Olympic snowboarder. Three-time US Grand Prix overall champ. Dancing With The Stars contestant. It’s a heckuva resume for a 22-year-old from Bellefontaine, Ohio, but Louie Vito wears it well. Perhaps his Midwest roots help him realize that every day on snow is a gift. Perhaps all the hard work keeps him modest. Or perhaps he’s just a really cool kid. Whatever the case, the heavily sponsored halfpipe star is straight killing it this year. He captured the Dew Tour overall cup last month, secured his third Grand Prix title just yesterday and heads into this weekend’s Burton US Open ready to shine once again. We collared him for a few minutes to get the scoop on what we presumed is the sweet life of a pro boarder. We weren’t wrong.
MADE MAN: First off, how does a kid from Ohio become a world-class snowboarder?
LOUIE VITO: It’s pretty crazy, especially considering my home mountain didn’t have a halfpipe. I started skiing with my dad and grandpa at Mad River Mountain. It’s got about 300 feet of vertical, super small. Then my dad and I got into snowboarding, and any resort within eight hours, we’d go. Boyne Mountain in Northern Michigan, Seven Springs in Pennsylvania. My dad would drive through the night, we’d stay in a ghetto hotel, then ride all day. It makes you appreciative of everything. Then I went to Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, which helped me travel for contests and not get kicked out of school. I went from the Midwest to the east coast to the west—now I live in Salt Lake City.
MM: You were into gymnastics, too, right? Does that help with all the aerials involved in halfpipe snowboarding?
LV: I did gymnastics till sixth or seventh grade. It’s a pretty hard sport that carries over to a lot of other sports. I would do a gymnastics meet in Chicago, then my dad would drive all night so I could do a snowboard competition in Pennsylvania the next day. I loved gymnastics, but I had trouble with, everything has to be perfect, you have to salute the judges. I like to talk, run around, I have a lot of energy. There’s more freedom in the snowboarding world. I wouldn’t say that my tricks carried over, but air awareness, knowing your body and where you are, that plays a role in my snowboarding.
MM: What’s the best thing about your job?
LV: Waking up and doing something you love to do every single day. Some people who work in offices get to do that, but I work for myself, my office is on the road and up in the mountains. It’s allowed me to travel, meet new people and do cool things, and it’s opened my eyes to a world I wouldn’t ever see. It’s my passion, so there’s nothing better than to ride every day.
MM: Is there any downside that people don’t consider?
LV: Living out of a suitcase when you have a house, going through airports. I’m not a big fan of going through airports because of my appearance—maybe I need to work on that. Riding in crappy weather. Obviously injuries—the stuff we’re doing, it’s pretty easy to break something or blow something out.
MM: Any gnarly ones?
LV: I’ve sliced my head open, sliced my eye open, broken my femur—I have four screws in it—broken my wrist, meniscus, ankle, AC joint. A decent amount of stuff. I actually feel pretty fortunate that I haven’t had more. You just know it’s gonna happen and try to be in the best shape you can be, so you can bounce back.
MM: Compared to other action sports, how would you rate the groupies?
LV: You know, they’re alright. It’s hard when you’re in mountain towns, not a lot of fresh ladies. A lot of the ones you know, you know too much about. But it’s alright, it’s always fun to see. I don’t have it as bad as Shaun [White] does, I’m sure.
MM: Of course, after you did Dancing With The Stars, we heard most of your groupies were of the over-40 variety.
LV: Yeah, people come up and say, “My mom loves you!” Or, “My 86-year-old grandma loves you!” It makes me laugh. But it’s great to expand our demographic and bring in new fans of snowboarding. Let’s say you go to New Zealand and you’re watching rugby—it’s hard unless you have a team or a person to cheer for. With Dancing With The Stars, people now know a snowboarder to watch.
MM: How would you describe your riding style?
LV: Not too aggressive, pretty laid back. I don’t think about it too much. I do the trick and hope it looks OK.
MM: Got any mental tricks or visualization you do to stay so consistent on these contest circuits?
LV: No, I have a hard time concentrating for a long time, visualizing something 50 times in a row. So I just put on a good song and go do it. I like pressure. I like the nerves. Once you get in there, you’re kind of in the zone.
MM: You finished second in Superpipe at last year’s Burton US Open. Think you can top the podium this time?
LV: I just want to go out there and land the runs I want to land. I’m starting to go bigger now, but my goal is to keep a consistent year, start strong and stay strong and healthy, so I just want to land a run I’m happy with.
MM: Best advice for the next Louie Vito?
LV: Get a good crew of friends and have fun. You’ll push each other better than if you’re solely focused on trying to get sponsored. Like my dad always said, “If you’re good enough, they can’t ignore you.”
(Steve Mazzucchi is Managing Editor of Made Man. Email him at smazzucchi[at]breakmedia.com.)