Josh Loubek, 39, helped create a sport, and then pushed it into the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now, he's getting ready to leave his North End home to judge the first-ever halfpipe and slopestyle events for skiers at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Loubek is a former pro-skier. He founded the Association of Freeski Professionals, which developed the official world ranking system for freeskiers. He also helped the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation start Team Shred, a ski and snowboard club for adolescents interested in terrain park, mogul and big mountain skills. Originally from Seattle, he moved to Boise five years ago with his wife, calling the city a "hidden gem."
He's both excited and anxious for his first Olympics, and hopeful the new events will captivate viewers. Boise Weekly caught up with him for a Q&A session before he left for Russia, Feb. 3.
So what Idaho ski resort do you have a season pass to?
I have a pass to Bogus Basin. I love the downhill skiing that Bogus provides. I think it's important to reach out to people who can't afford skiing at the high-level resorts like Sun Valley. Night skiing is super fun and having no lines during the week is great, too.
I also love places like Sun Valley and Schweitzer. I've traveled all over the world, skied at the best places ever, and McCall is just a little gem that no one knows about.
What makes Idaho a different place to ski from everywhere else in the world?
It's genuine. It still has a little bit of everything. You have your old-school weekend warriors with the old look and the old equipment, tearing it up still. Then there's a great scene of young athletes, solid kids who can compete with the best of them.
So you're going to the Olympics with a brand new sport?
It is the first time our sport has been in the Olympics. I've judged 10 X-Games for halfpipe and slopestyle. I competed as an athlete in the very early stages, helped figure out the judging, helped get the sport into the Olympics, and now I'm the head judge for the inaugural event.
What is ski slopestyle?
For a long time, people banned snowboarding. Ski resorts were anti-snowboarding. That wasn't cool. When it was finally embraced, they made parks because snowboarding is reflective of skateboarding. Then skiers weren't allowed in the parks. When they finally let skiing in, it could start to evolve.
[In slopestyle, skiers] have to go down a run with multiple rails, features and boxes to jump and slide and spin off of and a jump in the middle of the run. It's very cool, very athletic and it's almost artistic, too. It shows a really broad level of skiing. The athletes have to be able to land backwards and forwards and spin in both directions.
That sounds tricky to judge.
Judging is gnarly. It is completely stressful. These athletes are all so good. And it's like judging art. Who's to say who's better than the other? There's lots of disagreements in the booth, and discussions and arguments. No one gives you a slap on the back afterwards. It's no fun judging and I would love to be an athlete, but I stopped competing in 2001.
How did you get this event into the Olympics?
It took a long time. It started at the X-Games as a fun competition. The Olympic [committee] saw the X-Games had popularity with the younger generation and they want that.
I remember that I had to fly out to Zurich when they announced the Olympics would get ski slopestyle. We never liked how the FIS [International Ski Federation--the governing body responsible for Olympic disciplines related to skiing] did things. I even had an "FIS Sucks" shirt, but here I was flying to meet with the FIS about the new event.
I looked around at these older guys and I said, "It's really cool that you got this event here, but I'm guessing that you have no idea how to judge it." They all had their hands folded and looking stern and they look at me like, "maybe..."
I said, "Why don't you let us judge it?" They are known for being so slow to make decisions, but they said, "Sounds great."
Did you wear the "FIS Sucks" shirt under your shirt and tie?
[Laughs] No, I didn't, but I should have.
How will judging for the Olympics be different than judging for the X-Games?
Well, I really want to make sure this event being in the Olympics doesn't take away from the culture of the sport. The Olympics have been known to over-regulate and standardize.
We're trying to keep the Olympic committee from making a stricter criteria so the athletes dictate the sport, rather than rules and formulas. It's tricky. It's a juggling act, but I think people will freak out when they see ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle.
What do you expect Russia will be like?
I'm nervous because I'm getting weird calls and emails about the security issues in Russia. To get on the chairlift, you have to go through security like you would at an airport. You have to send your skis through an X-Ray.
And when you're not an Olympic judge pro-skier, what's your life like?
You know, I tried so hard for so long to be cool and to be this core skier and I was rad, but now my wife and I love to go play golf and tennis and go eat sushi. Lulu's is our favorite. I play basketball at the YMCA at 6:30 in the morning. I like the North End vibe. Everyone's on their cruisers and doing yoga and skiing. It's the best of both worlds.