It may not be as big as football, basketball or even gymnastics (here at the U, at least), but freeskiing is a burgeoning sport with prime-time stages, like ESPN’s X-Games, to showcase its disciplines. One of those disciplines, slopestyle, will make its Winter Olympic debut in 2014 at the Sochi Games in Russia. The hottest slopestyle skier in the world, and in all of freeskiing, is University of Utah business student Tom Wallisch.
The weekend before finishing his finals at the U’s David Eccles School of Business, Wallisch opened the 2011-12 slopestyle season with a victory at the Dew Tour Nike Open in Breckenridge, Colo. One month later, Wallisch (also known as the “King of Afterbang,” “Tommy Walnuts” and “Pretzelman”), won the next Dew Tour stop, the Pantech Invitational in Killington, Vt., in record fashion, setting the all-time high score in the Winter Dew Tour slopestyle event.
Next up was the X-Games on Jan. 26, with the slopestyle event slated for the main ESPN (not ESPN2, 3, or “The Ocho”) Thursday night prime-time slot. With the national spotlight shining, Wallisch embarked on the final run of the evening one point behind the leader Nick Goepper, 94.66 to 93.66. Wallisch did not disappoint as he attacked the high wall at the very beginning of the run and then followed with a succession of switches, rodeos, spirals and silky smooth landings that not only earned him X-Games gold, but also set an X-Games slopestyle record (this being the event’s 8th year) with a score of 96.
Check out the world-record run here:
Wallisch, a native of Pittsburgh, came to the University of Utah to experience the greatest snow on earth and to take advantage of the school’s proximity to the world-class ski terrain, as well as its excellent educational opportunities. He soon became an overnight sensation when he and his new-found U of U buddies filmed his sorcery on the slopes, which resulted in him winning the Superunknown contest sponsored by Level 1, who was looking for the next big (unknown) thing. The rest is freeskiing history.
While Wallisch is an accomplished pro skier, he’s also a dedicated and determined student, who understands the importance of a college education and is already taking some of the lessons learned in his business classes and applying them in the real world of high-flying freeskiing, where athletes must always be marketing themselves to the next sponsor, and be on the lookout for the next endeavor and opportunity. And, as Tom will tell you, his time at the U has definitely prepared him for that next level in life. Next up is the final leg of the Dew Tour, the Toyota Championships at Snowbasin, Utah, where Wallisch will attempt to sweep the tour and cap his wonderful winter ride.