When Torstein Horgmo landed the first ever triple cork last week, which you can watch here, everyone in the snowboard world went crazy. There was no denying it, it was a fully inverted, super stylish triple cork.
This got us thinking back to our interview with Torstein back in November 2009 when we asked him: “So are we going to see you cranking out double corks any time soon?” and remember this was only 7 months ago when he replied “I want to learn some double corks, I’m just taking my time. Hopefully that’ll help it feel good when it happens.” If he can learn double and triple corks in 7 months, what will we be seeing in another 7 months!
Scroll down for the issue 86 interview with Torstein Horgmo.
Despite being just 22 years old, Torstein Horgmo has already made a big splash. It seems only recently that he won the rookie category at the Air & Style, yet three years on he has reached the pinnacle of the sport. His reputation is built on an easy, solid style that enables him to stomp the biggest corked spins at the biggest stadium-style events. Perhaps this should come as no surprise – ‘Torstein’ means ‘Thor’s Hammer’ in Norwegian, after the weapon used by the old Norse god Thor to create thunderclaps. With a name like that the man might have been born to throw down hammers to thunderous applause. Yet he has not let his X-Games medals or his Standard Films parts go to his head. Following such influential countrymen as Terje Haakonsen and Mads Jonsson, Torstein may be the new Norse God, but he still comes across as a man who’s stoked just to be able to snowboard, as we found out when we caught up with him for a chat.
Hey Torstein, how’s it going? Where are you at the moment?
I’m in Oslo, just chilling. I’ve kind of been on the move a lot this summer, so it’s nice to spend a couple of weeks back home. I was in Argentina testing product, but right now I’m just testing my couch and seeing how hard I can chill.
Is Oslo where you’re from originally?
No I’m actually from Trondheim, it’s a bit further up north than Oslo, about six, seven hours by car.
So what was it like there growing up? Did you have a tight crew that you used to ride with and you all learned together? Or was it just you pushing it?
No I had a good group of friends from Trondheim that I grew up riding with. There aren’t really that many ski resorts near Trondheim and the one ski resort we went to, Vassfjellet, isn’t really that big. So we kind of had to make do. But we made the most out of it you know, trying everything off of little bumps and features and stuff.
That’s a surprise. In the UK we always think of snowboarders in Norway always having well shaped parks to play with – even if they are a bit icy.
That might be, but not in my area. Around Oslo and further down south is where the mountains are and I couldn’t really travel to those mountains that often where I came from. It was too far away. I didn’t go to Hemsedal ‘til I was 17.
How does it work with school and snowboarding? Did you still go to school while you were travelling and competing? How did you balance it?
Well, when I finished what Americans would call junior high – when I was sixteen – I moved down to a town called Geilo. They had a school there for athletes who wanted to continue what they were doing but still graduate. That allowed me to start travelling and keep following school. They would send us homework by email if we ever went out of the country.
How did your mum feel about that?
My mum wasn’t backing it at first. She wanted me to do what I wanted to do, but I guess it was hard for her at first. But she got used to it.
So when did you start getting your first hook-ups?
Well, I was kind of lucky. My first sponsor was Rome snowboards. The Norwegian distributor for Rome is from my hometown. He was one of the older guys in my snowboarding crew that I looked up to when I was growing up. When he started distributing Rome, he wanted some local rep riders. So a year before I moved out to Geilo he hooked me up with a free snowboard and helped me out a little bit.
So how and when did the move to DC come about?
Well I was still riding for Rome for another four years, but they didn’t make boots back then so I started riding for DC in Norway about four years ago. I rode for one year on DC boots and then they started the whole outerwear program. I met one of the DC Europe guys at a contest in Avoriaz. I did pretty good and I got a European contract with him for outerwear and boots. I got a chance to meet the bigger boss – Sean Lake – in the States at Superpark in Keystone a few years ago. I guess he took notice of me at that event, and the year after, when they decided to start making snowboards, he told me they wanted me on the program. They gave me a US contract for a full set-up and I had to leave Rome.
Was that hard leaving your old mate behind?
It was definitely hard. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made I think. I was about to get bumped up on the team by Rome, and I had such a good relationship with my old friend from my hometown that it was actually harder for me to end it with him than it was with the guys in the States.
I guess you have to go with the opportunities that come your way…
Well when the DC guys made the decision to start making boards it was totally confidential. The other four riders that they approached knew about it – Devun Walsh, Lauri Heiskari, Iikka Backstrom and Aaron Bittner. I knew Iikka And Lauri were going to quit Forum for DC. Bittner had just got a pro-model with Technine and he quit Technine for DC. Those riders were guys that I always looked up to, and it definitely helped my decision. I knew it would be a sick program. I said yes the same day.
If you know you’ve got Devun Walsh and Iikka Backstrom on your team you’ve got to be like, “Get in!”
Yeah! Hell yeah! It was crazy though, when I told Rome, I couldn’t tell them where I was going. Nobody knew DC was going to make boards – it was that tight. It was kind of hard just quitting and not being able to tell Rome where I was going. I felt extra bad for that.
So who did you look up to back in the day?
