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Alta States

Getting to the next stage - freeride icon Schley lets loose



"Whistler is divided - you can really feel that right now. And the result? The soul is being sucked right out of our community..."

Richie Schley, January 2011


Richie Schley is no romantic. A one-time ski bum who parleyed his uniquely-configured physical skills into a surprisingly lucrative profession, the already-legendary 41-year old has a resume that reads like a mountain skid's wet-dream-come-true.

Consider: along with being featured on countless ski and bike magazine covers from Tokyo to Paris, Schley - according to his own reckoning - has appeared in "the full Kranked series of bike films, nine New World Disorder movies, four Matchstick Productions ski films, one Warren Miller Entertainment flick, and two RAP movies - just to mention the big ones..."

And if you think that's easy, you should try it. When it comes to self-marketing, Schley has had his eyes wide open since the beginning of his career. He's as calculating as an accountant: As ambitious as an entrepreneur.

But he hasn't lost track of the values that drew him to Whistler originally.

"Whistler's widening divide really disturbs me," he says sadly. And then he expands on his observation. "On one side of the divide you have the people who are still trying to maintain an outdoor-focused lifestyle. On the other, you have the ones who've transformed their lives into businesses."

He lets a few seconds pass. Takes a long breath. "And you can totally see that on a powder day," he finally says. "The first group still lives by the 20cm rule. When the pow hits, they'll do everything they can to be on the mountain. The others? I think they'd exchange powder snow for profits any day."

That wasn't always the case, he says.

Life at Whistler wasn't particularly easy when the Kamloops-based rider first arrived here in the early 1990's. Lodging was non-existent, good jobs were scarce and the price of life was stratospheric. Sound familiar?

But there was a can-do attitude in those days, says Schley, that encouraged you to dream big - and go big. "There was so much creativity here," he says. "People went ahead and DID things back then. Didn't matter what you looked like. Didn't matter where you came from. It was all about doing..."

That attitude stoked Richie's dreams. Along with a hard-charging posse of Blackcomb stalwarts, the young newcomer slowly honed his big-mountain skills. Gradually the word got out - this kid could ski. He wasn't the fastest. Or the edgiest. Or even the most aggressive. But he had something that set him apart from the other dirtbags. Schley had style.