By Dakota Crawford/BSU at the Games
Growing up in Indiana isn't ideal for a would-be Winter Olympian.
Miles of rolling countryside covered by neatly planted rows of corn keep the adrenaline-seeking skier in most Hoosiers from maturing.
But Nick Goepper is breaking the stereotype associated with Indiana athletes as he finds success in a sport that requires slopes—and snow. The 19-year-old slopestyle skier from Lawrenceburg, Ind., soon will be competing at an Olympic level, reassuring his peers that it's possible to "make it" out of the Midwest.
Connor Lunsford, a high-school student from Batesville, Ind., sometimes spends four nights a week skiing at Perfect North, a ski resort just miles from Goepper's home in Lawrenceburg. Since he was just a 1-year-old, Lunsford has skied the same slopes where Goepper mastered his craft.
"It's cool because it shows that just because you're from the Midwest doesn't mean you can't go places," Lunsford said. "Even though you're from a little area, you can beat some of the big-mountain guys.
"It definitely shows that if you want to go places in skiing, you can do it."
Goepper is certainly going places now. A first-place finish in the 2013 Dew Tour punched Goepper's Olympic ticket. He will join Team USA as it participates in the first ever Olympic slopestyle competition.
Since Goepper has been on skis, he's stood out from those around him.
Chip Perfect, co-owner of Perfect North, said Goepper's talent drew attention from a young age. Energy would build around Goepper whenever he skied in the park because everyone knew something "special" was coming, Perfect said. He was never afraid to make risky jumps that others might shy away from.
Though Perfect North's slopes are small—the resort's longest vertical drop is 95 meters less than the slopestyle course used at the X Games—its impact on Goepper has been huge.
"Growing up at Perfect North was, I think, the best thing for me," Goepper said. "I wouldn't have rather grown up anywhere else. I think it humbled me and really gave me an appreciation for everything that's happening now."
His younger sister Kacie said fans (mainly girls) are demanding noticeably more when they see Goepper in person. Everything from autograph requests at the airport to suggestive comments on Geopper's Instagram show how admired he is by supporters.
But at Perfect North he is just another guy.
"When Nick is competing, it's just Nick," Kacie said. "I don't see him as an idol. People here just treat him as Nick. He loves coming home and just being Nick."
Kacie said she looks up to her older brother, much like those who have skated alongside him at Perfect North. As Goepper prepares to compete in the Olympic Games, he is looking forward to being a role model for more than just his fellow Hoosiers.
"I think the Olympics is just another great opportunity to show the sport to the world and inspire a lot of people," he said.
Peak elevation: 800 feet
Vertical drop: 400 feet
5 chair lifts
Founded in 1980 by the Perfect family
Recent Olympians from Indiana:
John-Michael Liles – Zionsville – Hockey – Competed in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games
Bryan Leturgez – Cedar Lake – Bobsledder. Competed in three Games from 1992 to 1998
Dick Nalley – Indianapolis – Bobsledder – competed in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympic Games
Wayne and Kim Seybold – Marion – Brother-sister figure skating duo – Competed in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games at Calgary
Also see WTHR Olympic Zone for updates.