Brad Wilson stood atop the Champion course at Deer Valley Resort on Friday and peered down. At the foot of the run, he saw a crowd of people, the clamor of their cowbells and cheers floating up to his ears. Just in front of them was the snow fence athletes sometimes used to catch them after they fly through the finish as well as the nook where they stand, the NBC cameras focused on their faces, to await their scores.
And between him and the finish line were all kinds of bumps, both figurative and literal.
Just a few weeks shy of nine years ago, Wilson made the crowd roar when the rookie scored his first World Cup moguls podium with a third-place finish on his home course. This run, at the 2022 World Cup event hosted by Deer Valley last week, would also be a marker in his career. It would be his last.
Wilson still hopes to compete in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing in February, but he won’t be back racing World Cups down Champion anymore. He announced Friday he will retire after this season.
“I’ve been doing this for the last 20 plus years,” Wilson said, “so it’s a lot of emotions to call it quits after this year.”
At 29, Wilson is the old man on Team USA’s national moguls team. He’s the sage mentor to Deer Valley’s burgeoning class of stars, like Park City teenagers Nick Page and Cole McDonald, both of whom also thrilled the home crowd during the two days of World Cup moguls competition last week.
Page, 19, is ranked No. 10 on the World Cup tour — just two spots ahead of Wilson. McDonald, 18, is the next American at No. 15.
“He’s been like a big brother to me. So, it’s been really special to see how much he put into me when I was a little guy when I first made the ski team and he really kind of took me under his wing and kinda showed me all the ropes,” Page said. “And now to kind of see everything transition is really, you know, it’s bittersweet and it hurts because he’s one of the most important people to me in the world.
“But I’m so happy for him that he’s, you know, doing all this and kind of leaving on the terms that he wants to, which is important.”
At one point, Wilson was the boy wonder.
His family moved from Montana to Park City in 2010 so Wilson and his older brother, Bryon, could become more competitive skiers. That February, Bryon won the bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Two years later, the younger Wilson, just 19 years old and sponsored by Deer Valley, made his debut on the resort’s famed Champion course in a World Cup event. A year later, he charged down it to take his first step onto a World Cup podium.That was in dual moguls, where two skiers compete head to head, which quickly became his specialty. He won the next dual moguls event, in Japan, and seized another bronze as well as a singles silver that season to earn the title of Rookie of the Year.
Over the next decade, Wilson claimed five national championships — including a near sweep at Deer Valley in 2014 — and earned 16 World Cup podium finishes, three of them wins. He also qualified for the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, placing 20th and 18th, respectively.
“My first ever podium was here — that ranks way up there,” Wilson said of Deer Valley moments. “But obviously this one���s pretty high, too, being my last event.”
It hasn’t been all smooth lines and big air in between those events.
In 2019, Wilson had a panic attack while training on a glacier in Europe. He skipped the beginning of that season before making his return at, of course, Deer Valley.
He said the experience “kind of opened my eyes to why I was skiing in the first place.” A month later, coached by his brother, Bryon, he placed third in a dual moguls event in Russia. He added another bronze in dual moguls at the start of the 2020-21 season. It was the last time he stepped upon a World Cup riser.
Deer Valley almost offered him one more chance.
He wrapped up qualifying on the last day of competition last week thinking that was the end of his career. He was dangling in 16th place — the last qualifying position for the finals — and was sure he’d be bumped down. But Deer Valley wasn’t done with him yet. He not only made the finals cut, but turned in a run that portended he would reach the six-man super final. It wasn’t until the last finals competitor, legendary Canadian Mikael Kingsbury, wrapped up his run that the curtain fell on Wilson’s World Cup career.
Like most bumps in his career, Wilson handled it with aplomb.
“I thought I was going to end 17th or 18th,” he said, “but I was really happy to be able to just go and lay down a sick run.”
No matter what happens in Beijing, it’s safe to say Wilson — who plans to remain in Park City after his racing retirement — will go down a Champion.