Success Under Pressure

finding contentment regardless of the outcome

Olympic Qualifiers || Beijing 2022

It’s hard to believe it has already been a month since qualifier day at the Olympics, February 16th 2022.  People often ask me if I feel nervous anymore when I’m competing.  The honest answer I give them is “Usually, no.”  Part of the reason that I’m able to consistently compete well is that I no longer have my identity tied to success in skiing.  When I was younger, I based my self worth on whether I won contests or not.  

Finding your Identity

Becoming a husband, father and developing passions outside of skiing has given me more balance.  I’m surrounded by people that I know love me for who I am, not what I can do on a pair of skis.  It gives me the confidence to do my best, and not stress about the results.  The feeling that I have before I drop in at contests is closer to excitement or anticipation than nerves or stress.

Success is not defined by a moment in time
Switch Right 7 Double Japan

Success is a State of Mind

The exception to this trend is qualifiers at the Olympics. Getting ready to drop in this time around I felt that familiar and dreaded nervous feeling.  Nerves can be crippling; they deteriorate performance.  If you watched much of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing this year, you might have been surprised how many people crashed, made mistakes on some of their easiest tricks, or in some cases missed the podium completely even though they were favored.  Those are perfect examples of the stress Olympians face during this global event.  

Overcoming the Pressure

It’s hard not to let the hype and external pressure get to you.  Every Olympic athlete has been preparing for those runs for at least four years and for many of them it is their only opportunity in a lifetime to compete on that stage.  

Everyone from your sponsors and coaches to your mom and your first grade art teacher are cheering you on. It is hard not to feel like all of those people are depending on you.  

Both Success and Failure are temporary
Switch 7 Taipan

I constantly have to remind myself that even though those folks want me to do well, I’m the only one that can do these runs through the halfpipe.  If I’m carrying all those people with me while I’m competing, even if it’s just in my mind, I will crumple under the weight.  I usually take a moment to express gratitude to the creator and all of those people for getting me here, and then I focus in on the task at hand.

Mental Strength Technique

 I didn’t have to land the best run of my life to make finals at the Olympics; I just had to land a decent run.  An athlete in a similar situation might easily tell themself: “just don’t blow it”. However, that mentality often has a similar result to telling someone not to think about elephants.

Success is a state of mind it can look like Excitement and pure joy
Success is a state of mind

To combat nerves and pressure at the Olympics I go through the same process as every other competition.  I remind myself what I’m thankful for.  I tell myself that I don’t HAVE to do this, I GET TO do it. Then I focus on one thing, on every hit of that five hit pipe, that I can improve on.  It keeps me tied to the moment and not thinking about the future or the past. it’s one of my best mental strength tools; practicing the presence.

Success begins with practicing presence
Lost is a sea of thoughts, you must find the present moment to find success.

Practicing Presence

No matter what stresses are in your life currently, you can center your thoughts around this exact moment. If you are familiar with meditation, it’s the same thing. It can take as little as one minute so don’t let the excuse of time prevent you from implementing this powerful mental strength tool into your regular routine. The biggest mistake I see people make is the assumption that they will use healthy coping mechanisms during stressful situations without any practice. This is False. In order to properly apply meditation when you feel pressured, you must practice it often. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you will remember to breathe in chaos if you have never trained yourself to breath in a normal, peaceful moment before.

“Yesterday’s the past, Tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”

Bill Keane

Give it a Try

First, settle into a comfortable and stable position in a safe place, preferably quiet- but not everyone is so fortunate.

Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

Pay attention to all five of your senses.

Listen to the sounds around you.

Take notice of how your body feels from head to toe.

As you breathe notice what you smell.

Can you taste anything? What does your tongue feel like against the roof of your mouth? Relax your jaw.

Open your eyes and notice your surroundings. Without any judgment, try your best to be thankful for what you see.

Continue to focus on your breathing. Deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Sometimes I visualize exhaling negativity or stress.

