Chatting with the Pros: Skier Josh Daiek on Going Big

Ski Expert Patrick Graham sits down with professional skier Josh Daiek to chat about gear favorites, the upcoming season, and Josh's big jumps.

Josh takes a selfie on the mountain while wearing a google and a helmet. His Salomon skis are propped up next to him.

Photo courtesy of Josh Daiek

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As summer came to a close and ski season drew even nearer, I hopped on a video chat with pro-skier Josh Daiek. I called in from my apartment just outside of Denver while Josh faced something completely different. The Salomon freeskier dialed in from Meyers, California where the massive Caldor wildfire was raging just five miles from his front door. While a wildfire wasn’t part of our original interview plans, how can we ignore the 220K-acre fire that was barreling towards him and his community?

Though I was concerned about his safety, Josh assured me that he was excited about our chat, as it could take his mind off of the burning for a few moments. Grateful that I could help with just that, I was more than stoked. As a Curated Ski Expert, I tend to think about skiing every single day. Either I’m talking about skiing, thinking about skiing, or I’m out there actually skiing—it doesn’t matter if it’s January or July. This day was even more special because I’ve been wanting to tap into Josh’s mind for a while.

For those who may not know, Josh is a long-time ski pro, an absolute beast in whatever he takes on, and an all-around great person. Whether it had been hitting all of the stops on the Freeskiing World Tour, filming parts in multiple ski videos, climbing and skiing four of the most iconic peaks in Tahoe (Flagpole, Angora, Mt. Tallac, and Maggies), or touring with buddies around the Tahoe area, Josh does it with passion and class. Eager for answers, I wanted to know what his perfect day of skiing looks like. What does he think about when he launches himself off of a cliff? What about skiing at Mach speed into a road gap or just preparing for what we all hope is going to be our best season of skiing yet?

The skier does a flip while jumping off of a steep rock face.

Photo courtesy of Josh Daiek

Here’s how it went!

What does a perfect day of skiing look like to you?

My perfect day would just be skiing around with my lady, my dog, or some of my good homies. I guess I have two kinds of perfect days. One is the kind of low-stress day, going out ski-touring all day with friends or my lady, and just getting fresh turns. Classic Tahoe tree skiing is some of my favorites, with little pillow poppers all over and just kind of like low-consequence, super fun stuff like that.

Then, my other style of favorite day would be a smaller snowfall, six inches to a foot, and going out with the homies on snowmobiles. And just going in and crushing lines all day with sled lapping and tons of adrenaline and sending lines and big airs and high speed! I'm basically just a backcountry skier at this point. So, it's all about fresh, and fast, and fluid for me.

What is it about being in the air [Josh goes HUGE] that makes you keep coming back for more?

To put it simply, I'd say, it's just adrenaline, it’s like endorphin junkie, you know? I think with all of that, you have that super high focus and anxiety. And I think anytime you're gonna do something that's kind of gnarly, you're gonna have doubts and be second-guessing yourself, "Can I do this? Is this gonna work how I think it is?" And then you kind of go through that mental process. Then, when you're finally ready to go, there's no scaredness, there's no anxiety. You're just kind of in the flow state, you're in full focus.

It's like a complex math problem that you're always working out.

And so then, it's like everything just goes away. You're just so hyper-focused on completing this task, and then you do it. Let’s even say you crash or something goes a little wrong, you're still right there. And it's so rewarding to go through that process of "Oh, can I pull this off? What's it gonna take? What's the speed? What's my rotation? What's this, what's that?" To be doing all of these mathematical calculations in your head, when you pull it off, you’re like "Oh wow! That actually worked. That's exactly what I was hoping was gonna happen.” It's just super rewarding. It's like a complex math problem that you're always working out. And, well, it's rewarding, to put it simply.

That’s amazing. Can you tell me more about this mathematical equation or what exactly you’re going through? Haha, is this something I can study?!

Yeah! Something that comes right to my mind is like the road gap I did a few years ago. It's this type of thing that happens all the time though, with little gaps or let's say an air that you wanna hit or there's a line that you're gonna ski and there's a crux in it. You're just kind of looking at these things from different angles and trying to figure out like, "Okay, what's the speed you're trying to visualize?" You want to really line things up because if you go too fast, you overshoot it, it explodes. You go too short, you land on rocks, land on a road, land on whatever. The consequences are pretty high. So it's like whether you realize it or not, through all the years of training and doing all this stuff, it's like your mind kind of has this little calibration and can figure it out.

You look at any extreme [sport] — when you're hitting gaps, your speed just has to be so precise. It's like your mind learns what that speed is gonna be and what it's gonna take to clear that gap and what it's gonna take to land you in the right spot. So, for a mountain bike, let's say, coming into that jump, you're feathering the brakes, like, "Oh, I'm going a little too fast," and it’s the same thing with skiers and X Games hitting 90-foot tables. They know exactly as they're coming up that lip, like, "Oh, I'm coming in a little hot! Scrub the lip a little bit."

