Hot off the X-Games podium, where he won a gold medal in the Big Air, James “Woodsy” Woods came to Tignes this week on the final stop on his Planks Store Tour. The pro-skier is sponsored by local brand Planks, and focused this latest tour on the ski resorts in which Planks has recently opened new stores, hence the Planks Store Tour was born.
The day began with a brief meeting between Woodsy and the Planks team at the Val Claret shop, before everyone headed up to the Tignes park to meet with locals and holiday makers for an afternoon of jibbing and tips on tricks from the man himself. After what has felt like weeks of consecutive bluebird days, the weather was unfortunately not on side, and practice on the big kickers wasn’t on due to the gusty wind and bad visibility. Nevermind though, as the pipe and rails were set up to perfection by the Tignes park crew and a fantastic rail session went ahead resulting in a hugely successful afternoon. About 50 people turned up for the afternoon’s event, including Tignes and Val D’Isere seasonnaires and holiday makers, spanning all ages from under 10 to over 40, and some people had even come from further afield, like one youngster from Sainte-Foy who managed to execute a huge front flip during the session.
Tignes seasonnaire, Josh Downs, was one of several who, over the course of the day, managed to get a new trick under his belt after some coaching tips from Woods. “It was brilliant- his advice was really helpful” Brevieres seasonnaire Alex McLure told me, “I was doing tricks i’ve never managed to pull off before, so something was working! And it was amazing getting to ride with such a legend”. There was a huge variety of different skill and experience in the park during the day, and the vibe was incredible. Everyone was encouraging each other and cheering each other on, taking advice from each other, and of course from the man himself. Here is some footage of the day shot by the Planks team and presented by Planks sales and marketing manager Rob Embling.
Having the opportunity to support and inspire skiers is exactly what Woodsy has been going for in recent months. In October 2016 he put together a tour of the UK, “Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, where he visited the dryslopes and indoor domes that he grew up, and along with a few other of the UK’s top athletes, gave coaching tips to up and coming local skiers. “I just want to give back the support and inspiration that I had when I was growing up. And for me, this is where it happened. It was riding in these places that the dream began for me. I am grateful to so many people for where I’ve got to today, and I couldn’t have done it without the support from so many people along the way.”
Planks staff were on hand giving out spot prizes for everything from “Bails to Fails, as well as Winners and Spinners” store manager Danielle Yeo told me. “After the World saw him win gold at the X Games, we thought it’d be great to do our own inspire tour, and get him meeting our seasonnaires and tourists, and get them all to give it a go!” Back at the Val Claret Planks Clothing and Coffee store there was a signing session and a chance to meet the X Games winner over a beer or a delicious coffee. What started off as a fairly civilised meet and greet and autograph session, soon evolved into pumping music, loud chatter and some people (ahem… Alex McLure) even getting an autograph on their recently shaved head.
Until recently Woodsy was sponsored by industry giant Quiksilver (among others). His contract with Planks is relatively new, as is his new liaison with UK eyewear brand SunGod. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from thes big industry sponsors. They lifted me up and gave me the opportunities that have led me to where I am today. I decided to work with smaller UK brands to bring some of the spotlight that is now on me back to them.” Woodsy is an ambassador for skiing in the UK, and in an industry that is relatively small compared to giants like the US, it is moves like this that will encourage growth of the sport in the UK. You could say it’s all part of his plan to inspire and encourage a new generation of UK skiers. You could also say that he owes Planks founder and owner Jim, as once upon a time Woodsy worked for him delivering beanies!
With this latest success at the X Games in Aspen in January all eyes are on Woodsy for next year’s Winter Olympics in Korea. I asked him what his hopes and goals were for the event, and what sort of training he was planning in preparation. “Training? Uugh- what a horrible word.” He said, “Skiing is training, it’s what I do. It’s what I love to do, so I just keep practicing, and I love doing it, so calling it training just sounds wrong.”
“Skiing is training, it’s what I do. It’s what I love to do.” James “Woodsy” Woods
In terms of goals for the Olympics “I never like to say that I want to win.” He told me. “I just want to do my best at the time, whatever that is on the day.” This philosophical outlook may well be exactly the attitude necessary to survive in such a high pressure competitive sport. Months, or sometimes years of preparation come down to a single event, and a mistake on the day can cost everything. As Woodsy found out in the last Winter Olympics in Sochi where a gust of wind blew him off course during a practice run and he ended up with a broken hip. Despite such a serious injury, he still competed, and managed to place 5th. “You can’t be frustrated with that result.” He explained, “That was absolutely the best I could’ve done on the day. That competition became something completely different for me. I was on a lot of painkillers, and had to have my boots put on me while lying down. But i managed to hit auto-pilot, and still got 5th place. I was stoked!” This incredible positive attitude is something that literally oozed from Woodsy every minute of the day he spent with us in Tignes. He was friendly, chatty, open and so up for talking to everyone who had come to see him. His eyes light up when he talks about skiing, and being able to encourage and inspire people through his skiing. He is so grateful to be where he is, “I am living my dream” he must have told me about 100 times over the course of our interview.
And anyone who can still find the inner strength to ski in a competition that calls for huge jumps and twists and spins while suffering with a broken hip is already a hero in my eyes!