How Did Nick Goepper Teach Himself Slopestyle Skiing in His Backyard?

02/16/2014 at 11:00 AM EST

How Did Nick Goepper Teach Himself Slopestyle Skiing in His Backyard?
Nick Goepper and his mom
Courtesy of Johnny Dodd
Johnny Dodd is a reporter and writer for PEOPLE, currently in Sochi covering the 2014 Winter Olympics. You can follow him on Twitter @Johnny_Dodd.

Nothing like traveling clear to the other side of our planet to make a fella realize just how impressive good ol' Yankee ingenuity can be.

Take the case of Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist Nick Goepper.

The 19-year-old didn't let the inconvenient fact that he lived in the very non-alpine setting of Lawrenceburg, Ind., prevent him from chasing his dream of becoming one of the world's top slopestyle skiers.



Instead, he rolled with it like it was nobody's business.

"Indiana is the skiing capital of the world," he says with a laugh. "We get an annual snowfall of about four inches a year. But I found a way to ski on AstroTurf and PVC pipe in my backyard. My dad and I would run around to construction sites in our town and get their scraps.

"I laid a 50-foot roll down on this little hill in our backyard and sprayed water and dish soap on it," Goepper says. "I'd slide down it, pop up on the rail made from the PVC pipe, spin around on it, jump off and land. I'd spend hours out there every day, mostly by myself, just practicing and practicing."

Kinda paid off, I'd say.

Tune into NBC tonight for more Olympic action, and check back with PEOPLE.com throughout the day for spoiler-free coverage and more of Johnny's dispatches from the Games.

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