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Interview: Two-Time Gold Medalist Alex Ferreira On The X Games and Creating an Alter Ego

PRESENTED BY COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR | With the 2023 competition season in full swing, we caught up with Olympian and two-time X Games champion and Aspen local Alex Ferreira to learn what goes through the mind of one of the best freestyle skiers of the current generation. Maybe he’s got a little something up his sleeve from an old guy named Hotdog Hans that keeps popping up on the internet.

TGR: Alex, can you introduce yourself to TGR? What's it like growing up in Aspen and how has that influenced your skiing?

My name is Alex Ferreira, I'm 28 years old, and I'm from beautiful Aspen, Colorado. Growing up in Aspen, I think it's influenced my skiing as, well, I guess it’s what you could call “soul skiing”. What I mean by that is I was always into the park and pipe, but I was also really fond of just skiing the resort and going for normal laps with my friends and with my family. I think that has influenced my skiing more than anything. I feel that a lot of the time, I'm just like any other tourist on any other day, and I really appreciate that aspect of it.

Alex Ferreira grew up in Aspen, Colorado - taking gold in X Games superpipe twice on home turf. | Columbia Sportswear photo.

TGR: You grew up with the Winter X Games in your backyard - what impact did that have on you?

Having the X Games in my backyard molded my life, really. When I was 10 years old, a couple of my best friends and I snuck out of middle school, and we took the bus over to X Games, and we just got a glimpse of some of the athletes training. And in that moment, right then and there, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. The way they dressed, the way they skied, the way they, I don't know, everything about it was so attracting, and yeah, it was just a pivotal moment in my life. So that's where I decided, okay, that's what I'm gonna do. From that point on, The X Games completely shaped my life in every way you could possibly imagine. I live, eat, and breathe skiing. And to be able to compete in the X Games… to have it be a dream as a child and now be able to compete in it -and actually win it- it's unbelievably special and spectacular. So, I'm insanely grateful to have grown up in Aspen and around X Games cause who knows if I would be where I am today without that motivation in my backyard.

A younger Alex with a small sampling of the hardware to come. | Columbia Sportswear photo.

TGR: Walk us through the highlight reel. What was it like to bring home two Olympic medals? What about winning X Games back to back?

It all started when I was 23, and I took a deep introspective look into my life. One of my best friends, Connor, was sitting across from me hanging out at his house. He goes, “You know, Alex, victory lies within preparation”, and I'm sitting there thinking, “wow, what you just said hit me hard”. From that moment on, I started taking everything that I was doing, skiing especially, extremely seriously because I wanted people to take me seriously. I wanted to be a professional, and I wanted these dreams to actually happen.

I got to work immediately. I started going to the gym every day. I got a physical therapist. I got a sports psychiatrist. I started going to sleep early. I started waking up early. I started going to the trampoline for an hour a day. I started visualizing my runs in the steam room or the sauna. I started saying an affirmation to myself. Anything I could imagine to give myself any sort of edge, I started doing it. And it paid off. The next year, I went to the 2018 Olympics, and I landed all five of my runs: two qualifying runs, and all three finals runs. All three finals runs were 92 and above. I ended up placing second, and it was unbelievably special because I could see my hard work unfolding in front of my eyes.

And right after that, I ended up winning my first X Games. So, another childhood dream of mine came true. I used to have nightmares when I was a kid, about not being able to land my third run at X Games. That year, I ended up landing my third run, and winning the event. And then, a year later, in 2020, the same exact thing happened: It came down to my third and final run, and I landed the run and won the event back-to-back. And it was the most electric feeling in the world. It was pure elation for my friends, family members, myself, everything.

The next big moment was the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. I actually ended up hurting myself before the games, and I had to get a small, not too-invasive neck surgery. [Post-op,] I really wasn't doing great, and I knew it was gonna be a long road if I wanted to recover in time for the 2022 Olympics. So, I put everything I had into getting to the ’22 games. Everything that I could possibly do, I just gave it my all. And it turned out great. I ended up getting third at the 2022 Olympics. And yeah, that's kind of the story of how I had two Olympic medals, two X Games gold medals, and hopefully, we can keep adding to the accolades!

TGR: How do you maintain that drive to keep pushing yourself and burning the midnight oil?

I've been competing since I was 10 years old, so that’s now 18 years of competition, and the last ten have been at the professional level. It's easy to get burnt out, and it's really hard to keep that motivation. The monotony kills, right? Like, a lot of my days look exactly the same, but it's that monotony I'm willing to push through and gratification I’m willing to delay in order to see those results come through five, six, maybe eight months later. It can be really difficult sometimes, and what I think keeps me going is that I love it. I just love skiing so much. It has given me so many different opportunities, allowed me to travel all over the world, and meet the most wonderful people that I could have ever imagined.

A specialty of Alex - boosting big out of the pipe. | Columbia Sportswear photo.

TGR: What are some of the challenges of competition skiing?

There are a lot of challenges, of course, and a lot goes into it, but I would say the equipment has to be so finely tuned and customized, tailored to myself. It's unbelievable. For example, I have to put these little heel plates on the back of my boots every time I compete. I have to make sure that the skis are perfectly ground. They go through this machine, and they actually edge a certain pattern into the base of the ski so that your ski can cut through the snow faster, and so it can absorb more wax. And, you know, even the littlest things - like the headphones have to be charged, right? My AirPods gotta be charged! You also have to be wearing a certain kit that you feel comfortable with. For me, I love to be in red. When I'm in red, I noticeably ski better. It's the weirdest thing, but when I'm in red, I feel better. So, I think there are all of these little things that I'm obsessing over. They have to be absolutely perfect. OCD, it's probably my middle name!

