We caught up with Australian Red Bull skier Russ Henshaw recently on a film shoot in Mammoth, California. A slopestyle and big-air specialist, Russ routinely occupies the podium at events and has become a force to reckon with.
In addition to competition prowess, Henshaw spent a good portion of last winter filming for a segment in the new Matchstick Productions movie that will drop this fall. Henshaw also spent last winter traveling with fellow Matchstick skier Bobby Brown, who just a couple months ago became the most recent addition to the Red Bull team. Brown was sitting with us during the interview.
Russ, you just caught the tail end of the ski season in North America and now you’re heading back to Australia where the season is just kicking off. Is it pretty much endless winter for you all year long?
It’s pretty much endless winter. I’m packing up my bags right now. These four days in Mammoth were pretty much my summer, although I was skiing, and now I’m back to Australia for full on winter. From there I go to the city big airs, which is kind of a break for me, but again still skiing. Then after that it’s back to the Northern Hemisphere for their winter. So, yes, it’s pretty endless.
So, do you focus on the Northern Hemisphere’s winter as your primary season? How do you see your winter in Australia when most of the ski world is on break?
I treat winter in Australia as a time to train and stay in shape, which I think gives me a slight advantage over some skiers who stay off snow for months at a time. The other great part is I get to hang out with my mates, because I don’t get to see them that often, you know. It’s also good to be home and see my family. Skiing my home mountain is always fun as well.
As a pro skier do you feel like you are in a unique position, because you do so much moving around between Australia and North America/Europe? Does it let you do more skiing with your friends at home where as an American pro might spend all winter away from friends not in the industry?
Yeah, I get to go home and ski with them. A lot of people don’t get to do that. Well, that’s not true. Bobby (Brown) spends a lot of time in Breckenridge, so he gets to hang out with all his friends.
Tell us about what it’s like where you’re from in Australia. What do you do when you have a few weeks at home?
Jindabyne is a pretty small town Southeast Australia. I think only 1,800 or 2,000 people live there, so it’s pretty small. In winter it starts getting busier just because of obvious reasons: the snow. There are three resorts within a half-hour drive from my house. When it’s winter I end up going skiing with all my friends and skating with all my friends. When it’s not winter, or like the lead up to winter when I get my break; we play golf, do more skating, go to the gym, go trampolining: a bunch of fun stuff.
I treat winter in Australia as a time to train and stay in shape, which I think gives me a slight advantage over some skiers who stay off snow for months at a time.
How is skiing different in Australia?
We definitely don’t get as good of pow over there: it’s a lot heavier. But the few pow days we do get are pretty fun. The resorts aren’t as big, either. Those would be the main differences.
What’s your favorite part of coming to the United States?
I get to go home when I’m done. I get to hang out with Bobby, who’s not in Australia.
Fair enough. Tell us about how your season went this year.
My season went really well. I got a fair number of good results, did a fair bit of filming, and I did whole bunch of travel. Filming was a bit rough at first. My first trip was to France, and we were there for about two and half weeks and we did about three days skiing. It was windy, and when it wasn’t windy it was snowing. And then when it wasn’t snowing it would warm up and the snow would turn to shit. Then after that shoot we did a bunch of park shoots. We went to Stevens Pass in Washington and that was a junk show for weather as well. It just didn’t cooperate there either; it kinda sucked. And from there we went to Keystone for three days and that was pretty damn sick. We got a bunch of footage there. It was me, Gus Kenworthy, and Richard Permin; and we were all killing it, getting good shots I think. And from there we went to Alyeska in Alaska and they built us a huge jump and it was probably the scariest jump I’ve ever hit, just because of how big it was and we got a bunch of shots on that.
I heard rumors you did a huge zero spin?
Yeah, I did a couple. The first one I did was probably my best, but it wasn’t the way I wanted it. So, I tried a couple more and ended up crashing and hurting myself. It’s frickin’ scary to zero spin 120 feet.
What’s most comfortable for you on a jump that big?
Three-sixty or straight air, for the first few hits and then once you got a feel for the speed it’s just like hitting any other jump, you just slow your tricks down.
Any big plans or goals for next winter? Next North American winter, I mean?
Just to keep skiing, man. Having fun, you know, and not getting hurt. Just keep traveling to a bunch of competitions, hopefully get some results, and do some more filming with Matchstick.