Interview with Freerunning Specialist and Former Survivor Player Michael “Frosti” Snow

Michael Snow, known as Frosti, began his freerunning career at the age of 14. He emerged as a leader in the freerunning community, helping to organize the first national competition for freerunning. One of his first professional jobs was working for Madonna’s Confessions tour. Eventually, he found himself breaking records on American Ninja Warrior. At the age of 20, he became the youngest person to ever go on the game Survivor.He continues to be an integral part of the freerunning community with Tempest Freerunning and other projects. He stands in the face of adversity and continues to redefine the status quo.

Madeline: Where did the nickname Frosti come from?
Frosti: The nickname Frosti actually came from my best friend in fourth grade. We were trying to create ideas of who we were. I guess that’s what everyone was doing in fourth grade. Basically, we tried to imagine the coolest people we could be. We actually recorded a rap song for some school project. I think it was for geometry. We tried to think who was the coolest person we could imagine. Somehow my name became Frosti. It was very literal at the time. I think this idea stuck with me. When I was Frosti, I was this cooler version of myself. Eventually people just started calling me that. I’ve been trying to live up to the name ever since. Now it’s the name everyone calls me, and it’s kept me on my toes in terms of being as cool as I told everyone I was going to be.

Madeline: How did you get into parkour and free-running?
Frosti: I started free running when I was about 14 years old. My parents met doing martial arts, so I did martial arts growing up with this style called aikido. One of my teachers saw Ripley’s Believe it or Not because that was before Youtube existed. I waited a week to check out a rerun of that, and I was blown away with these guys exploring their city. I lived in such a small town in Northern Michigan. There wasn’t the same sort of set up, but I wanted to explore my world. It led me to seeing more of what the world had to offer because I grew up doing traditional sports like wrestling, track and football. I wanted to do something that felt more like me. Going back to the playground, ironically, felt more natural to me than the sports I was playing at school and getting varsity letters and stuff. I started a little group in my hometown and tried to find people around the world. I went to the first jam in my state. I helped to organize that and organized one of the first national jams, PK USA, that was in New York. Then we did one of the first international ones in Canada, and we went up to Toronto where there were 500 people. It just kept growing, and we were able to build a really cool community in the US. Obviously, it’s blown up across the world. It’s everywhere now.

Madeline: When did you first get hired as a freerunner?
Frosti: One of my first jobs was for companies testing shoes. A lot of different companies were curious how we would use their equipment. I had a few different sponsors early on. I was sponsored by some company outside of Hong Kong. I had a sponsorship through Five Ten, which is a rock climbing company. I was the first sponsored, American pro-free runner. That was a really cool step for me, especially once we got sponsored by K-Swiss. They actually did the whole thing of having us come to the office and giving us bags that we could put whatever we wanted in. It was nuts because they had a freerunning show, but it wasn’t their best shoe for freerunning. We actually got to show them how some of their other shoes were a better fit for freerunning. They would just hook us up with a ton of those. My first audition was for Madonna; she had a Confessions world tour at the time based on one of her music videos. She worked with Sebastian Foucan, who is considered one of the founders of freerunning. He ended up being a villain in a James Bond movie, and now he is helping with the World Chase Tag League. I remember auditioning for her at the time, and I don’t think anyone at the time really knew what freerunning or freerunning performance was. Then I ended up on Survivor.

Madeline: What was it like being involved with that world at such a young age?
Frosti: I think it’s really cool as a 14-year-old kid staring out the window in math class. I envisioned all these things. Someday I am going to live in a house with a bunch of other dudes, and we are going to be jumping off a mat. Then we are going to be going to a world championship against these other guys that are also the best in the world. I think you don’t realize how fast these things are going to happen. Soon enough, I was living with these other guys who just wanted to jump off stuff, and we were going to these events all around the world. There were companies involved. Yeah, this was meant to be. You never realize just how many other communities are fighting for that same opportunity. We got lucky that freerunning became the first viral sport, and it grew from the internet. First with forums online and then when Youtube came around, it became a huge part of Youtube and now every social media platform. Freerunning and parkour are two of the biggest trending on TikTok and Instagram.

Madeline: What was it like being on American Ninja Warrior?
Frosti: American Ninja Warrior is a really cool program. As a kid, I had seen the original Japanese version. I had a couple friends get involved with it as it was starting to grow. It was fun, and, at the time, there weren’t a ton of freerunning competitions. It was cool putting our skills to the test. Ironically, I didn’t even choose to compete at it. I started dating this girl in Santa Monica, and I was living in D.C. at the time. I wanted to go out and see her. Why don’t I just do it? I made an audition tape in 20 minutes and submitted it. I took it so casually, and I am going to go super fast because it takes so long to get through. I ended up setting a record for the fastest qualifying time. Every course is different now, but it was pretty funny not thinking about it and how big it was going to become. I did it a couple more times after that, and there was a really cool community around this ninja world. I made a lot of great friends because of it. Obviously, everyone is different. The people that get involved share a common love of challenging themselves, and that’s a big part of why free runners are so good in American Ninja World. because we love new challenges. This show really gives a platform for seeing what you can do. You can rise up to the challenge.

