"It takes knowledge to know others, but it needs a clear mind to know oneself."
- Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu
I remember the first time I met him. He was sitting in our little mountainside hideaway trying his hardest to look like he belonged. Small-boned and short of stature, cheery-faced and teenybopper handsome, the kid seemed entirely harmless. But he wasn't getting any love from me. At least not yet. "Another effin' wannabe," I thought to myself callously. "Another Whistler newcomer with a blond ponytail, a Trevor Petersen fixation and the requisite Sierra Design parka. He'll be gone by next season..."
That was almost 20 years ago. Today Richie Schley is one of Whistler's most recognizable sports stars. And at 41, one of the community's most enduring. Indeed, in many ways, Schley is the embodiment of Whistler style. Say what? Let me explain...
The number of athletes in this valley who've made a name for themselves over the years is almost too large to count. From Dag Aabye to Dave Murray, Britt Janyk to Maëlle Ricker, some of the planet's best skiers and snowboarders (and bikers and runners and climbers and skaters) have made their home here. Very few of them, however, have been able to make a living from two sports. And even fewer are considered pioneers for what they accomplished along the way.
Enter Schley. With his easygoing demeanour and super-relaxed riding style, Richie has always sparked a little envy among his peers. Why not? The guy makes things look easy. So easy, in fact, that most people underestimate just how hard Schley has worked on his craft over the years.
But the pros know. Which is why photographers and filmmakers enjoy working with him so much. Whether he's dropping a 20-footer on skis, or greasing an impossibly-steep drop on his mountain bike, Schley never seems to have a hair out of place. He hits his mark, he smiles on cue, and he mostly sticks his landings. His clothes are clean, his colour sense is bang-on and he rarely whinges at delays. Did I also mention the camera loves him? I mean, really loves him. Consider the number of magazine covers he's garnered over the years. The number of articles he's appeared in worldwide.
Still, all that pales next to the contributions he's made to the development of freeride mountain biking. Meaning? While Whistler's Mike Douglas may have skiing's 'father of new school' title sewn up, Schley is certainly his two-wheeled rider equivalent.
Remember Kranked? The 'Fro Rider' movement? Remember that gang of outlaw bikers led by Schley, Brent Tippie and Wade Simmons who took the global cycle market by storm in the mid-90s and introduced B.C.-style biking to the rest of the world? The cycling industry sure does. Recently inducted into the International Mountain Biking Hall Of Fame, the three Canucks are widely recognized as the progenitors of this now-wildly popular category of riding. For most consumers, Schley is the movement's figurehead.