beach, California (where he is about to close on a house up the street from the city’s best surf break), to film with Forum in the boundless backcountry around Whistler, his first significant riding in two months.

Andreas and Mike, Keystone Colorado

It’s a far cry from seasons past, like 2007, when Wiig swept the slopestyle and best trick gold medals at the Winter X Games, or 2008, when he defended his Winter X slopestyle crown, or even last year, when he put out a stellar segment in Standard Films’ “Black Winter.”

But for Wiig, 29, any riding is better than none. He grew up watching fellow countryman Terje Haakonsen transform what was then a nascent sport — more a cult than the worldwide industry it is now. “I’ve probably seen ‘Project Haakonsen’ a thousand times,” Wiig said.

There were no jumps or rails to hit when Wiig began exploring freestyle snowboarding. And as he grew into a frame that is now 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, learning new tricks was never easy. “I have to work out more to get my legs strong,” he said, “because I know there’s going to be much more impact when I land a trick than if I were 5-5 and 100 pounds.”

He began finishing respectably in major contests, honing his slopestyle skills in particular. In 2004, he took bronze at Winter X, and in 2006, silver. But the defining gold medal eluded him.

Leading up to the 2007 X Games, Wiig did something few snowboarders are willing to do. He rode the park exclusively for two months, intent on winning gold. “It was my biggest goal,” he said.

The devotion paid off. He treated himself to three months of powder thereafter.

How a Norwegian park specialist came to ride for a family resort in Colorado is an interesting story. About five years ago, Wiig was staying in Breckenridge and training in the resort’s famed Freeway park when he drove over to Keystone for a day in A-51, the reputation of which was nothing like it is now.

Wiig couldn’t believe what he’d been missing. “I was like, this place is amazing,” he said

Two years ago, he and Keystone brokered a deal to make Wiig the resort’s signature athlete. “I felt like for us to continue to elevate the profile of the park,” said Christian Knapp, Keystone’s brand director, “we needed at least a couple world-class riders. Before Andreas, we were always more youth and amateur focused.”

Now, Wiig spends almost his entire early season at Keystone, staying at the base of the resort and testing himself on A-51’s 100-plus features each day. He’s as approachable as he is talented, never denying a fan or grommet the chance to shoot the breeze with a superstar.

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes many times,” Knapp said.

Jasen “Ninja” Isaacs, Wiig’s agent, said: “I wish I had 100 of him.”

Whereas some pros use their summers as a time to separate themselves from their sport, Wiig works constantly with the Norwegian national team’s strength and conditioning experts. “He trains like an Olympic ski racer,” Isaacs said.

Wiig already has a plan for when he stops chasing the professional snowboarder’s life. “I want to go on surf trips and mellow out.”

But that won’t happen for at least 10 to 15 years, he said.

–Devon O’Neil

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