I always got inspired by the snowboarding videos – that was always a huge part for me. Back in the good old Forum days, I liked Technical Difficulties, Simple Pleasures and all those were major, major inspirations for me. But I started kind of collecting every snowboard movie I could get. I was totally nerd about it! (laughs)
At Style Wars in Australia two years ago they built an absolutely monstrous 50-metre tabletop – the biggest ever kicker in competition. There were only a handful of guys hitting it and you were one of them. Can you tell us a bit about that?
That was pretty frickin’ crazy yeah! (laughs). It was a cool contest, but the big-ass jump was more like a stunt. I don’t think anybody really wanted to hit it but I just felt like, because it was there we had to do something about it. We had to get it over with. The last day was perfect conditions so we just started sessioning it. I actually guinea-pigged the jump. It was super-scary just the first time. But after that first hit you know what type of speed you need for it, and it was pretty mellow, like any other jump.
And you’re happy doing your really tech tricks at speeds like that? You were throwing down nines and tens and stuff…
Yeah, yeah it’s the same you know – as long as you know the speed it’s like any other jump.
I also read that you were recovering from an injury at the time…
Yeah, well [the Stylewars contest] was in the middle of the summer. The winter before, I broke my back at the Burton European Open in January, overshooting the landing. I went for a frontside ten and it was super foggy. I couldn’t really see anything, everything was white. I made it around the ten and I thought it was all good, I thought the landing was there, but I ended up being thirty feet above the ground or something! I landed straight on my ass and bounced around like crazy. But I didn’t need surgery – that was super-lucky. It was a clean, compression fracture. It took me three and a half months to get back so in April I was so hungry. I was super-motivated and I did so much snowboarding that summer. And the next winter season was kind of my first big season I guess.
That was that when you started filming with Standard Films?
Yeah, that was my first season with Standard, filming Aesthetica. I won the X-Games that year and… well a lot of stuff happened that year.
Aesthetica includes that famous follow-cam run through the park at Northstar in Tahoe [which you can check out here] How did that come about?
It was between filming and contests. I was in Northstar, just cruising the park with some friends, and just realised how awesome that was, that line they had – it was so sick! So I called up Standard and asked them if I could get a filmer for it, who could just film me cruising the park. I kind of sketched out about asking them for a filmer since it was my first year and everything. But I guess the way I explained it to them they got really fired up on it. We took a couple of warm up runs and we just set it down. Actually, I did a new run this year. I wanted to do it again, this time in Park City.
So are we going to see that in your part in Black Winter?
Yes. I’ve got that run in there. It’s super-fun filming something like that too. I mean, it takes a lot because you get really tired after a couple of runs when you’ve got to keep going like that without stopping. But it’s just so much more fun than just a one-hit wonder. I think I’m going to try and keep doing that every year – just get a run for my part! .
Your style seems to make everything look easy. Like that massive kicker in Australia. Does that just come naturally or is that something you have to think about?
You know I think style is just something that comes naturally after a while, you know? As soon as you get comfortable doing a trick – or even just a turn – whenever you’ve done it so many times that you don’t even really think about it any more, I think your style comes out. I guess it’s more like a personal thing and it’s not really something I think about too much.
We interviewed Ingemar Backman for the Roots section of this magazine, and he was saying that back in the day there were more variations in style. Each rider looked really unique and individual in the way they rode. He said these days he see everyone trying to ride the same way, in a sort of ‘global style’. Do you think that’s fair?
Yeah, I suppose he’s right about that in some ways. Back in the day I guess tricks were still progressing a lot. I think the curve for tricks was climbing a lot faster back then and I guess just getting a new trick down was more important than making it look good. But now, that curve’s kind of slowed down a little bit. Ingemar Backman was one of the guys that made that curve steep. He was one of the guys that I thought started to make stuff look good, boosting so big with calm style. One of the guys who started to look really comfortable on their snowboard, rather than just throwing everything here and there and hoping for the best.
Well I never took that many chances on my own learning curve. I guess maybe I’m a slow learner! (laughs) No, I just get really comfortable with new tricks before trying them all the time. Every time I learn a new trick I’m pretty confident that I won’t land on my head at least! (laughs) Now though, it’s just on a whole other level with the double corks and everything. At the Burton New Zealand Open it was insane to watch the progression of tricks. People were just throwing double corks in here, there and everywhere. You’re definitely going to see that a lot more in the contests, and that means people are getting more comfortable with that too, you know?
So are we going to see you cranking out double corks any time soon?
I want to learn some, I’m just taking my time. Hopefully that’ll help it feel good when it happens. As long as it feels good, then that’s what matters.
Talking about big spins, have you seen the Norwegian dude Ulrik Badertscher who’s just landed a 1620? [which is here] What do you think of that? Is there a limit to how many rotations you can do and it still look good?
Well, I don’t really want say anything bad about that but you know… it was a sick, like, accomplishment or whatever… but… I mean… I feel like you can spin however much you want as long as the jump’s big enough. It kind of looked like he had to tweak it to get around. Just my own opinion, but I don’t think that’s the way it’s supposed to look – snowboarding in general. Even though that’s like progressing with spins and all, I thought that was taking a little bit of a step back as far as the direction style has been going these days. But I know the guy, and I knew that he probably just wanted to try it, and he had the opportunity to try it so he might as well.
