It’s 9am and Jossi Wells has just rolled out of bed – but peering through a shock of sandy blond hair fringing a cool black hat, he still manages to look as much like a heart-throb rock star as the golden boy of New Zealand skiing.
The 19-year-old is mobbed the world over by autograph-seeking fans, mesmerised by his dazzling tricks and moves that last year saw him triumph as the youngest person to medal at the X Games.
But relaxing at his parents’ comfortable homestead on the outskirts of Wanaka, Wells is just plain old big brother to Byron, 17, Beau-James, 13, and 11-year-old Jackson.
While it’s son No 1 who’s been making all the headlines, the rest of the Wells lads will become familiar names in years to come on the Winter Games scene as they’re all future freeski champs in the making.
Jossi admits he’s already glancing over his shoulder.
“When I begin to see that my little brothers are going to beat me in competition, I’m just going to announce my retirement,” he says with a grin.
“But I’ll then just become their manager and charge them a 40 per cent commission so there’s no real problem there.”
Wells spends a lot of time jetting to glamorous competitions all over the globe.
But the teetotaller avoids the heavy party scene and says he’s “like a mother” to some of his fiercest rivals.
“A lot of the top competitors hang out together and, in a way, the whole circuit is basically a road trip with the boys,” he explains.
“I suppose on the surface it looks like I have some kind of cool rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
“But I don’t drink and never have, as I was brought up in a family with pretty strong morals and beliefs – I don’t need to put anything into my body to have a good time as I’m pretty hyperactive anyway.
“But plenty of the other guys like to party so I make sure they get home safely and also get them up to catch their flights and stuff.
“I’m kind of like the mum sometimes. But that’s OK.”
And although he admits to earning “decent money” on the tough pro circuit – with a string of A-list sponsors such as Atomic, Oakley and Nike – Wells is careful with cash.
“You’re only really earning for a short period of time as you tend to be finished by the time you hit your mid-20s,” he explains.
“I know one guy who has a Lamborghini with a ski box on the top, but that isn’t for me.
“I just bought my first car, which is a nice Audi A4 but it’s a few years old. I didn’t want anything too flash.
“The prizemoney can be pretty good but it isn’t millionaire stuff and my aim is to set myself up for whatever I want to do after this.”
Jossi has been on the winner’s podium at top competitions in the United States, Japan and Europe, as well as being named NZ Snow Sports Person of the Year aged just 16.
It’s all a far cry from the days when he first hit the slopes on battered ex-rental gear salvaged from a rubbish skip at Cardrona Alpine Resort by dad Bruce, a ski patroller on the mountain – which also meant easy access to the sport for young Jossi and his brothers.
“We were never in the income bracket to entertain paying for skiing,” says mum Stacey. “But Jossi started winning things on the old equipment when he was seven and NZ coach Nils Coberger asked if we could do him a favour and put him on some decent stuff.
“Soon afterwards a ski company came forward and the boys have been very well looked after by sponsors since. We could have never afforded it all otherwise.”
Stacey – a former primary school teacher who now runs the Wanaka Swim Academy – has home-schooled all her lads. “It gives us more time together as a family and also lets us have more control over what is going into their heads.”
She never worries when Jossi and Byron are overseas and often travelling on their own.
“They get in touch two or three times a day by Skype and phone, and as their major competitions are streamed live on the internet I keep up with everything that’s happening.”
Dad Bruce acts as coach and manager. He takes all four sons to a base in Colorado in the US for three months of training in December every year, from where they also travel to compete.
The hard work is paying off. Byron, Beau-James and Jackson are all NZ champions in their age groups.
Byron is also already rubbing shoulders with Jossi on the world pro circuit – including competing at this year’s X Games.
In 2008 Beau-James made the semi-finals of the prestigious Aspen Freeski Open in slopestyle and halfpipe, even though he was only 12.
“I don’t know what the secret is but they all seem to be following the same pathway,” Bruce says.
“But it’s a team effort by the whole family and everyone has something to offer.”
Byron recalls when he and Jossi busked outside the New World supermarket in Wanaka to pay for their first overseas trip to Italy.
“We were about 11 and 13 and Jossi was playing classical music on his violin while I was on the keyboards. We made quite a few dollars.”
Byron adds: “But just being around someone like Jossi is awesome and he’s always very helpful. Basically, he’s the man.”
Meanwhile, the star at the centre of all the praise insists he isn’t fazed about being touted as NZ’s best hope of a medal at the Winter Games, which kick off tomorrow.
He’ll turn out in the slopestyle, halfpipe and big air events – as will Byron and Beau-James.
Jossi pushes back his hat and sighs: “I know a lot will be expected of me but I usually ski quite well under pressure.
“It’ll be fantastic to be performing on my home turf and if I do my best, I’ll be OK. Losing is something that’s never on my agenda.”
Busted-up boy wonder
Jossi Wells is still a teenager – but he’s already a battle-scarred free-skiing veteran.
He’s endured a horror injury list that on his left-hand side alone includes a dislocated and broken elbow, a busted wrist, ankle and thumb.
“My right collarbone has also been snapped into four pieces and there’s a metal plate in there holding it all together,” says Wells, pictured above showing his collarbone surgery scars. “I have broken a few ribs too and my knees are also terrible.”
The 19-year-old spends a lot of time on the physio table and there are frequent trips to the docs for check-ups. “It’s a pretty dangerous and painful sport and you need to have extremely good medical insurance,” he adds.
“My body feels like it’s about 80 years old already.”