Perfection is rare in life and therefore in freeskiing, but it could be argued that Nico Porteous’s 2021/22 season was pretty close. There was a point when Nico held the World, X Games and Olympic Halfpipe titles.
Few could blame the young Kiwi, after a year of absolute domination, for taking a break. Injuries didn’t help, but Nico was in Europe for Infinite Lines and Buldoz Invitational at the end of this winter. We had a minute to catch up and he told Downdays what he’s been up to.
Hi Nico, Last year was the perfect contest season, you were reigning World, Olympic and X Games Halfpipe champion. This year, not so much. When did you get injured?
I tore my ACL three weeks after the Olympics, at the start of March last year. Classic skiing injury, but I was pretty lucky that I didn’t do any damage to the other ligaments in my knee. No meniscus damage or MCL, majority just ACL. I had partially torn it three years earlier, so it was sort of hanging on a little bit. It was going to go at any point and I’m just thankful that it went after the Olympics.
Did you injure it in the pipe?
I actually injured it piggybacking someone. I fell over and it just went pop. It’s kind of nice in a way. Although getting back into skiing has been challenging, I didn’t lose any confidence in my skiing. It was sort of the perfect way to do it.
Ok. So, going back to holding all those titles, how did that feel?
It was just crazy, to be honest. Everything happened so, so fast. Obviously, I put in a lot of hard work and had worked really hard to be the best halfpipe skier that I could and things really paid off. It all happened so quick, it was ridiculous one comp, then the next comp and then the next comp. I now look back at the last two years and this is crazy. All of these goals and dreams of me being a skier came true, all within two seasons.
Now you’ve had to take a break with the injury, do you plan to go back fully into competing next season?
Throughout the whole rehab process, for those that don’t know it’s a nine-month rehab process, it’s pretty intense and there’s no real activity that you can do in that time. I had a lot of time to think in that time, to reassess where I was, where I’m at in my skiing/career and where I want to take it. Eventually, after a lot of thinking and a lot of time pondering the thought, I decided to take a year off competing this season and switch more in to a filming year, which was pretty exciting. I filmed a solo project this year and I’m continuing to film it. Going into next season, I’ll be back on the comp circuit and chasing all the halfpipe comps. Which will be good.
Eventually, after a lot of thinking and a lot of time pondering the thought, I decided to take a year off competing this season
When does the movie drop?
I haven’t quite decided on a release date yet, but it’s going to be a full-length video part, about ten minutes long. It will hopefully showcase a different side of my skiing, that people haven’t seen before and one of the main goals was to help launch into the more film side of skiing. That way, when I do finish my contest career, I can go into filming.
Does that mean you’d rather be thought of as more than a pipe skier?
Haha, I don’t take any offence, but I have always really been quite annoyed when people call me a pipe skier. It’s not really an angry sort of thing, but I’ve always been one to break that stigma and I’m not just a pipe skier. At the end of the day, I’m a skier. I love skiing and it doesn’t matter if it’s in the halfpipe, filming in the backcountry or skiing urban. I love every part of skiing and that’s something that I want to show.
Is your video more all-round than?
To be honest it’s more off piste/backcountry stuff, so pretty different to what I normally do.
Don't call him a pipe skier!
Where was it shot?
Mainly in Innsbruck, a bit in France and there will be some stuff from America as well.
Where do you spend most of your winters?
Normally I’d spend my Northern Hemisphere winter following the World Cup circuit, in the US and then come over to Europe for the Spring, but it’s been really nice to spend the whole season over here in Europe.
We’ve seen a bit of a trend of Kiwis tending to spend more of their winters here than the US, what’s the appeal of Europe?
I think it’s just the terrain. It’s so accessible and many different types of such world class terrain. Also, the community in Europe is huge, plus it’s just easier to be in one specific place and ski a lot of different areas. In the US, it’s quite hard to be in one spot without a sled. I think it’s just an accessibility factor. In Europe, if you have a car and you have the energy to drive places, chase storms and go to different resorts then it’s the place to be.
One more pipe question: X Games 2023, David Wise won halfpipe again, in a pipe that was undervert, do you think that pipe progression has reached its peak?
I think it can still progress. I really do. It’s such a tricky one, in taking the year off, I’ve really tried to remove myself from halfpipe skiing a bit, to sort of refresh the head. I was at X Games this year though, to be fair that was one of the hardest contests I’ve ever watched. It was so emotional, with things happening in weeks prior and certain people finding out there and then about the loss of Kyle Smaine. Kyle was such a close friend and legend of our sport, that set the tone and then Noah blew his knee, the pipe being slightly undervert it was quite hard to watch to be honest.
To answer the question; one thing I really hope and I really want to stand by, when I was inventing the 16 and learning it, for me it was either learning triples or taking the sport somewhere different and that was 16s. My hope was to give halfpipe skiing more of a creative turn. Ok, 16s is a lot of spinning and flipping, but it’s not triples. There are so many rotations that are yet to be done in halfpipe and so many creative things that people haven’t even done yet. Halfpipe definitely won’t stop progressing, but I think we will start to see a change. Especially with the really young generation coming up, putting their own creative twist on it, which is really exciting. I am actually really excited to see where halfpipe goes.