TGR: Who do you look up to both in skiing and outside of it?

Yeah, in skiing, I look up to a few different people, but I would say the best skier in the world is Candide Thovex, or he is at least one of them. His demeanor- I look up to it. He's just so special. And then, as far as outside of skiing goes, I look up to Lionel Messi. I think him winning the World Cup is an absolute fairytale story. He just never gave up. There’s a poster on the wall of the gym I work out at with a quote by Messi that says, “It took me 17 years, and 114 days to become an overnight success.” And I see that every single day that I go there. Wow, this guy is a hero. He is my hero. For him to continue to persevere and put in all that work, that’s unbelievable to me. It was my inspiration.

TGR: There always seems to be an ongoing debate of style versus technicality in the halfpipe and in slopestyle skiing. What's your take on that?

Yeah, of course. I mean, it is a constant battle of “wow, that looked beautiful”, or “wow, that was maybe not as beautiful, but insanely technical, and I can't believe he or she did that”. Personally, I try to find the balance right in the middle. I want my personal skiing to look as effortless and as precise as possible. And I think the way I live my life translates into my skiing very appropriately. A lot of people say that to me. They go, "yep, the way you ski is very orderly, and so is how you live your life”. I'm always writing things down in a planner, and I have a set schedule every single day, following a regimen and routine. And I think that shows in my skiing- I like to have it as precise as possible and make it look as effortless as possible. But everyone’s different!

TGR: When you're not competing or training, what's your favorite place to ski and why?

When I'm not competing or training, my favorite place to ski is honestly my backyard, Highlands. Aspen Highlands. It is a hidden gem. It's steep. They have the bowl there. There's good powder. I'm fortunate enough that my house is ski-in, ski-out, so I don't have to drive anywhere. One of my best friends lives right up the road, and it's just…it's easy, right? We just go ski, and it's the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine. That's my happy place, for sure.

What Alex calls "soul skiing." | Columbia Sportswear photo.

TGR: What was your favorite competition?

My favorite competition ever was X Games 2020, when I was the last skier to drop in. I was in second place, and all the pressure in the world is on me. My coach, Alana Chase, looks at me, and she goes, “all in, Alex, all in!” then I got a double fist bump and a head… what is it called? A headbutt, a little headbutt! I ended up dropping in, and I kind of got into what most people call the flow state or something of that nature. I kind of don't remember the run at all. I just remember landing at the end of the run and thinking, “wow, that felt really great.” And then I go into gold. I win. That was definitely the best competition of my life. I'll never forget that moment, that's for sure.

TGR: When you're not training or competing, you've been working with the Vital Films team to create the story of Hotdog Hans. What's it been like to shift your focus to storytelling and film production?

Shifting my focus from competition to more of the filming world, or I guess not “more”, but side by side, hand in hand- being able to do that has been so much fun. I’m so grateful that I get to work with not only one of my best friends, Matt Hobbs, but one of the best storytellers that I've ever met. I'm in awe every day. To see him in his element in the studio, cutting up all the footage, the audio, hiring all these people to do VFX or whatever it is, coloring, everything, you name it. To be able to see that process is really cool. And I'm learning so much. I think that's the best part about it.

Hans, is that you? | Columbia Sportswear photo.

I'm challenging myself to go out of my realm and go into a master's realm. I consider Matt a master at his craft. To be able to go into another master's craft is really special because you get firsthand experience. And I'm slow. I'm much slower than him, but I'm learning a bunch about it. Adobe Premier is a rabbit hole! But it's a great tool, and it allows us to make these films, and telling these stories is really fun. Hopefully, we'll be inspiring people, and hopefully, we'll be making them laugh! That is what we like to do.

TGR: What's the message behind Hotdog Hans?

I think the original goal when we first set out to do it was, “Hey, we're gonna dress me up like an old man, and we're gonna get some clickbait.” We'll get some great views, have some fun. But then, within the first 15 minutes of filming, it was as if Hans took on its own life. The character completely took hold, and there was no more Alex; there was just Hans.

I'm not exactly sure what our goal is, except, to make people laugh. To make them smile. When we first came out with Hotdog Hans One, it was during COVID, and a lot of people were going through some tough times. We just wanted to share some laughs with people, and have them, I don't know, maybe take a little breath, take in some fresh air. That's all.

Nothing but chill vibes. | Columbia Sportswear photo.

The response to the first two installments of Hans has been extremely positive. I think the best compliment we got was a parent who said, “oh, my son or my daughter loves watching your videos, and you know what, we love watching them too!” So being able to capture not only the kids, but the adults and parents - I think that is a really special thing. Hans rides the line of being a little too much, but for families being able to watch it together - that's pretty powerful if you ask me.

TGR: What’s in store for Hans in the third movie?

The idea is Alex versus Hans. It's a showdown of the ages, and hopefully, it's the best showdown of 2023. It's a battle.

About The Author

stash member Teton Gravity Research

It all began with a dream and a little cash scraped together from fishing in Alaska... Since 1995, we've been an action sports media company committed to fueling progression through our ground-breaking films (37 and counting) and online content.