Please meet Tom Wallisch, the latest "it" kid on the slopestyle scene. A late bloomer from the East Coast, Wallisch, already a ripened 22, had a breakout year in 2009 when he finished first overall on the AFP rankings, making him one of the most dominant slopestyle competitors on the planet in 2009. Not bad for the Pittsburg native who grew up skiing at Wisp Mountain—vertical drop of 700 feet—in Garrett County, Md. A weekend warrior with no formal skiing background, Wallisch's freeskiing career didn't even begin to blossom until he moved cross-country to attend the University of Utah. While most of his competitors launched their careers via the comp circuit, Wallisch took a more grassroots approach through the Internet—he gained recognition and a small core following for his video segments on the website 4bi9media.com.
While a good all-around jumper, Wallisch stands out from his peers because of his rail skills. "Growing up on the East Coast, all I knew was rails," says Wallisch.
Wallisch earned his first invite to Winter X in 2010 based on his 2009 results. He also started the 2009/10 campaign hot; he captured second in Slopestyle at the season-opening Winter Dew Tour Breckenridge stop in December.
But excelling at Winter X won't be easy. Historically, rookies have had a tough time at Winter X; nerves tend to get the best of athletes on action sports' biggest stage. No WX rookie has ever won Slopestyle.