Do you have a few things in your head for next season?
I have a few things, but not really. I definitely have some big things that I’d like to learn, but I have to get back in the halfpipe and see if I can still do it! It’s been a year, so maybe we’ll get over that hurdle first and then try to figure the rest out!
You’ve literally won everything, there’s nowhere really to go. Is the motivation still high?
The motivation is high. I’m sort of figuring out what that motivation is, but it’s definitely high. I don’t know whether it’s for results or whether it’s more for ‘leaving an impact.’ I’m not too sure what it is, but I’m definitely really motivated to get back in the halfpipe and try and do some stuff. At the same time, I’m really motivated. In another sense that we’re really lucky, in a way, that the halfpipe tour finishes in mid-March, so technically we have three months of skiing left. I can go to all these amazing events, like Buldoz, Jib League and Nines. I’m definitely motivated to find the balance between competing in halfpipe, but also filming video parts and other sorts of skiing.
With you and Miguel, the Wells and the Bilous brothers. What is it with all these Kiwi pro brothers?!
I have absolutely no idea. It’s probably down to the New Zealand culture of following your older brother. All three of our families are from such an incredible part of New Zealand, where skiing is the main sport. I think it’s just the way in which we grow up and I guess following, in my case, in my older brother’s footsteps.
If you live in Wanaka and your older brother skis, then you’re going to ski. I feel like it just creates this really cool culture. Not only brothers/family, but you always have someone to shred with.
So, you grew up skiing with those guys too?
New Zealand’s such a small scene. I grew up idolising the Wells brothers; Jossi, Byron, Beau
and Wacko. They’re all incredible skiers and the Bilous’s as well. I grew up skiing with Finn [Bilous], same with my brother Miguel. Hank [Bilous] was a bit older, but I definitely looked up to him, his skiing and the way he looks at the mountain.
We are a small community, but we have such an amazing group of role-models and people to look up to. There are so many different styles of skiing, that New Zealand creates very well-rounded skiers I’d say.
That well-rounded style and like you said, you’re doing stuff you don’t normally do, would you say that Atomic is the ideal brand for you? You must have ridden different models this winter?
Definitely, and to add to what we were just taking about, if you’re a New Zealand skier, you’re pretty much skiing on Atomic. There are so many people skiing on Atomic in New Zealand and that’s all from the Wells brothers and the legacy that they left on skiing there. That makes Atomic such a credible name on the New Zealand ski-scene and it felt so fitting that I ski for Atomic.
Their range, the Bent Chetler range, really does give me the tools to allow me to not just be a pipe skier. It allows me to ski anything I want and have the right skis to do it. This year I’ve mainly been on the Bent Chetler 110 and the Bent Chetler 100. The 100 is sort of my go to park ski or if it’s really firm on the mountain and you need to punch through. If there’s some sort of fresh/soft all the way up to 40/50cm I would take the 110.
After a couple of slams and food poisoning interrupting your spring in Europe, I guess you can go home and get straight back into skiing?
My plan is to start training, back in the halfpipe, in July. I’ll start at Mount Hood and then continue back in New Zealand. Funny you bring that up though, because I’ve been talking to people quite a bit recently about how being a skier from New Zealand, you don’t really ever have a summer. We spend winter over here and then winter back home. It’s sort of the most skiing you can get, which is pretty cool.
How long is the season in NZ?
It’s from the middle of June and the mountain shuts in the middle of October. There’s definitely snow around until the middle of November, if it’s a good year. Then you just have to skin everywhere, unless you have heli-access.
You’re saying you don’t get any time off work?
Well, I kind of do have a lot of time off, just not in skiing season. Time off is pretty much from March until the middle of August. It’s quite a long time, you’re skiing in all that time anyway. Back to filming video parts, you have no shortage of time, which is pretty cool.
I’ve got Nines, then I’m going up to Jesper’s event in Åre and then I have a week off so I’m going to see some family in the UK. My mum and dad are coming over from New Zealand, so I’ll go and see them. Then I finish up the project, by filming two weeks in the US. They have so much snow that we can go anywhere! The season will probably wrap up for me around mid-May. A pretty long one this year!
Before I let you go, can you tell us anything about those video projects?
I filmed two different projects this year. One in Japan, for the whole of January, that I did with my friend Felix Klein. He’s a Kiwi boy but also UK, also with my brother. We did a trip to Niseko on Hokaido, spent a month there and we filmed a 25-minute video. That’s pretty exciting and should come out in the Fall.
The other project is Toru, that’s my full-length project which will hopefully come out next Fall too. I’ve definitely been pretty busy on the filming side this season. It’s sick to showcase that.
I thought you were injured, but you just decided to take the season off?
Yeah, I just decided to take the year off. After last season, I just wanted to explore the other opportunities in skiing, that I might not get to do if I focused on halfpipe. I’ve always wanted to do it; it’s always been a passion of mine but I’ve never had the time to do it. I just thought ‘why not do it this year?’
I couldn’t be happier, I’m stoked.
I couldn’t be happier, I’m stoked.
After a year out to refresh, who knows what we'll see from Nico next year in the pipe. Photo by Matt Cherubino/Red Bull Content Pool