Hood-trained Nick Goepper is eying gold in 2014 as slopestyle skiing makes its Olympic debut.

Hood-trained Nick Goepper is eying gold in 2014 as slopestyle skiing makes its Olympic debut.

I first met Nick Goepper in 2011 when I was researching a business story about Windells Camp for my previous job. Nice kid, I thought. From Indiana? Really? Do they have mountains in Indiana? And then I saw him ski.

Goepper has been absolutely ripping it up since attending Windells Academy on Mount Hood and training under legendary freeride coach Mike Hanley. He won the 2013 X Games in Aspen, the Austrian Open in Zell am See – Kaprun, the Dumont Cup in Maine and the Freeski Open in New Zealand. He is the top-ranked slopestyle skier in the United States, with multi-year sponsorships from Red Bull and Dakine to pay the bills, and he won't turn 20 until next March.

Not bad for a kid who grew up shredding a 300-foot hill that gets 10 inches of snow per year.

Goepper grew up in the farming community of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and learned to ski when he was five. His hometown hill wasn't much on vertical, but it had a lively freeride scene, and Goepper caught the big-air virus. He entered his first big-air competition at 11, landed his first double-flip at 13 and built his own training park at home to perfect his style and attempt new tricks.

His family experienced financial challenges when Goepper was a young teenager, putting the cost of elite action sports camps out of reach. But he picked up odd jobs, pounded the pavement, did his own promotional work and continued improving. He was eventually "discovered" by Kerry Miller, the self-titled Opportunity and Access Provider at Windells described by Powder Magazine as "one of the most influential people in freeskiing."

Miller negotiated a full scholarship for Goepper at the burgeoning Windells Academy on Mount Hood. In a not-as-unusual-arrangement-as-you-might-think, Miller also became Goepper's legal guardian to enable full-time training and international travel.

Since then it's been a string of victory after victory for Goepper. He is now the top-ranked slopestyle skier in the world, over legends swuch as Tom Wallisch and Sanny Carlson. No victory would be bigger for this 19-year-old phenom than a gold medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where the red-hot sport of stopestyle skiing will reach its largest audience ever.

In case you're interested in visualizing your run down the Olympic slopestyle course, here is an illustration.

And here's a YouTube video by Zac Moxley showing Nick Goepper throwing down some insane tricks on Mount Hood: