Finland was keeping Bryon Wilson in the dark Wednesday as he was looking forward to his next bumpy ride.
“We came over here early to get used to the course and to the time change,” Wilson, the 2010 Winter Olympics Bronze Medalist from Butte said by phone from Ruka, Finland. “We’re going to train Thursday and Friday. Then I’ll compete on Saturday.”
This weekend marks the beginning of the World Cup freestyle skiing moguls competition season. Wilson, 27, and his brother, Brad, 23, are both members of Team USA and are experienced in the international tour as well as having been Olympians.
Brad Wilson, 23, was only recently declared ready to begin jump training following surgery last winter to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) suffered while practicing almost exactly a year ago for the Ruka meet. So, he is in Canada, right now, continuing his training with plans to join his brother and the rest of Team USA in Japan about mid-season.
Bryon Wilson’s competition on Saturday will be held under the lights, even though it is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., Finland time.
“It’s dark all the time,” he said, alluding to this being the time of the year when the country is in perpetual night-time, darkness 24 hours a day. “It’s really crazy. You never see the daylight.”
Wilson said the summer was a lot of good work with intensive training sessions that saw the team practicing in Australia and Switzerland in addition to going through a revved-up program in Park City, Utah, where the team is based.
“A lot of jumps,” he said about the focus. “I had more jumps over the water than ever before. I had more than 1,000 jumps on the water ramps, about 400 more than ever before in training, So, I’m prepared. I’m ready to go.”
The training center features long plastic slides that reach down steep mountainsides ending in launching ramps that send the skiers — mogulists and aerialists — high into the air from where they fall into swimming pools.
It is how the skiers learn their tricks, the acrobatics they perform in midair, during the summer sessions in preparation for the winter competitions.
Brad Wilson competed in the 2014 Olympics at Sochi, Russia, but did not place, due to a fall he suffered while in go-for-broke mode trying to medal. The brothers from Butte are hoping to be able to team up for the United States in the 2018 Winter Games set for Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Brad just got backing two weeks ago,” Bryon Wilson said. “So, he’s taking it slow right now. He doesn’t want to come back (to the tour) until he’s ready to win.”
Bryon Wilson collected his bronze medal in Vancouver, British Columbia, but was left off the 2014 Olympic Team despite having had success in the larger World Cup and North American meets.
Now, he finds himself the elder statesman of the moguls team.
“Yeah, I’m the oldest guy on the team,” he said with a laugh and while seeming to embrace the leadership role as several retirements since last season left spots open for the up-and-coming prospects. “We have a lot of people coming up. It’s fun to mentor the young people coming up”
He said the newness of the team, though, presents a change in personality, routine or just atmosphere.
“It has a good feel, but it’s different,” Wilson said. “It is definitely a talented team. We have new coaches and some new things. They’re pretty intense. We trained over the summer more than we ever have. So, I think we’re more prepared than ever before.”
The Ruka meet is to start at about 5 a.m. Butte time and Wilson said plans are for it to be streamed by the NBC network. A link might be available on the usskiteam.com Website. The mogulists will then break for the holidays before moving on to the North American part of their schedule with meets at Lake Placid, N.Y., Quebec, Calgary and Deer Valley, Utah, in January and February. The Deer Valley event is Team USA’s home meet and noted for drawing a large and loud crowd. It is held at night under the lights and, since the Wilson boys have been on the team, has drawn support from Butte travelers.
“It’s a big crowd, maybe 6,000 people on the hill, and they cheer so loud,” Wilson said. “It’s odd for us, because they’re outside the lights so we can’t see them. We sure hear them. They really inspire us. It’s exciting. It’s a really cool event.”
The Butte skier said he hasn’t added anything new to his repertoire, but has instead honed his familiar tricks and worked on improving his speed.
“I’ve perfected my double-full,” he said about one of his more difficult acrobatics.
What little spare time Wilson possesses usually divides between his carvings and his foundation. Being an avid fly fisher, his art specialty is carving fish replicas out of wood and his work is renowned. He said he recently completed a brown trout in action, a piece commissioned by a Butte resident. Butte remains close to his heart. He recently acquired a dog and named it “Butte.”
The foundation, the ID One Foundation, raises money to alleviate expenses for Team USA members not fully financed. Only six of the 20 members receive full Team USA funding, Wilson said.
Wilson himself is on the Team USA B Team while Brad Wilson has a spot on the A Team.
“Skiing remains my focus and I’m getting ramped up for the season,” Bryon Wilson said. “I’m excited about the first competition of the season. I’ve done well at this meet in the past, and, well, not so well a couple of times, too. But I think it will be a good year.
“Keep me in your thoughts.”