When I'm saying mathematics, I'm not sitting there like, "Okay, velocity plus this, we got our wind vector...hold on, hold on. Let me do more calculations here!" It’s basically just experience.

So, being that it is about experience, what is one piece of advice for somebody who's looking to go bigger?

I feel like, with the season coming up, many of us are thinking, "I have my eye on this huge cliff, I'm gonna go bigger this year. This is going to be my year!”

What's your advice for somebody trying to progress like that?

The image looks down at Josh Daiek's skis as he's perched on a steep decline.

Photo courtesy of Josh Daiek

I think it's all just time in the saddle. I think it's achievable by most, you know? Honestly, I don't feel like I'm some super gifted super athlete or anything like that. I've taken my beatings, and you live and learn. And unfortunately, you gotta pay to play the best in any of these sports. I've gotten broke off, and you gotta pay your dues, and that's how you learn. It's something that you have to really be passionate about and really love.

I think it's achievable by most, you know? Honestly, I don't feel like I'm some super gifted super athlete or anything like that.

As soon as I've been hurt, with injuries in the past, I'm laying there on the couch or whatever it may be, all laid up. And all I can think is, I can't wait to get back. I can't wait to get stronger. I can't wait to rehab. I can't wait to do PT. I can't wait to go get back after it. I can't wait to get redemption.

I can't wait to get redemption.

It's just passion and love for it! And wanting to push yourself, wanting to be better, really just wanting to do the things that you envision. If you have a passion and love for whatever your work is or whatever you do, I think you'll succeed.

Love that. That’s good stuff. Let’s talk about Salomon a bit. How long have you been with them?

I think 2012 was my first year with Salomon, so nine years!

Do you have a single favorite piece of gear from them?

Josh takes a selfie on the mountain while wearing a google and a helmet. His Salomon skis are propped up next to him.

That's tough. There's a couple of things that I really love. The QST 106, with the MTN pin binding on there. That's my dream setup. That's the quiver killer, seeds in all conditions. I typically only ski it like half the season or in the spring, because in like deep powder, I'd just rather be on the QST Blank or the 118, just having a little bit more float for bigger areas and landings as well. I'd like the bigger platform, but that 106 just crushes in every condition. And I love that ski.

Also, to back up a little bit I love the outerwear. The S/LAB GORE-TEX jackets and pants are just so minimal and yet high functioning. When you're out in the weather and hiking all day, having those layers is key; paired up with a puffy will make or break your day.

That’s great! Is there anything coming up or coming out that you're particularly pumped for or could talk to us about?

What's rad about Salomon is they're constantly innovating and changing the game. There's stuff on the burner right now that we're not really supposed to be allowed to be talking about, but Salomon is such a rad company to be working with. 'Cause like I said, they're always innovating and they're never satisfied, which is kind of how I am in my personal life.

I always strive to be better, and always strive to push it to the next level. And it's kind of the same thing with Salomon and all their equipment...they're always pushing the boundaries of what people think is possible.

What's really cool now is they’re working on their sustainability and it's really cool to see. It's just one of those things you can be proud of with the business you're working with. These guys are making the steps and making moves to look out for future generations and look out for our planet. When everyone's trying to make a buck, that can get lost. For me, there's a lot of things I can be doing in my daily life differently. I think if we all step outside and look at ourselves, there are probably things we can all do to take better care of the environment and set ourselves up for a better future.

Speaking of the future, I know that the upcoming season is on the horizon, and it’s already been snowing here in Colorado at higher elevations which is giving everyone butterflies. How are you feeling about the upcoming season?

Josh and his dog sit at a counter and look at the camera.

Photo courtesy of Josh Daiek

Man, I'm fired up! I'm always fired up for winter, man. I love biking and swimming and all of the summer activities, but there's nothing like skiing. There's nothing like moving through the mountains on a pair of skis. It’s the most efficient thing I can think of, the most efficient form of travel through the mountains. I'm excited, man.

There's nothing like moving through the mountains on a pair of skis. It’s the most efficient thing I can think of, the most efficient form of travel through the mountains.

I've been training at a local gym. I'm at this gym in South Lake Tahoe, it's called PT Revolution. Those guys have been helping me get stronger and just kind of working on some little ailments I have over the years of use and abuse on the body. Those guys are getting me dialed in, and it's just completely different. It’s a mindset change to be back in the gym again and be getting ready for the season. I'm fired up, can't wait.

We’re super excited too, Josh! Taking Josh’s advice here, we’re poised to be set up for a great season and a great year. If you’re looking to refresh that quiver before the snow rolls in, reach out to me or another Ski Expert here on Curated. We’ll help you out with free, personalized advice. And at the end of the day, just remember: “If you have a passion and love for whatever your work is, or whatever you do, you'll succeed.”

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I often tell people that if I could ski everyday of my life I would. A few years ago, I did ski every month of the year in Colorado and that was something I was really grateful for! Even if it is just 20 turns on a glacier it’s better than not skiing at all! I’ve been skiing for a long time, held jo...

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