Wild style: Seemann on a mission to take his advanced aerial tricks to 2018 Olympic Games
Nik Seemann makes his living in the air, for seconds at a time, twisting and flipping in a fashion most of us would call crazy. To outside observers it may seem terrifying, or borderline superhuman, but for a world-class freestyle aerial skier, it’s just another day on the slopes.
“I think at some fear is a good thing, but once you dial it in you kind of get used to it and it just becomes what you do,” said Seemann. “The first time for everything is a little scary, but you move past that.”
Seemann is currently in Ruka, Finland, high up north in the Arctic Circle training for the beginning of the 2018 International Ski Federation, FIS, World Cup Series. With just hours of sunlight a day, Seemann mostly skis in the dark, hoping to perfect his tricks and earn his ticket the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games.
“We’re so far north that it’s dark almost all the time,” said Seemann. “There’s a few hours where its kind of light out, but it’s basically just night skiing. It’s pretty strange, especially coming from Winter Park which is sunny about 300 days a year.”
The 20-year-old grew up in Winter Park where he took to the slopes at a young age, in part because of his father, Chris Seemann. Once an aerials athlete himself, Chris has sustained a long career with the U.S. Ski Team including as a coach and technical advisor. Today he also serves as the chairman of the USSA freestyle and freeskiing sport committee, as well as a member of the USSA Board of Directors when he isn’t helping out his son. Seemann came up skiing three day weekends participating in ski races and moguls, but like his father before him, he preferred jumping.
Said Seemann: “It’s one of the gnarliest sports out there. We go bigger and do more flips and twists than any other sport. This summer I was working on a quintuple-twisting triple back-flip. There are just no other sports that are even close to touching that sort of maneuver.”
In his youth Seemann’s father would take him out to the water ramp at Steamboat, but he graduated to competition quickly. After a series of regional competitions, Seemann was named to the U.S. Developmental Ski Team in 2014.
Seemann took first at the 2014 and 2015 Junior National Aerial Championships.
As he about to graduate from Middle Park High School in 2015, he was named to the U.S. Pro Team.
“I started competing with guys that I had watched since I was young,” he said. “It was pretty wild standing next to them at the start gate. All these guys, Olympic medalists, it’s just really crazy to think that I was starting to compete on this level.”
Seemann won his first North American Cup competition in Park City in May 2016, before placing second at the National Championships in Steamboat less than a month later. Perhaps Seemann’s most impressive outing to date was at the World Cup event in Minsk, Belarus last season where he placed seventh.
“Just to feel like I was one of the top ten in the whole world in that event is pretty inspiring to push hard and push to the podium like it was in reach,” recalled Seemann. “It made me feel like I could accomplish an Olympic or World Cup podium.”
Seemann has been envisioning an Olympic birth since he started competing seriously. He’s hoping adding a new trick to his arsenal could be the key to getting there. Seemann is working on a quintuple-twisting triple back flip, a maneuver that requires five complete twists and three back-flips on a single jump. The trick also requires countless hours of training and practice before he’s ready to try it over snow.
Seemann lives in Park City, Utah, where he trains five days a week in the gym focusing on balance and agility. Outside he takes to the water ramp at the Utah Olympic Park where athletes can practice their jumps into a pool to dial them in before trying over hard-packed snow.
“I’m at the gym constantly and I really hit the water ramp hard,” he said. “That’s the best training you can do aside from on snow.”
The path to Pyeongchang is set, and it starts at the Secret Garden Resort in China for the season’s first aerials World Cup competition. After that Seemann will head to Moscow; Deer Valley, Utah, and Lake Placid for Olympic qualifiers.
When he’s not skiing Seemann takes classes at the University of Utah, and is considering applying to the school of business with hopes of working in an action sport someday.
“Aside from all this, it’s important for me to get an education and have something to do after skiing too.”
He said he also enjoys taking trips down to San Diego where he partakes in his other passion of surfing.
Despite an exciting life full of world travel and competition, Seemann said he still loves his hometown.
“I love the support of the community up in Grand County, and it was just such a great place to grow up. Everyone’s super supportive. Even now when I’m away and I come back, everyone’s excited to see me and wish me luck. I just love the county.”
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