Snow Sports: Kiwi Nico Porteous overcomes mental hurdles in successful X Games comeback

After returning to the halfpipe podium for the first time in nearly two years, Kiwi skier Nico Porteous has revealed the mental toll two years of setbacks have taken.

Porteous is on his way to the Mammoth World Cup at Denver, fresh off his X Games silver at Aspen, but a return to competition is clearly a win in itself, after overcoming mental hurdles.

Porteous is back on the snow and beaming with pride. After two of the most difficult years of his career, there's no place he'd rather be.

Nico Porteous celebrates his Aspen X Games performance.
Nico Porteous celebrates his Aspen X Games performance. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When you strip everything back and you can't ski for nine months, you really learn to appreciate what you love," he told Newshub.

Porteous has taken everything in his stride since rupturing a knee ligament in March 2022, just a month after claiming gold at the Beijing Winter Olymics.

"It changed my life, to be honest," he said. "It made me take a step back from skiing, and work on myself and reflect on myself."

It proved to be the start of a long and arduous journey back to the slopes. Another injury setback last year put his return on hold, before he parted ways with longtime coach Tommy Pyatt, who left to join the Chinese halfpipe team in October.

"When you have those hurdles in front of you, you feel like you're at the bottom of a pit and you have to climb out of that pit," said Porteous. "They're challenges we face as athletes and that people face in day-to-day life."

The time Porteous, 22, had off the skiis gave him time to think and grow. He battled mental challenges, as much as physical ones, but time with friends and family, and with sports psychologist Dave Collins showed Porteous he could overcome them.

"Some challenges are harder than others to drag yourself out of that pit, but you know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel," he reflected. "No matter how many turns there are in the tunnel, there will be a light at the end."

His run at Aspen showed just that. Medal or not, Porteous is content with his progress, but knows the mental hurdles will always be there.

"It does sometimes feel, with each challenge, you have to completely relearn how to do it," he said. "It's a constant learning process."

That's a process Nico Porteous is more than ready to embrace head on.