Madeline: What was it like being on Survivor at such a young age?
Frosti: It was really cool for me. I watched the first season with my dad. Obviously, we knew about the show. It’s in our cultural subconscious. That’s the show where people literally go out and starve in the jungle and hopefully win a million dollars. I don’t think I ever thought so much about doing it until I started exploring what it really meant to be a professional athlete. There are a lot of cool opportunities to do stuff. I was underage for the show at the time, but I had a youthful enthusiasm. I thought, well, this is the thing where this is an older show even at the time I did it. Now they are at season 40, which is insane. I just really thought I could bring something different to the show. It’s been a lesson. There are a lot of rules that people will tell you about the way the world is supposed to work, but they are based on everything that has been done before. There is always an opportunity to do something in a new way or go down a new path. Getting on the show in the first place was a huge learning experience for me. I realized, ‘Wow, I really can say and do whatever I want and create the world I want. It does not have to be what people tell me it is and the way things are supposed to be done. There is no way things are supposed to be done. It’s the way things have been done already.’ Even getting on the show was nuts because I was the youngest person who had ever been on the show at the time. I was seeing people with a lot more life experience than me. It really did open my eyes to the way life works and that things aren’t always fair. People aren’t always honest. But, in the end, you have to cultivate your own reality and build a world you are excited about. I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow type of person, and it’s definitely helped having that ability to adapt. It’s important to create the world you want to live in. Sometimes you have to come up with a solution because you’ll be sitting on a pile of mud in China and you will starve if you do not do anything. It is up to you to solve the problem in front of you.

Madeline: What is one life lesson you took away from your time on Survivor?
Frosti: I think one thing I recognized while being on Survivor was perspective. There are a lot of different perspectives on that show. There is the audience perspective, and there is everything they are going to see on TV. It is an important perspective, and it is definitely the one I thought of while getting on the show. I was thinking I was going to be able to represent young people, Asians, freerunning or whatever. When you are actually there, that perspective matters very little because you are literally starving in the jungle. Then there is your perspective, which is what you see or your truth. Even on a show with 18 competitors, there are 18 different perspectives going into everything that is happening. You have to deal with their realities and their truths concerning what is going on. I think Survivor has definitely helped me going into a lot of situations in the future where I may feel very strongly about my own perspective about what is happening. I have to recognize that there are many other perspectives and that people are not always acting on the same information or the same beliefs I have. Also, pack extra underwear if you can. It goes fast. One pair does not last.

Madeline: How did you get involved in the creation of Tempest Freerunning?
Frosti: Tempest was a bunch of friends of mine, and it actually started in Virginia with two friends taking a road trip across the country. Our company APK, America Parkour, and USPK, which is a national governing body for the sport, was trying to support it, and I thought that was really cool. They headed out west, and I met up with one of the founders when I was auditioning for Madonna’s tour. My friend Levi and I were from Traverse City, Michigan, this small town in northern Michigan. We ended up in California. We were working a bunch of different jobs, performing and doing commercials for Mercedes. We knew Victor and Rich and a couple of these guys out in California, and we just thought it would be worth it to make something out there out of all the places in the US and the world. Hollywood was the most excited because they saw the potential of what this sport could become. I created a team like Tempest. It seemed obvious. ‘Let’s give Hollywood what it wants.’ This group of talented people was doing amazing stuff, and, at that time, I was doing a lot behind the scenes. By the time I came to L.A., they were deeply embroiled in the stunt world and looking to start up their gym, which I was super excited about. Most freerunning facilities were sweat boxes, crossfit and very rudimentary. Tempest wanted to make it feel magical. They hired set designers from different parts of the world. Four of these guys had just been in “The Expendables.” ‘Let’s recreate this spot from Rio or this landmark in L.A. Let’s make a video game place that looks like Mario’s.’ Lucky for us, it got tweeted out by Ashton Kutcher and Kanye West, and it got 7 million views. It became the marketing for the whole facility, and we opened up three facilities. Because of Covid, we had to close down one of our facilities, but it gave us the opportunity to double up on our original location. It has state-of-the-art facilities. It has offices, a podcasting studio and a photo studio. It is very reflective of the freerunning community. It started out as this small, tight community, and it became this local culture.

Madeline: Do you have advice or words of wisdom for young adults?
Frosti: There is so much advice because the world is in such a crazy place. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are a lot of people that want to help you. If I could say anything strongly to anyone, I would say ‘don’t let anyone tell you who you are.’ Every step of my journey is about creating myself, and, as soon as I feel I have created myself, then I go ahead and change that. Going from a small-town kid moving to the big city then basically moving to all the cities from Chicago to D.C., Los Angeles and New York while being a professional freerunner, I wasn’t afraid to take up many mantles or wear as many hats as I felt like. When I wanted to be a clothing designer, I was a clothing designer. When I wanted to do marketing, I did marketing. When I wanted to do social media, I ended up doing social media. I didn’t just work for freerunning companies. I worked for independent brands as well. Everyone is going to tell you the way it is, but nobody knows what they are doing. If you want to create something for yourself and you believe enough, you can do that. It only comes from these innovations of people breaking the status quo. That is how the world becomes a better place by breaking the status quo. Right now we need change, and we need to grow as a people. We need to build back stronger than ever. The world has been through some crazy things, and we need young people to come together to build that better world.

Madeline: Thank you for your time today, Frosti!

If you want to follow Frosti on his journey, here are links to his Instagram and his personal website:

Instagram.com/FrostiFresh
FrostiFresh.com

If you want to learn more about his freerunning brand, Tempest Freerunning, here is a link to that website: TempestFreerunning.com

Here is a link to the fun, new game he created called Canyons:
CanyonsTheGame.com

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