Try not to think about anything outside of what is happening right now, in this moment.

Keep Practicing

When you catch your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to the present moment. You can count your breaths in and out to help your mind focus on the present. It is important that you are gracious and gentle with yourself. This practice is hard and takes time to learn. Be patient. When you have a wandering thought, acknowledge it and then let it go as you replace the thought with your breathing, the sounds and smells around you, the physical feelings in and on your body.

Photo: Mike Dawsy

Taking Ownership

“Okay, I admit it. I am stressed out.”

In Beijing I had to admit to myself that I was feeling nerves, and attack them at their source.  It is important to acknowledge your emotional feelings to practice the present moment. If you are in denial about your feelings, it will come out in a negative way- eventually. For example, in the lead up to the Olympics I repeatedly denied that I was stressed out until it manifested itself in a bad case of shingles on my face in September, 2021. I finally had to face the fact that I was overwhelmed and make some changes in my life and mental strategy.


Emotions have a lot less power over you when you acknowledge them. It is natural to want to hide strong emotions or feelings. Sometimes I catch myself hiding feelings from myself, because I judge that particular thought or feeling as negative. But when I acknowledge the way I am feeling, the path forward always seems more clear. Shine a light on those feelings and you might find that they are less ugly than you thought.

“What is the root cause of my anxiety?”

Subconsciously we all allow outside influences to impact our thoughts at times. They are not harmful until we internalize them and take ownership of them. This typically manifests itself through warning signs such as: a sustained elevated heart rate, restlessness or inability to stand still, brain fog, auxiliary muscle tension (clenched jaw, fists, furrowed brow). As soon as you recognize these warning signs you can begin your meditation practice and then proceed to interview yourself.

 Mental Strength Success
The power of success is found in your mental strength.

Interview yourself

During Qualifiers, I discovered a relapse to an old way of thinking. I had fallen into the old habit of telling myself “I have to land these runs or four years of preparation will be a waste.” Instead, I reflected on the journey to get to this moment. Reminding myself that the story I was a part of was a beautiful thing whether I landed a run or not gave me the confidence I needed to let the tension go. I took ownership of what I had control over and I let go of the rest. By the time I dropped in for my first run the pressure had faded and I was in the flow state. I finished the day in fourth place, which is all I needed on that day. I made it through to finals.

Share your success with others
Celebrate More

Off-season training tips from the Road to the Olympics

David Wise World Record Jump

Come this time of year, people often ask me what I do to fill my time in the summer. And it always makes me smile, because I realize how foreign my world of professional skiing must be to most people. While I travel less and have a little more leisure time during the summer, professional skiing is a year-round job, and the summer months are no exception. With the change in seasons comes a change in my approach, shifting to building strength and health in the off-season. That way, when the big events roll around mid-winter, I still have the edge I need.

I’ve found, however, that there are often misconceptions about becoming proficient in a specific sport. It’s often assumed that proficiency comes from continuously participating in that sport. But while this logic rings somewhat true, it has limits. The human body innately strives toward efficiency. As such, your body will train your muscles and nervous system to meet the demands you place on it, but not exceed those demands. That’s why I think it is important to have a multi-faceted approach to training. You can’t predict how your body is going to be tested during the winter, but you can strengthen and prepare your body to meet the demands.

So this month I’m sharing some of my favorite off-season training tips. 


Slackline is a must-try for everyone, competitive skier or not. Among the benefits, it helps improve balance and builds core strength. Not to mention, you can use a slackline just about anywhere. When you’re first starting out, set the line low to the ground, anywhere from 8-12 inches off the ground, and consider using ski poles to help your balance. You’ll probably notice when you first step on how wobbly your legs feel. This is normal. That wobbly feeling you may experience at first is an indication of undertrained and underused stability muscles. That’ll change the more you use it. While most people focus on the primary muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves), stability is just as important, and one of the biggest benefits. (Buy a slackline at or

Bodyweight workout

Not every workout needs to be done in the gym. You’d be amazed how strong you can get without a massive dumbbell or barbell. When the sun is out, I love to do outdoor workouts that combine jogging with a variety of other exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, crunches, squats, jumps, and planks. Bodyweight workouts are a good way to get strong without bulking up too much.

