He was never the most radical skier. Nor even the most extreme. But Smiley Nesbitt had one important skill that many of his contemporaries overlooked. He always skied like he was having fun.
Skiing is all about having fun. Right? It�s a no-brainer. But having fun and projecting that fun so others can appreciate it are two different things. It�s not really about how good a skier you are. It�s more than that. To be able to express the sexy madness of sliding down a mountain on snow at full speed and in complete control � and to get other people to really feel that magic on a visceral level � well, that takes a very special talent. And Smiley had it in spades. His enthusiasm for the sport was palpable. His skiing was pure fantasy. And that energy translated so well into pictures � whether static or moving � that the young skier was able to surf the professional-rider wave for over a decade.
And believe me, that�s no small feat�.
But I�m getting ahead of myself. The mid-1990s were a time of great change in the ski business. Challenged by the youth-driven snowboard rebellion, ski manufacturers were just beginning to toy with marketing concepts beyond the conventional alpine-ski-racer-is-king model. Suddenly guys and gals who could ride steep slopes and stomp big airs were in hot demand.
It just so happened that at that same time, Whistler was teeming with a fresh generation of two-planked athletes who were breaking new ground on all sorts of fronts. Following hard on the footsteps of local big-mountain giants Eric Pehota and Trevor Petersen, Whistlerites like Richie Schley and Wendy Brookbank were redefining the sport in truly exciting ways. Suddenly � freeride � wasn�t only about snowboarding anymore.
Meanwhile, Mike Douglas and Shane Szocs and their merry bands of twin-tipped jesters were doing the same thing in the fledgling terrain park scene. Indeed, they set the stage (and provided the players) for the creation of a whole new ski discipline. When Whistler Mountain merged with Blackcomb back in 1997, there wasn�t a resort in North America that could boast so many high-level athletes in so many different snowsport disciplines.
It was into this maelstrom of talent that Smiley Nesbitt decided to seek his fortune. Neither the best big-mountain rider nor the most talented park rat, Nesbitt created an amalgam of the two that proved to be just what the market needed. �Getting sponsored as a �freeskier� was a totally new concept back then,� says the 34 year old. �There was no model to follow. So I created my own��