ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Nick Goepper's road to the Olympics really began on the doorsteps of rural Indiana, where he rang doorbells, handed out flyers that shared his dream and offered to do odd jobs for neighbors for a buck or two.
And on the school bus, where Goepper took the bulk boxes of candy bars he'd bought and sold them to friends at a profit.
"Easy money. Too easy," Goepper said.
Small little victories, a dollar here or there, helped him raise the money to buy a pair of goggles, eventually a pair of skis.
It bought more than that. It earned him buy-in from his parents, who lived paycheck to paycheck, at best, and couldn't afford to spend money on trivial things.
"They had no idea what freeskiing was," Goepper said. "Didn't know anything about the X Games. I think it was more me showing to them I had the passion to do it."
The kid who bummed rides to the 300-foot mountain near his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and got his fair share of strange looks for choosing tricky skiing over the more traditional kind — or for choosing skiing at all over the Hoosier state's main sport, basketball — is a favorite at the Winter X Games this week in slopestyle skiing.
His quest for a second straight gold medal begins Friday.
Then, next month, he'll be going for gold in Sochi, spiraling his way down the course in one of the new events at the Olympics.
He'll be doing it in part because he sold his parents and his community on a dream that nobody in his hometown could really imagine might come true.
"It didn't seem like it then, but now, they tell me they had their doubts," Goepper said. "They didn't have much validation about whether I was any good, or just good for the hill I was at."
Goepper's validation started coming when he would hit the road and compete in small local contests in the mountains of North Carolina, West Virginia and Michigan.
With his dad out of work, Goepper's plan at 15 was "to mow lawns all summer and make 35 grand so I could go to a ski academy out East."
Around then, he was introduced to one of the godfathers of the sport — the mysterious, but amazingly effective Kerry Miller — who steered Goepper toward the Windells Academy in Oregon.
There, Goepper connected with Peter Hanley, a former elite freestyle skier, who saw Goepper's broad, lanky build and said the first thing he asked him was "why are you wearing shoulder pads?"