So do you think snowboarding progression is more moving in a Devun Walsh kind of direction? You know like big, slow spins. Is that more progressive?
Well, he’s for sure also super progressive, even though he’s not doing crazy spins or anything. He goes out in the backcountry and he’s always been super-comfortable. He knows what he’s capable of, and he goes and takes it to the next level with the airtime off cliff drops and bigger hits. He’s one of the legends. I’m so stoked to be on the team with that dude.
Do you get to ride with them often? The DC team?
Yeah, well I was just on a trip with them in Las Lenas, Argentina. That was my first full pro team trip it was just so sick. Such a good vibe through the whole thing. We didn’t have the best conditions so we had to actually get a little bit creative with everything and make the best out of it. But that group is such a sick team.
Obviously you’re a pro now, but when you were an am and you were doing the Mountain Lab film was that different, or was it pretty much the same vibe?
When we did that I was totally new to the team. I was a little nervous showing up with those guys, like Eddie Wall and Lauri and Bittner. I wanted to prove myself worthy to be a part of the whole program. But it was definitely sick to meet those guys and realise actually how humble and inviting they all are.
And how was it filming with the rally car? [check it out here] That’s got to be pretty crazy! Who’s idea was it?
That was crazy. It was actually Ken Block’s idea to go off that kicker. He was like, “I think I could jump that,” and he just estimated how fast he needed to go. It was just a regular park jump on a regular open day. The whole mountain was open! Well, for those shots. The other stuff you see, when he’s ripping around, that was all filmed before opening or after hours.
Was it scary, riding with the car?
I decided I wanted to do a frontside seven and that kept me from thinking about the car being beside me. I guess I would have second-guessed it if I had more time to think about it but I didn’t! (laughs) It went pretty quick. I only had one jump. He only hit that thing three times, one time by himself, second time with Eddie and then third time Pierre Whitberg, the director, wanted me to jump next to it too. I felt honoured to do that.
Are you going to be doing the X-Games again this year?
Yeah. I think so.
How do you feel about what happened last year with the text voting? You were robbed! [Torstein pulled a flawless SWBS 1260 but lost out to a somewhat sketchy double flip from Travis Rice – Ed]
Nah, I don’t feel bad for that at all. They invited four riders for that big air contest and I was lucky enough to be one of them. I guess the X-Games is for TV and they elevated that a little bit with the text message voting. But it was just a sick session with three friends of mine and it was a good night to snowboard, on a good jump.
A lot of people thought it was just a case of Americans voting for the American, even if he didn’t throw down as sick a trick. What do you think?
I guess I’d say that text messaging isn’t really the way to judge a snowboarding contest in general, whether it’s all American or global or whatever. It doesn’t really belong there. But then it’s for TV and you’ve got to remember that the X-Games wouldn’t be anything without TV. And snowboarding, I don’t think, wouldn’t be anything like it is today without the X-Games being there. It helps push the level of progression every year, like the Olympics does every fourth year with halfpipe.
So do you think we’ll see text message voting again this year?
Well hopefully not. But if they do it’s not like I’m not going to do the contest. I don’t think it would change that.
What’s your feeling on how snowboarding’s going to go in the future? We’ve got an interview with Nicolas Müller in this issue, where he says that he thinks the future of progression will be more about heading back to the mountains and riding natural features. But with more and more TV coverage for those big contests do you think they are going to dominate snowboarding?
Hopefully they can co-exist – it’d be sick if it was kept kind of natural and core from within. I hope people will keep strapping into their snowboard just because it’s fun instead of people strapping in because they want to be famous or want to be on TV. But I think it’s also going to become a little bit more corporate. You’re going to have bigger sponsors coming in. The sport is still growing. Even though I don’t feel really comfortable calling it a sport, I guess that’s what it’s becoming. A little while ago football players weren’t sponsored by Pepsi or Coca Cola, and now you have snowboarders being sponsored by energy drinks. Myself included. It’s definitely moving in that direction.
Do you think the energy drink sponsorship is a bad thing for snowboarding?
I don’t think it’s always bad. For sure not. Some of the energy drinks have gone out and started sponsoring all the snowboarding films.
I notice Monster sponsor Black Winter…
Well I probably wouldn’t be the best person to talk about this because I ride for Monster, but the team manager that they hired is an all-time super-hardcore snowboarder. And they’re funding a lot of the snowboarding films that are coming out this year. They’re moving in that direction.
So what are your plans this winter? How are you balancing contests and filming?
Well I think I’m going too keep it pretty much 50-50. Or maybe like 40 per cent filming 40 per cent contests and 20 per cent just riding for myself, just with my friends. I feel that’s really important to do, just having fun and cruising around.
Thanks Torstein, and good luck with the season.
Photo 1- Cole Barash
Photo 2- Cole Barash
Photo 3- Mark Welsh
Photo 4- Colin Adair
Photo 5- Justin L’ Heureux
Photo 6- Colin Adair
Photo 7- Cole Barash