After cutting his teeth as a skier at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Vila took a leap of faith. At the age of 18, he made the bold move of relocating to the Colorado mountains by himself with dreams of making it on the freeski halfpipe circuit and winning an X Games medal. But Vila felt different from fellow competitors, in part because of his island upbringing. Fortunately, he found a niche in the emerging discipline of urban freeski.
“When I moved out there, a few of my homies that I knew from back East were starting to hit the streets. They were taking it pretty seriously, and as soon as I hit a couple of handrails with them, I really started feeling it,” said Vila, who realized the potential of skiing in the streets. “Everybody was just using it to complement their video parts and using it as a novelty. But I thought this could be the real deal!”
Ultimately, Vila drew on his passion for the action sports videos he watched as a kid to chart his own path towards becoming a pro skier: Homemade action videos filmed in the streets, edited on his laptop, and published on YouTube. Instead of medals and titles, urban ski revolved around documenting advanced and never-been-done-before tricks on video. And Vila delivered: In 2008, he struck internet gold with his self-titled video, “Clayton Vila Shreds Block Island”. Set to the sounds of rapper Lil Wayne, the video created a viral buzz with millions of views and propelled Vila to the forefront of urban skiing as a figurehead of the movement.
In 2016, Vila’s early dreams of winning a medal in the world’s biggest action sports showcase came true unexpectedly: His creative video part entry in the X Games Real Ski video competition won a bronze medal. This milestone followed on the heels of Vila’s successful debut as a filmmaker: In 2015, the documentary “For Lack of Better”, garnered honors as Film of the Year at the Powder Awards.
From there, the freeskier who emerged from an island pursued his career as a filmmaker. Today, Vila shoots commercials and films through his production company, Greenpoint Pictures. Recent projects include the Monster Energy-produced “Finding Monsters” short film, in which Vila explores the origin story of two fellow athletes who also had to overcome obstacles on their path to pro-athlete stardom: Women’s skateboarding pioneer Lizzie Armanto and freestyle motocross legend Taka Higashino.
Vila chose these two athletes because they personified the determination and grit required to rise above adverse circumstances and become top professionals. The moral of the story: “What a risk it is when you’re young to go out and give this a shot. And how hard that must be on our parents, and how difficult it is for us,” said Vila on the episode.