Indiana skier once made his own hills— and now he makes the Olympic team

Growing up in Lawrenceburg, Ind., 19-year-old Olympic slopestyle skier Nick Goepper didn’t have the “traditional” opportunities to excel as skiers growing up in Colorado and Utah did.

Despite many months without snow and next to no altitude, Goepper was able to ski in the winter at nearby Perfect North Slopes. Training year-round was more of challenge, though.

“I would ski during the winter time, and I would try and find a way to ski in the summer time,” he said.  “I built rails out of wood and PVC pipe.”  Goepper was able to use water and dish soap to practice on his homemade equipment. Practicing on Astroturf pipes and rails in his backyard during the summer months helped him keep up with the competition and become the skier to beat.

It’s no secret that Indiana’s weather and terrain are not as ideal for athletes training to be elite-level skiers as more mountainous states are. But Goepper is proud of his origins.

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“That’s my favorite part about it … just representing southeastern Indiana,” he said. Goepper’s competition helmet also pays homage to his roots, complete with corn stickers.

Nick won’t be the only one representing Lawrenceburg in Sochi, though.

The rest of the Goepper family will be traveling to the Games as well, including Nick’s younger siblings, Kasey and Jason.

“I’ve never been out of the country, so it will be awesome and new,” Kasey said. “I’m so excited to go.” Nick’s younger sister, a retired gymnast, also understands some of the intense training her brother has been going through.

For Nick’s brother, being able to travel to the Games will be a nice change.

“There are ups and downs [to Nick competing] because sometimes you get lonely, especially when you’re so used to him being home and hanging out with you,” Jason said. “I just want him to be happy and try his hardest.” Jason hopes to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and continue to ski for as long as he can.

Reporters and admirers congregated at Perfect North, which was more crowded than usual and buzzing with excitement after Nick was named to the Olympic team, but Kasey says Nick is still able to be himself.

“He’s just Nick,” Kasey said. “I love how when he comes home to ski he never brags about anything.”

Before heading to Sochi with his family, Nick will compete at the Winter X Games, hoping to defend his 2013 gold medal. Men’s slopestyle skiing begins in Aspen, Colo., on Jan. 24.

Goepper says he is inspired to do well, knowing that he will have a support system with him at the 2014 Olympic Games.

“I feel very blessed to have the opportunities that I do, and I try to inspire other people to do the same,” he said. “It’s been a pretty fun ride so far.”

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