“With the lows come the highs, and with the highs come the lows.”
That’s how North Vancouver-born, Whistler-raised halfpipe skier Simon d’Artois describes his up and down career—one that has seen him feel the elation of reaching the very top of the sport, but also the despondency that comes when things aren’t going to plan.
But despite all the ups and downs that come with a career in halfpipe, at nearly 30 years old, d’Artois is still as invigorated by the sport as he was at 13 walking into Glacier Lodge, excitedly staring up at all the pictures of the pro athletes that came before and foreseeing where he would one day be.
“The park scene at Whistler Blackcomb was always really captivating for me and that included the halfpipe … I would get in there and just kind of learn how to ride transition, learn how to ride the pipe and catch air. So that was kind of my first exposure to half pipe skiing, was just that legendary park that Whistler Blackcomb had and how it drew all these amazing athletes to it,” d’Artois said.
“Now, I think a lot of the drive comes from just the progressions, seeing what I can do still. I’m still able to push myself and push the sport of halfpipe skiing and be innovative and do tricks that I’ve never done before—and do tricks that have never been done before by anybody—and there are still a few huge levels to unlock or just possibilities in the halfpipe world.”
The first high point of d’Artois’ career came in 2012, when he was named to the Canadian National Team. And after two years of learning and improving his skills to what he believed to be an Olympic level, d’Artois hit the first low point of his career, when he missed the cut for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“I guess it was a blessing in disguise, because I wasn’t necessarily ready to go and take the gold. I definitely had some work to do. It’s disappointing, but it kind of re-lit the fire under the bum and made me work that much harder, and it kind of showed,” said d’Artois about winning a gold medal at the X Games the very next year in Aspen.
“That was kind of proving myself to everybody in the industry, because that was my first result that was not just a second place, not just a third place, not just somebody sitting in the middle of the pack—now it’s somebody who’s taking first place. So that changed a lot for me just in terms of how people accepted my halfpipe skiing, so that was really big for me.”
The next two years after his X Games gold were spent recovering from a torn ACL followed by a broken ankle. While he said it was good to be able to give the body a break after multiple years of high-intensity training, the timing couldn’t have been worse for d’Artois, who had just put himself on the halfpipe map.
But once again, he was motivated to get back on top, and coming off the injury he managed to win three World Cup medals in 2017, something he had never done before. However, despite carrying that into his first Olympic appearance in PyeongChang, South Korea the following year, d’Artois still didn’t feel like he was fully back, saying he felt “somewhat prepared, but still had room for improvement.”
So with the goal of winning gold top of mind and a desire to ski his best at the Olympics, d’Artois describes not making it through qualifiers and finishing 13th in 2018 as “devastating.” The only silver lining to the experience was him being able to sneak in some practice runs the following day, where he threw down some runs that he believed were as good as anybody there, even if they didn’t count towards the podium.
“Not feeling like that work that you put in—not that it didn’t pay off, but it’s like instead of seeing something good come from it, it was like ‘damn, I didn’t make it and I didn’t put down the best that I could have done,’” he said.
“So to come back the next day and just do a few laps of the best skiing I’ve ever done in the best halfpipe that we’ve ever ridden was kind of, to a certain extent, that Olympic gold for myself. And also [fulfilled] that goal of skiing my best at the Olympics, even if it wasn’t in competition.
“So it was a big loss, but also a little win in there as well.”
Despite the disappointment, d’Artois was able to once again come back strong the following year, when he won the 2019 Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup leader, which he says was a “good way to start off another four-year cycle.”
Fast forward to today, with what he believes will most likely be his last Olympic Games coming up in less than a month, d’Artois’ goal is a simple one: just win. And while these Games won’t mark the end of his career, he says he doesn’t have another four-year cycle in him. So to cap off his Olympic resume on a high note would be the sweetest way to end his rollercoaster halfpipe career.
“I don’t know, man. I don’t think [the 2026 Olympics] is going to happen, but I might continue to ski halfpipe for another year or two, maybe. But I would love to transition into more local skiing and kind of enjoy what I have around me instead of always leaving when it gets good,” said d’Artois.
“It’ll just make it all the better to get the podium, so I’m just trying not to think about that stuff too much, and put in the work so that when I get into halfpipe it feels like I can do whatever I want to do.”
This article is part of a series of profile stories highlighting athletes heading to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, or those who hope to make it there. For others go to piquenewsmagazine.com.