Mountain biking

I first got into mountain biking after my first knee surgery, and I cant believe it took me so long to discover it. The perk of mountain biking is that it’s a natural form of “interval training,” an often used buzzword in the fitness industry. The ups, downs and variation in steepness are perfect aerobic preparation for skiing and snowboarding, while it also sharpens your balance and coordination. Plus, it is one of the most fun things to do in the summer. Bonus points that Lake Tahoe is home to first-class mountain biking trails, while Northstar has its own downhill bike park.

Box and stair jumps

Nothing puts a good healthy demand on your body like jumping. If you have access to a gym with plyo boxes, then that’s ideal, but if not, then stairs work great too. In short, higher jumps with lower repetitions builds strength, while lower jumps with higher repetitions builds stamina. I recommend a combination of the two. Start out by doing a set of 20 lower height jumps, followed by a short rest period, and then a set of 10 medium jumps, rest, and finish with 5 maximum height jumps. Repeat this three times and you’ve done a quick and simple plyo workout.

DIY yoga

This off-season training habit is one that I was reluctant to try, but has been very helpful for addressing back and neck pain. On top of my other training, I struggle to find the time to go to a gym and do a traditional yoga class. However, the digital age has made it much easier. A number of apps and online yoga videos are available to help you increase flexibility in the areas that you want. As with many of my other tips, it’s important to find a balance between power and flexibility. Practicing yoga the last couple years has increased my flexibility, while likely saving me from a few injuries.

Travel tips from the road to the Olympics

Travel Tips

As a professional athlete, spending time away from family comes with the territory. And it’s sometimes difficult spending so much time on the road away from my wife and kids. I’m not going to lie, I sometimes wonder if my wife and kids even remember what I look like. Time differences, nap times, and marginal cell service and Internet can make it difficult to stay in touch. While I’m so grateful for today’s technology, sometimes it just never feels like enough.

However, my wife and I have discovered some unique and simple ways to make spending time apart still feel like a team effort.  So this month I’m sharing some of my favorite ways to stay connected while traveling.

Short video messages

Between busy schedules and time differences, it can be difficult to connect in a meaningful way on the phone. As such, our family’s favorite solution has been to send short phone videos back and forth of what is happening in our day. That way it’s almost like we’re there, getting a glimpse into each other’s day instead of trying to describe it later. Not to mention, it’s like a chronological video playlist, making it nice to replay videos when I find myself missing home. According to my wife, Alexandra, each video I send gets played at least 10 times.


Of all the social media options we have today, Snapchat might be my least favorite. I prefer keeping my phone in my pocket and experiencing life first-hand. However, I actually do have a personal snapchat, albeit with a fake name that only my family and close friends know about. When I am in the middle of a competition, I don’t have time to call each of my important people individually to let them know what is going on. As such, having a private Snapchat like this is a great way to stay connected while traveling and competing so they can check in on me using my undercover Snapchat account.

Handwritten letters and postcards

The handwritten word is a lost art these days, but I think that makes it all the more valuable. No communication method says love like a handwritten note or postcard received in the old-fashioned snail mail. Even if it arrives after you’ve returned, it holds immense value to your loved ones.


Nonetheless, there’s something to be said for email. While email is central to modern-day business, it doesn’t have to be all business. My wife and I have found that sending thoughts and quotes of what we are reading back and forth is a great way to keep that intimate connection that every marriage needs. Life is busy and it isn’t always easy to simply jump into in-depth conversations, but if you can keep each other up-to-date, even in writing, then you won’t lose that feeling of connection.

Furthermore, I’ve picked up some habits and tricks while traveling to stay better connected when I’m on the road. See some of my international travel connectivity tips below.

International travel connectivity tips


For iPhone users, like I am, text messages from one iPhone to another while you are connected to Wi-Fi are usually free. However, they don’t always go through if one of you isn’t connected to Wi-Fi. And that’s why I like WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messaging app that will deliver messages whenever the intended recipient connects to Wi-Fi, no matter what. Plus, you can make audio calls and send photos and videos, too.


While I also use Skype, FaceTime is my go-to. When connectivity allows it, I love being able to see my kids’ faces, while  FaceTime audio is a great alternative when service is spotty.

Wi-Fi calling

Wi-Fi calling is perhaps my best-kept iPhone secret.  If you are an iPhone user, simply go to the “phone” section of your settings to switch on Wi-Fi calling.  This then enables you to use your phone similarly as if you were on your cell phone carrier network. However, you typically have to have a strong Internet connection for it to work smoothly.

Header photo by Emily Tidwell.

The road to the Olympics goes through Europe and Asia


I often feel like my job is equal parts rewarding and challenging. The reward: Competing in destinations around the world, some of which people dream of vacationing in, and others, destinations that people have never even heard of. This year a significant portion of my season will be spent in Europe and Asia, including France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, and South Korea.

But trips like these don’t come without their challenges. During my Europe and Asia adventure, I’ll be spending seven consecutive weeks traveling. And one of the foremost challenges is jet lag. We often spend little more than a week in one place competing before we’re off to the next place. That is just enough time to almost get adjusted to one time zone before you’re on a plane and starting all over again in a new time zone. If you don’t learn to overcome jet lag in my business, the constant travel and fatigue can inevitably mean illness. So having traveled around the world as a competitive skier, I’ve picked up a few tricks and lessons to combat jet lag. You’ll find my jet lag travel tips below.

Meanwhile, see a few photos from the past month on the road to the Winter Olympics.

Jet Lag Travel Tips

Stay up late the night before the trip. I’ve found that staying up late the night before a long-haul flight makes it easier for me to sleep the next day on the plane. As a relatively tall person, I know the struggle of sleeping on an airplane, but I also know how important that sleeping on the plane is. I’ve found that the more I sleep on the plane, the quicker I adjust to the time change, and can hit the ground running. I also suggest a nice neck pillow, earplugs, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Don’t nap or go to bed early on arrival day. No matter how badly you want to give into napping on day one, don’t do it. I’ll even drink a couple extra cups of coffee to make sure I stay up throughout the day upon arriving to a new destination. Then, by the time it’s bedtime, I’m often so exhausted that I usually sleep through the first night. And that same rule applies to the following couple of days. By the end of day three you should be well on your way to adjusting to the time change. Early evenings, between 6 and 8 p.m., are often when you will feel most sleepy, so planning an activity or spending time being social during those hours is a good idea.

Eat and drink healthy. I know how easy it is to eat unhealthy while traveling. The easiest, quickest food options, however, can often be the worst for you, especially when you’re dealing with jet lag. Thus, make an extra effort to eat healthy and stay well hydrated, drinking plenty of water.

Exercise. This one sounds simple, since everyone needs to exercise, right? However, jet lag often ruins any urge or motivation to exercise because of the fatigue you’re often feeling by the time you reach your destination. Nonetheless, exercising will help you stave off the urge to nap, while often making it much easier to fall asleep at bedtime (and stay asleep).

Don’t overindulge. Trust me, I know the draw of a good German or Austrian beer. However, nothing makes jet lag more severe like a hangover. Enjoy good food and drinks, but do so within limits. Your body will thank you.

Now you know how to travel like a pro, so get out there. Tune in next month when I’ll have more travel tips from the road to the Olympics.

Header photo by Emily Tidwell.

The road to the Olympics goes through Colorado and California

Xgames David Wise

The plan was to get a couple weeks of good training in while at Copper Mountain, Colorado before making my way to Aspen for the X Games. From there, I had all intentions of winning the X Games, traveling to Mammoth Mountain for the first qualifier for the Pyeongchang U.S. Olympic team, winning that too, and then heading home to kiss my wife and hug my kids.

I liked that plan, but reality was a little more “real,” as I’d put it.

We had a really hard time getting much done at Copper Mountain because of the continuous snow, and then when the weather finally did clear up, things turned from mediocre to bad, rather quickly. I was feeling good (really good!). I was starting to get my rhythm and flow, and my confidence was high. Then the next thing I knew I was waking up at the bottom of the transition, feeling dazed, dizzy, and not entirely sure about which part of my body hurt more. Apparently I had missed a takeoff on a switch double cork, side-checked the coping of the halfpipe, and launched to the bottom, knocking myself silly. That was definitely not part of the plan.

But I’m a natural optimist, so I did my best to look on the bright side of the situation.  Fortunately I hadn’t broken any bones and had only sustained a minor concussion that the team neurologist thought I would recover from quickly for the X Games in a couple weeks.

My first training in Aspen went perfect and I was getting my confidence back. That is until the tail end of our second practice, when I had a heavy landing that prompted a major muscle in the core of my back to spasm and cramp uncontrollably. Thus began a process of treatment and management on my back by our team physical therapist, chiropractors, and massage therapists to try to get my back better before the contest. Some things helped it marginally, but it never went away.

I had to have an all or nothing approach to the competition.

While it’s a position I’ve been in before, difficult circumstances only define you if you let them.  To add more adversity, the conditions of the pipe were the worst I have ever seen for X Games. Temperatures were hovering around zero degrees, and the previous week’s rain had created glare ice and a pipe that has a natural tendency to send riders out over the deck.

As such, only one guy from the 12-man field landed a first run. But there was hope, since if I could just land a run, my chances of a podium were good. My second run was going well until I got to the part of the pipe where the rest of the field had been crashing. I knew that I had to use all my strength on my takeoff to stay in the pipe. I managed a solid takeoff, but as a result, my back couldn’t handle it. I could no longer reach down and grab my ski, an essential part of the trick. I tried in vain to settle for a different grab, but it was too late and the rotation wasn’t going to come all the way around in time.

I skidded out and skied down to greet my frozen family and friends who had traveled to cheer me on. Both of my kids were crying, though I think from cold as much as disappointment. There was nothing more I could do other than say that I had tried, and then move onto the next one. And up next was the first Olympic qualifier.

In 2014, the U.S. Team chose their 4 halfpipe spots based on results from 5 U.S. Grand Prix events during the season leading up to the Olympics. This Olympic cycle, however, they decided to ease the burden by putting one of the events during this season. The Mammoth Grand Prix, therefore, became much more than just another contest. Do well here and you were on a great track to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

Yet I was still dealing with back problems. My hope was that I would have just enough time to recover that I could do a big run by the finals on Friday. However, the weather forecast didn’t look great for the week. This meant that we may only be able to compete in qualifiers, and not finals, which if so, would mean that qualifying results would be considered the final results.

I had truly been doing my best to get my back fully functional, but by the time the qualifiers rolled around, I still felt like a broken old man. I had a fated conversation with my coach. His ominous words were, “We’re going to have a final.”  So I scaled it back, and I qualified for finals in 8th place. I usually try to qualify in the top three, since they are the final three to compete. But with my back the way it was, I was happy to qualify at all.

Then the weather reared its ugly head. Finals got postponed from Thursday to Friday, and then postponed until Saturday, and finally, cancelled Saturday afternoon. Therefore, I had to settle for an 8th-place finish. And, my family that had driven in from all over didn’t even get to see me ski.

Nonetheless, I think I am at a really important place in my career. I can either let all this adversity destroy me, or I can let it temper me into a better version of myself.  I can either whine about it, or learn from it.  I strive to choose the latter.  I’ll let you know how it goes! Tune back in next month.