Another storm blew through Sunday, and with it came Jonny Moseley, the flashy young skier who took the world by storm last February at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
Moseley did this, you probably recall, by performing a tricky little maneuver called a 360-mute-grab: a helicopter that includes crossing and grabbing one’s skis in midair and then landing as though it’s no big deal.
Most people just call it a “Moseley” now, which is fine with the man who made it famous.
“The ‘mute-grab’ term comes from skateboarding,” Moseley says. “It should have its own name, you know? It shouldn’t be called a skateboard move.”
Whatever it’s called, the move earned Moseley the gold medal in the men’s moguls competition. Made him famous. He returned to a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Tiburon, Calif., where he was presented with a key to the city.
He flew to Washington and met the president, before the president was buried in an avalanche of scandal.
He appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” and repeated the same feat he performed in Nagano--on a 40-foot-high ramp in the rain.
It wasn’t pretty, but the crowd still cheered. At one point, Moseley said of all the attention he was getting, “It’s a little hard on your cheekbones--you have to keep smiling so much.”
And now, 10 months later, Moseley is still smiling, because people are still paying attention. His celebrity status has not diminished. Everyone still wants a piece of Jonny--and Jonny apparently can’t say no.
“Yeah, my life has changed a little . . . a lot, actually,” he says, pondering the question during a brief interview in an office at Heavenly Resort, his new home mountain. “I thought I’d be less busy after the Olympics, but now I’m busier than I’ve ever been before.”
Moseley, 23, looks a little tired, having caught a dawn flight from Salt Lake City. He had been performing in a celebrity fund-raiser at Deer Valley Resort, to benefit the U.S. Ski Team.
Now he’s scheduled to join selected members of the media for lunch. Reporters, news anchors and morning show hosts--and their families--were promised as much during the resort’s annual “Winter Wake-Up Call.” And more: a chance to ski with an Olympic hero.
A Tahoe product, Moseley is an especially hot commodity around town. He doesn’t want to let anyone down, although he wishes he had more time for other pursuits.
“I used to enjoy hobbies like windsurfing, wakeboarding, surfing,” he continues. “But that was before the Olympics. Now I’ve just been trying to make this whole thing work and get my life in some sort of order.
“That’s been my hobby lately: Just staying sane in the midst of all that’s going on. It’s fun, and I enjoy every aspect of it. But it’s hard to maintain your sanity.”
Life’s rough. After his Olympic triumph, Moseley won the 1998 World Cup freestyle title. He spent much of the summer skiing the glaciers at Whistler Resort in British Columbia.
His flight from Salt Lake City was a turbulent one, because of the storm, but it was nothing compared to his ride in a jet fighter a couple of months ago beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Blue Angels, impressed by Moseley’s moves on the bumps at Nagano, wanted to show the skier some of their moves--from inside the cockpit of an F-18 Hornet.
“We pulled 7 1/2 Gs out over the Farallon Islands,” Moseley says with a broad smile. “I thought I was going to lose it [lunch] at first, but I didn’t. The pilot actually let me fly the jet; it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had and one I’ll never forget.”
On the subject of unforgettable experiences, Moseley is asked about rumors that he is dating supermodel Cindy Crawford.
He looks at Nadia Guerierro, his personal manager. She rolls her eyes. He smiles again and then explains that the two were photographed together for the cover of a new skiing magazine and that was the extent of their relationship.
“But I don’t stop those rumors,” he says. “I keep those rumors going. Those are the ones I don’t complain about.”
Moseley doesn’t have a girlfriend, despite his good looks and the fact that thousands of young women would love to get to know him better.
“I had one a year or so before the Olympics and I didn’t have time for her then,” he says. “I really don’t have time for one now.”
Perhaps that’s because Moseley, who says he will ski only in selected World Cup events during the upcoming season, has begun mixing business with pleasure. The young man who was born to ski--on Wednesday he was named the United States Olympic Committee’s male athlete of the year--went out and landed himself a job.
Granted, it’s a dream job for any serious skier, and one he will take leave from when it’s time to start preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But it’s a job nonetheless.
Moseley has been hired as a spokesman for the nine resorts owned by American Skiing Co., whose holdings include such glistening jewels as Killington in Vermont, Steamboat Springs in Colorado and, most recently, Heavenly on Tahoe’s south shore.
In a sense, Moseley is ASC’s club pro, using his celebrity status to get more people interested in skiing.
Many large resort owners, and even a few of the smaller ones, have recognized that skiing has been in a state of decline in recent years and have instituted programs to attract new customers.
ASC is one of the leaders of this movement, having set up cost- friendly learn-to-ski-and- snowboard programs at all of its resorts.
Moseley bounces from resort to resort to sign autographs, give speeches and perform exhibitions, which are always a hit.
And since Heavenly was purchased by ASC in November 1997, Moseley has been forced to adopt one popular Tahoe resort in favor of another, Squaw Valley USA between Truckee and Tahoe City, where Moseley learned to ski and competed as a member of the Squaw Valley freestyle team.
“It caused a little bit of a backlash,” Moseley acknowledges. “There’s a little bit of snickering here and there, but I still get along great with all the people up at Squaw. Besides, they get enough out of me as it is because I’m from there or whatever.
“But they just don’t have the broad vision of trying to make skiing easier and more popular for all the people who might want to discover or rediscover how easy and fun this sport can be.”
After lunch and an obligatory autograph session, Moseley hits the Heavenly slopes and makes the sport look much easier than it really is.
* SKI REPORT, PAGE 13