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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Updated: July 1, 1:59 PM ET
Hall Pass: The Tanner Interview

By John Symms

Tanner Hall
Boom! Tanner at Alaska's 33 Mile Road House. See more Tanner in our new Mark Fisher Gallery »

Tanner Hall needs no introduction. The audacious and often misunderstood freeskier out of Kalispell, MT. has been dominating the competition scene for the better part of a decade, but his horrendous crash back in May has everybody wondering: Is the end of the T. Hall era? ESPN's John Symms (himself a professional freeskier) caught up with Hall for the latest on what might be the toughest obstacle he's ever faced.

ESPN: How are you doing, Tanner?

Tanner Hall: All right. hangin' out here, watchin some movies. Yeah, there's not really much else I can be doing at this point, so—

Yeah, I guess that's true.

But it's good, you know. Stoked. Got a new home entertainment system yesterday and been doing really good in physical therapy and s--t so yeah, it's good.

What do they have you doing in physical therapy?

Just getting my range back, you know. I still have to go in for a couple more surgeries, and I have to get my range back and let the bones heal before I can take care of the ACLs.

The ACLs?

Yeah, I f--king broke my tibial plateaus and tore both ACLs.

Jesus Christ!

Yup, it was a f--king ... it was a doozy.

From what I've seen on the Internet, tibial plateau repair looks brutal. Do they have your leg in a big metal frame with screws going through it and stuff?

No no no. It wasn't that bad, man. I don't even have my legs in casts right now. And the bones are healing up good. I still have, like, probably three more weeks until the bones are fully healed and I go in for surgery. They just mainly have me bending my legs because I already had one surgery on both knees, cleaning s--t out of there and realigning some bones and whatnot. But just from that surgery, I'm super stiff. So I'm just trying to bend my legs and straighten 'em as much as I can to get that range back so I can go in for surgery again.

How long do they think until you can start fixing the ACLs?

Lke three weeks. Three weeks from yesterday. I've already got my surgery date so it should be good.

Tanner Hall
Tanner Hall boosting that signature flatspin—in his last X Games? Boom! Mark Fisher Gallery »
Are you getting them both done at the same time?

No. I'm gonna get one done and then two weeks later I'm gonna get the other one done. It wasn't just from all this crash. It was like [from] previous [injuries] and whatnot. Both my knees weren't looking too hot.

Yeah. I guess that none of our knees are looking all that hot, since you put it that way.

No doubt, man. I'm sure we're all feeling the same kind of s--t. This year I really noticed it a lot in both knees where I was f---ing super timid when I was skiing.

And I think it's a blessing in disguise, man. Destroy and rebuild process, you know? I'm already in school right now and been doing that, and thinking of other ideas for when I come back—just thinking of different s--t to get the name out there. And I've got some pretty cool ideas.

Are you going to return to the competition? Or are you going to turn your focus to filming?

Yeah, I'm gonna be making more film projects. I'm kinda over and done with the contest scene. Know what I mean? I came in and it was ten good years of—ten good years of having fun. [Now] I think it's time for the next chapter in what I want to do and where I want to take skiing.

From conversations we had earlier in the year, it seemed like you were feeling like that way before your injury in Stevens Pass.

Oh yeah. Definitely.

So no more X Games?

Nope. As for right now, no. Not at all.

I bet that it kind of feels good to say that.

F--k yeah, dog! To know that I'm not having to stress about rehab and doing everything I possibly can to come back and ski ice right off the bat. It's kind of nice for sure.

Earlier this spring, you had some good times on some big mountains. Who was the crew? Where'd you go?

I was up there for six weeks and there were two crews that came in. The first crew was me, Erik Roner, Ian McIntosh, and Seth Morrison. And then the second trip was me and Sage [Cattabriga-Alosa] and Dana [Flahr] and, uh, we were up in Haines, Alaska for six beautiful weeks.

Tanner Hall.
Tanner knows how to get it done during contests. Mark Fisher Gallery »

How many ski days did you get out of that six weeks?

I'd say we got a good, solid, 10 or 15 ski days— in that area.

What, uh, what kind of skiing did you do?

Big mountain skiing! It was a full mix, you know? We tagged some nice longer lines, and some short mini stuff. We hit some freestyle stuff—kinda did it all, man.

A lot of free runs. Skied a bunch of nice pow. Just, it was crazy up there this year. The snow came in super cold. So it was like full-on Utah blower pow.

That. Sounds. Amazing. What was it like skiing with Sage and Seth? Was it kind of a, I don't know, kind of a learning experience?

