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Sammy C on Mount Hood.

In case you were wondering who that was soaring through the sky over Vista Ridge last Friday, it was freeskiing superstar Sammy Carlson.

Carlson is a five-time Winter X-Games Slopestyle medalist and winner of the 2013 X Games Real Ski Backcountry People's Choice Award. But for somebody widely respected as one of the top all-around skiers on the planet, he sure is one laid-back dude. He showed up at the Meadows sun deck wearing camo, with a big smile for everyone he saw, whether he knew them or not. "Let's do it," he said, and poled his way over to the Mt. Hood Express lift.

Riding up the lift, I asked him how he was doing recovering from his various injuries. He blew out his ankle last year and couldn't even compete in his own event, the Sammy Carlson Invitational at Mount Bachelor. The year before that he blew out his right knee. 

"I'm all good," he said. "Skiing pain-free and just enjoying every minute of it."

Even on slick Mount Hood ice, Sammy Carlson defines smooth. Everything he does just looks effortless. That style comes through when you see him competing on television in the Dew Tour or the X-Games, or starring in an online edit, and it comes through even stronger when you see him ripping it in person. But what surprised me was how fast he skied. It just seemed like he was always pulling away, even though he didn't even seem to be trying. Half the time he was traveling backwards.

Sammy grew up in Tigard and first shredded Hood at the age of four, so he definitely knows his way around Mt. Hood Meadows. And while his true passion is for backcountry terrain deep in wilderness, there was sadly no powder for him to shred on this boilerplate ice day in a low-snow year. So off to the park it was.

Before long he was riding rails and catching huge air and pulling all sorts of mind-boggling maneuvers.

It is a shame that we will probably not see Carlson compete in Sochi in February, when slopestyle skiing makes its Olympic debut. Carlson has been competing well in preliminary freestyle events, but there are only three or four slopestyle spots for the U.S. Olympic team, and the increasingly regimented scoring of the sport does not necessarily reward people's choice stylists such as Sammy Carlson.

Besides, Carlson has been pivoting out of the parks and into nature for some time now.

This is how he described his shift to me on the chairlift:

"Skiing is not about competition for me. I just want to go out and enjoy the purity of it. I'm stoked for everyone who makes it out there to Sochi but my passions are leading me elsewhere.

"I think the future of freeskiing lies in getting further out into the mountains and pushing things further on the natural side of things. As a kid I liked to just ski the park all day, but now I want to go out and have adventures and just find the coolest terrain we can get into, ride the best snow there is, and just really explore.

"I think there's a whole new side of the sport that hasn't really been explored too much, like freestyle backcountry. And that's my passion now, to get into bigger lines where I can throw bigger tricks."

Whatever he ends up getting into, it will definitely be worth watching.

Here's a photo I shot of Sammy soaring over Vista Ridge with Mount Jefferson in the background:


And here's a video from Pierce Hodges and Meadows, of Sammy Carlson shredding Mount Hood and enjoying every minute of it:

Last but definitely not least, here is the amazing 90-second edit that earned Sammy first place in the 2012-13 X Games Real Backcountry contest: