"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experience we have never shared."
- Author JK Rowling
Call them dreamers. Or innovators. Or catalysts for change. Whatever. Some people just can't help themselves: they simply won't march to the beat of a conventional drum.
Eric Hjorleifson is that kind of guy. Celebrated around the snowsliding world for both his big-mountain riding skills and technical know-how, the 30-year old Whistlerite has never been afraid to challenge old assumptions. And the products he's helped to design over the years illustrate that well — whether it's his category-busting freeride skis for boutique manufacturer 4FRNT or his genre/bending freeride boots for mountaineering leader Dynafit.
But it's not like he has to assume a rebel's pose to do that. Soft-spoken in speech and understated in demeanour, Eric still exudes the fresh-faced enthusiasm of the archetypal kid next door. Start talking about new trends in ski or boot design and his eyes shine with excitement... this is the stuff, suggests his demeanour, that dreams are made of. And that's where things get really interesting. Why? Because behind Eric's deferential demeanour is a mind like a steel trap.
"I'd love to make a t-shirt with the slogan 'Alpine Skiing Is Dead,' stencilled across the front of it", he says with an impish grin. "That would be so cool." He stops for a beat. Then resumes in a different tone. "But seriously — my journey as a skier, my path of personal discovery, you know... what I've discovered on the mountain over the years: it's all about not letting your equipment limit your experience."
He stops again. Lets me digest his words. "You see, I want to be able to ski anything, anywhere, anytime... up and down. I want to live the 'complete' ski experience. To me, that's what the 21st century is all about: using new technology to help people discover age-old practices." He laughs. "It's about being self-propelled. Free. Independent... Limitless."
The fact that the ski industry has slowly begun to embrace Eric's vision only serves to strengthen his convictions. "Not so long ago," he says, "you'd phone a friend and ask: 'Are you going ski-touring today? Or are you going lift-skiing?'" He pauses. "No more. You can use the same boot-and-ski set-up now... and have fun all day, whether you're carving down the groomers or hiking deep into the backcountry. That's what I mean by 'alpine is dead'. There's no need to limit yourself to one discipline anymore." He shrugs. "The great news is that people are discovering this every day!"