Oh yeah, man! All I have to say is that nobody even touches Sage Cattabriga on skis, man. It's just amazing to watch his, like—it's just his comfort level in the mountains, you know? Nobody can even come close. And as a skier, he does it all. I mean, he can go in the park, he can slide rails, he can hit backcountry booters. And the AK lines he shreds—it's like he's doing Jeremy Jones-type s--t up there.

[The trip] was a big eye-opener, man. It was just really good. I felt like I was a little overwhelmed pretty much the whole time. And I was jumping into lines that I might not have had any business jumping into. But it was just a great learning experience and, yeah, I'm stoked to get back up there in a couple years.

Tanner Hall
"Halfway down my lines, I got a good feeling." More in our Mark Fisher Gallery »
What, exactly, do you mean by "jumping into stuff you had no business in"?

Um, well, there were a couple times when I got dropped off on top of peaks where it was—just like the gnarliest s--t ever, man. You're, you're a tow-in style and knowing you're getting on top of huge, crazy, spiny peaks. And there's not really much room to move up there [at the drop-in point], and you just feel like you're 2,000 feet up in the air and the only way down is [to ski] down something super steep and gnarly.

But for the most part it was super comfortable, and it was super good. That's what AK is all about, man. It's just getting comfortable with those mountains, you know? It takes years and years of experience. I think that this year was the first year that I really had my eyes opened to the possibilities for myself up there and I'm super stoked.

What's the last thing you think before you drop in to something like that?

Um, 'here we go?' [Laughs] That's pretty much what I said to myself every time. It was like, "all right, we're good to go live, 3, 2, 1." You know, they [TGR's cinematographers] count me in. It's crazy production-style up there with TGR. So when they were counting me in, I was just kind of like, "all right," [voice cracks] "here we go, this is it."

Halfway down my lines, I got a good feeling sometimes. I pulled out of a couple lines just cause of some pockets ripping out and some scary stuff happening around me. But [other than that] it was really safe, and really controlled. Jim Conway was our guide up there and he made it as safe as possible. For the most part everything was super good.

It looks kind of scary to me. But I guess that there are scary times and there are good times.

It's fun, man. You're pretty overwhelmed your first couple of days. Then you start getting in the groove, you know? And if you got [six weeks] to spend up there, that kinda helps out.

Caffeine Ridge
A look straight down the barrel of Caffeine Ridge.
I guess if you have enough time to spend, you don't have to throw yourself off the crazy stuff on your first day out.

No. Not at all. But it was funny: Our first run we did [of the whole trip] was on Caffeine Ridge. And that's uh, it's kind of a more classic style AK line. You know, 1000 feet [of vertical], and pretty big. And that just got the heart pumping right away.

I guess that's why they call it Caffeine Ridge.

Yeah, there's Caffeine, Espresso, and Triple Shot right next to each other for three different strengths of caffeine.

Sounds like Caffeine is the one I'd choose if I had to choose based solely on those three names.

[laughs] YES!

Given your intent to focus more on filming in the future, do you think that you'll go back to making your own movies?

At this point, I don't even know. I talked to a couple people about an idea that I had the other day and they sounded pretty stoked. Right now I'm really just focused on getting better and getting back on my feet. But there are some ideas of another film being talked about. I think that when I come back, we'll then decide. But I love making movies and I would love to make another one.

How's everything going in the real life of Tanner Hall?

Things are going real good, and I'm turning over new leaves, I guess. Started school and that was, well, pretty funny.

Oh yeah? How is school going?

It's good. It's not as bad as I thought it'd be. I got the coolest teacher in the world and we're gonna work super hard until October when I have a diploma.

What do they have you doing?

A whole bunch of stuff. I'm doing a couple classes at a time. Like I'm doing American Literature and Geometry right now. And then it goes to French and American History. And then it goes to—uh, I don't know. I got some pretty crazy classes though. Just gonna go a couple classes at a time so I can put a lot of focus into just a couple of them instead of all of them at once.

How much time do they have you spending on it every day?

Three hours. It's not bad whatsoever. And, you know, I've got the time. You should see my feet man. It's like I've got dragon scales all the way up. My feet are just shedding. Looks like snake skin.

From all the bandages and stuff?

Yeah. And from those PET hose socks. Those white socks that squeeze your legs when you're not moving so blood clots don't form. [In a Jamaican accent] So no blood clots form!

Haha. Yeah. No bumbaclot blood clots! Where are you doing physical therapy? At that new US Ski Team facility?

No, I'm doing it at Alpine Sports Medicine. And then once I'm on my feet I go to the Center of Excellence, that US Ski Team center in Park City ... the US Team spent like 30 million dollars on it.