From Park City to the X Games, skiing duo sticks together
Williams and Christensen hope to claim podium finishes
January 24, 2017
When Olympic skier Joss Christensen was a kid growing up in Park City, he had trouble finding skiing partners that were as serious as he was.
His idea of a day on the slopes was hitting the park hard. But while most just throw down a few tricks, hit a few rails and call it a day, Christensen really wanted to progress each day. He was always looking to improve, which was a characteristic he struggled to find among his grade-school friends.
"No one in my grade, my age group, was really into it like I was," Christensen said. "People enjoyed it, but no one was really serious about it or tried to push themselves."
One day as he was skiing the park at Park City Mountain Resort, he noticed a group of kids that sent it jump after jump. These kids were nothing like the ones he usually skied with and Christensen thought to himself, "Those are the kids I want to ski with."
In that group was fellow Parkite and U.S. Ski Team member McRae Williams, who is just over one year older than Christensen. At the time, he was just another skier on the mountain, but this was the beginning of a relationship that exists to this day.
"[Williams and his crew] took me in and they were the only dudes who were really getting after it in the park every day and really progressing the sport," Christensen said. "I just ended up hanging out with them. I was the young kid in the group for a really long time."
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Oh, how times have changed. Since those days in their adolescence on the mountain, Christensen and Williams are no longer the young guys. Instead, the Parkite duo will be two of the older competitors at this weekend's X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Williams comes into the competition at 26 years old, while Christensen just turned 25 on Dec. 20.
"I'm just trying to keep up with all the young guns," Williams said after winning his first World Cup event two weekends ago. "I mean, there's kids like [16 and 17 years old] just crushing it."
Though the two have gotten older, Williams and Christensen have remained close. There was a brief period of time toward the end of high school and early in their careers that the two kind of went their separate ways, but the relationship never suffered. In fact, Christensen claims they have hung out "nonstop" for the last four years.
While both are hoping to stand atop the podium no matter what event they're competing in, Christensen doesn't mind as much if it's Williams who stands over him.
"It's really good to have somebody I have so much history with, so we can really understand each other and really push each other," Christensen said. "[Williams is] someone I'm truly stoked for when he beats me. It's one of those relationships. As I see it, we need to work together to just try and push each other, because there's room for both of us on the top."
The last time the two stood on top of a podium with one another was almost a year to the day on Jan. 24, 2016 at Mammoth Mountain. Considering both view the X Games as the mecca of skiing competitions, there's not much of a better time for them to finish 1-2 again than this weekend.
Both have had success at the event, with Williams taking gold and silver in 2013 and 2014 and Christensen taking silver in 2015. Though he's won an Olympic gold medal, Christensen is looking to strike this weekend in Aspen while he still can.
"For me, [the X Games are] still the one event I have yet to win," he said. "I would say, even though it is every year, it has more clout and respect than the Olympics.
"Winning would just be amazing. … I was so close two years ago to getting on the top spot, I just really need to take advantage of the opportunities I have at this age before it's too late."
Williams echoed his teammate's sentiments regarding the reputation of the X Games.
"[The X Games are] definitely the biggest thing for us," Williams said. "Obviously, the Olympics are huge and the World Cup is huge, especially to the general audience and family and everyone that can't relate as much as we can. For me personally, growing up and watching X Games and stuff, that's kind of the [ultimate prize] in our sport for me."
This weekend, the duo will take to the slopes in Aspen to try to make it a Park City-loaded podium. Throughout, they will meet up with international skiers and friends that they have made throughout their careers, but no matter how old they get or how far they travel, Williams and Christensen, the Park City kids, will always have each other to lean on.
"Since [our youth], McRae has been one of the best skiers I've ever known," Christensen said. "It's been really good to grow up with him."
Williams and Christensen will participate in the men's ski slopestyle qualifying rounds on Thursday. The first run is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.