Vincent Gagnier: Skiing and the Blade Influence

Back in the ’90s as blading made its ascension to the heights of popularity, something unexpected was captured in the Erik Burke profile in “VG5” — skiing! First glimpsed possibly as a Fiction ad snippet in “VG4”, to any mountain-adjacent blader this was confirmation of a connection that many of us had already made: blading and skiing had a lot of shared potential. Flash forward 20+ years and the connection is more explicit than ever. Just look at Instagram, which is where we re-focused on pro skier Vincent Gagnier, and his litanny of blade-like freeski moves. After being “that guy” that would leave comments suggested the “real” blade names for tricks Vincent was landing, we decided to reach out and see if he’d be down for an interview. Well — spoiler alert — he was, so here’s what we learned about the ski/blade connection while talking with one of his sport’s best. Enjoy!

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Hey Vincent, thanks for taking time to answer some questions! We’ve been fans of you and your brother’s skiing for years. And so it makes sense that the Gagnier family has always been ahead of the curve, and even last year at the Fenway Big Air you surprised everyone again as much by what you didn’t do as what you did! Tell us about the trick you threw in the big air comp.
They tricks I did at Fenway was a switch rodeo 360, which is kind of like a switch rodeo 540 rewind to switch. I first did this trick in 2013 and it was totally by accident. I wanted to do a switch rodeo 540 but freaked out in the air because I thought I was coming short on the jump but I wasn’t, and I somehow ended up landing backwards. Zero minutes later I tried it again on purpose and freaking got it!

But the big change I did at Fenway was that I learned this trick with a reverse mute grab a week before the contest, and once I got to see the jump in person, well… it was pretty tiny. I knew right away there was no way that I could get some of my bigger tricks around on that jump, so I eventually decided to do my thing and do a trick that I had just cooked up and try to take the judges by surprise. I had no idea how they would rank me since they give me shitty scores half the time. But thanks to them for making a wise decision by putting me first.

As far as I know, it’s the only time a switch 360 has ever won a pro contest, and it happened in the triple cork era of skiing — I’m the most proud about that.

From an outsider’s perspective, that seemed like a bit of an “F U” to the spin-to-win mentality that seems dominant in competition skiing. Was it?
Yes kind of, I’m not a fan of the plus 1 progression on a bunch of tricks we’ve seen for years. I think everyone should try harder to come up with different tricks in contests, that way they will get a lot less predictable to watch.

I read you mention how you look forward to filming street sections as opposed to the grind of the competition circuit. Though I’m sure to lots of aspiring bladers or skiers, the idea of touring to comps as the “responsible” side of life seems pretty attractive — money on the line, cheering spectators, parties… But you’re saying it’s not?
Yeah, I wish I had more street shots the past couple years. But because of that competition grind I have kind of been on, I feel like I always end up coming back home after a month or two and I’m just toasted and my body is breaking in half. Comps are awesome when you get top three or if you learned something new, but it doesn’t always work that way — ha, ha.

I know that competitions won’t last forever as the sport is progressing so fast in a direction I’m not the biggest fan of, so eventually I will have to transition to filming as a main way to sustain my professional ski career, and I can’t wait to make the switch — I know that I’ll be such a better skier once I do that!

To that end, the ski feeds I follow on Instagram vary between kinda traditional old school big mountain ripping and freestyle, then a lot of new school jib life stuff that’s all creative and innovation. Is the industry as split as it seems?
The big mountain side of things and the park scene are separated for sure, but it’s always been like that, it’s nothing new. I do think park skiing is a lot more accessible than big mountain, because you can find hills to set up terrain parks anywhere there’s snow, but for big mountains you must live where the big mountains are.

What’s that like for skiers like yourself, and the smaller indie businesses in general?
I’ve been riding for Salomon for 12 years now and they’re a big company that does everything in the ski world. I don’t have much insider information on the smaller brands, but I know how important they are for the freeski community.

Did you know that rollerblading has been like that too — that there’s sub factions that vary between demanding death-defying stunts and incredibly tech? Have you done much blading? Do you know much about it?
Did not know that actually, but it makes sense because not everyone wants to do crazy shit all the time. There’s two rollerblade movies that I watched a bunch growing up, they were What Do You Believe In? and Denial’s Underestimated. I still watch them today to get inspiration — there’s a lot of resemblance between skiing and rollerblading when it comes to rails. My older brother, Antoine, invented the broken grind back in 2002, it was inspired by the farfegnugen on rollerblades. I had some Broskows when I was 11 and went to the local skate park for like two years during the summer, but I was always too scared and thought rollerblading was too gnarly and dangerous for me. Snow is like crashing on a pillow compare to concrete.

We used to see Felix Rioux around through his D-Structure shop in MTL. Have you shot pics with him before? And of course we’re all big Kaya Turski fans.
Yes, I’ve known Felix for over 10 years now, I have shot photos with him before but not any recently. I got my Broskows at D-Structure actually! Kaya is insane, can’t believe the transition she’s made and how much she dominated women skiing for over half a decade — I have a bunch of respect for her!

Back in the ‘90s Coors Light ran spots in SKI magazine promoting inline as off-season training. That got me on skates! You ever think more skiers will find blades and use them more for freestyle and general fitness training?
I’m not too sure about that, just because it’s so much gnarlier than skiing, but I guess if you’re good at blading than nothing on snow would seem crazy or scary. I think it’s more about getting inspiration for skiing, and rollerblading is a good resource for that and like a bunch of other sports, music, and just art in general. It keeps our sports evolving!

2017 is about half over — what’s coming up that you’re looking forward to? Any new tricks up your sleeves?
2017 wasn’t a great year for me unfortunately. I got a season-ending knee injury pretty early in the year, and didn’t really do anything I wanted to do to grow as a skier. But now all I do is think about skiing and what new tricks I’d like to do once I’m back a 100%. Next year should be good, I can’t wait!

Anything we didn’t touch on that you wanna tell the blade public? Otherwise thanks a lot for your time, Vincent! We’ll see you on Instagram and continue to call out blade trick names when we see ‘em. Thanks!
I just want to say that ender Montre Livingston has in the Truth 2 is the steeziest and sickest blading trick I have ever seen! Thanks for interview man, much appreciation to the blading community!

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