Australia’s youngest Olympian in 50 years and a giant in the world of winter sports, Audi’s newest ambassador, Scotty James, took time out to chat with Audi Magazine.

Ben Smithurst

Ollie Khedun

Sean James

27 September, 2019


Last January, Aspen, Colorado. Scotty James is 25 years old, from Warrandyte, Victoria. He already has two world championships under his belt, and a week later he will add a third. He is handsome at 6’2”, has a Red Bull comedy web series (a bit like Entourage) and was Australia’s youngest Olympian in 50 years. But today Scotty’s timing is off and, by his standards, he is nowhere near his best. He is also running out of time.

Timing is everything in the half pipe. 

Scotty is standing at the bottom of the X Games SuperPipe with a busted board. It is still strapped to his feet. His breath hangs in the air. 

“Training wasn’t going well and I hadn’t finished the run that I wanted to do,” he says. “I broke my equipment and I hadn’t done all my tricks yet. It basically was set up for a disaster.”

Now, in sporting terms, a ‘superpipe’ might be the most brutal place you could ever try to arrest a form slump. When the event debuted at the 1998 Olympics, the halfpipe’s walls were just 3.5m (11.5ft) high. A modern superpipe’s walls tower 22ft (6.7m) above its floor, the lip painted blue so riders can spot their landing, while spinning, off-axis, 15ft above it. But the superpipe’s growth also threatens its existence, because its ballooning dimensions have injured and killed world class athletes. Fewer and fewer resorts even build them now; the cost of their upkeep is too high, and most people are too scared to even use them. 

In sporting terms, a ‘superpipe’ might be the most brutal place you could ever try to arrest a form slump

“We say it all the time,” enthuses the commentator. “Is there a nicer young man than Scotty James?”

This restricts Scotty’s opportunities to practice. “Half pipe time is pretty few and far between,” he says. And now his training runs are over.

Scotty heads back up the slope. His new board is unfamiliar, “a little bit hard to figure out”, but he goes for it anyway. And he nails every trick, including a backside double 1260, perhaps snowboarding’s toughest, most technical trick, switch backside 1080. He banks 94 points, a score none of his rivals can beat in their allocated two attempts in the final. Scotty is crowned champion without needing his second competitive run, and uses the last descent of the day as a victory march, high-fiving the crowd.

“We say it all the time,” enthuses the commentator. “Is there a nicer young man than Scotty James?”

The answer is no. Unless you’re between him and victory. Because as amenable as Scotty is, he’s always been a relentless competitor.

When rival and snowboarding icon, Shaun White, came from behind to beat the Australian at the U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass in Colorado – racking up an almost unheard-of perfect score – James said, “I had question marks and had some words with the judges. Not because of getting second place – I am not a sore loser.” He said, “Shaun, if he looked at that run, he would tell you that wasn’t a perfect 100.” 

When he was pipped in the Olympic final at PyeongChang, Korea, he declared, “I came out and did it the Australian way and gave it a real hard crack.” He claimed the bronze, but openly eyed the gold. “I can assure you I am just getting started,” he said.

“The competition element is a huge motivator of mine,” he says, even though in 2019 he is the best in the world. He eyes improvement – incremental, exhausting, unforgiving – with relentless vigour. “When I set my mind to something and I’m able to go and execute, it’s the perfect moment. That is snowboarding for me.”

Now, Scotty James is an Audi Ambassador. Visiting Australia last year, Audi Sport legend Tom Kristensen – perhaps the greatest endurance racer in history – spoke of what it takes to be a champion among champions.

“For me, when you have the passion you always have to learn, and you always have to be ready,” said ‘Mr Le Mans’. “I like the Mario Andretti quote: ‘If everything seems under control, you are simply not fast enough.’”

The snowboarder sees parallels in his sport.

“I think so, for sure,” he says. “What I do isn’t as much of a calculated sport as others – you have to be willing to be ready for things to be a little off; it could be snowing, it could be windy, the snow could be bad, it could be all those things, and you almost have to have a few screws loose to be able to be good at it.

“What I do isn’t as much of a calculated sport as others – you have to be willing to be ready for things to be a little off"

"I was doing the calculations the other day. At six events a season, that’s six minutes that count. And I train 12 months a year for those six minutes"

“You’ve got to be prepared for anything and ready to go regardless, and that’s where that element of fear and being scared and – when you’re really pushing it and being outside of your comfort zone – that’s when your best moment comes to life.

“It’s almost like proving yourself right, when you didn’t think you could do it.”

Just like at Aspen.

Timing is everything. A superpipe competitive run lasts around 30 seconds. There’s no time to waste. Scotty knows – he’s done the numbers.

“In a season we do six to eight competitions, give or take,” he says. “At each competition there’s one minute of each that counts: one 30-second qualifying run, and one 30-second finals run. 

“I was doing the calculations the other day. At six events a season, that’s six minutes that count. And I train 12 months a year for those six minutes. And in total, with a guesstimate of when I might hang my boots up down the track, at say 32 or 34, adding up all the moments that actually matter, it was an hour in total.” 

Welcome to the Audi family, Scotty.