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Living Large

The culture of extreme skiers



Page 4 of 10

So how does one afford this lifestyle? Ski equipment is expensive, trips to Europe are expensive and Whistler certainly isn’t a cheap place to live. There are the obvious jobs, working in a ski shop, instructing, patrolling. In the summer there is tree planting or commercial fishing, both of which pay well over a short period of time.

"We all have in common that we work enough to ski, but not so much that we don’t have time to ski," says J.D.

Then there are the sponsors. How does one get a sponsor and what do they do for you?

"Well ski manufacturers, they help out with equipment obviously, plus sometimes they will help with a trip, but none of us are making much money – except for snowboarders, some of them are probably doing a little better. But it’s an image-based thing; if you’re making money, you’re making money from selling photos of yourself."

I also wonder about that image, what about the kids who see their picture in a magazine and decide that they want that lifestyle for themselves, perhaps without realizing the dedication and devotion that goes into it and maybe not truly understanding how dangerous it can be. I ask Joe and J.D. what the "Trevor would do it" bumper stickers and T-shirts mean to them.

"Personally I don’t understand those things," says J.D. But he doesn’t blame the marketers, he blames people for not using their common sense. He stresses that extreme skiing is in many ways a cerebral sport. "It’s not as reactive as say volleyball or tennis, you have to always be thinking about what you are doing, the stupidest people shouldn’t be going to the backcountry, but there are a lot of jokers out there."

Joe agrees and his take on the "Trevor would do it" slogan is more along the lines of pushing himself to be a better skier, to go the extra mile, not to foolishly put his life on the line.

It’s obvious they both have great respect for Trevor Petersen, who was killed in 1996 in an avalanche at Chamonix, France. Joe also brings up other local heroes who he describes as pioneers of big mountain skiing and responsible for most of the first descents in the Coast Range. He mentions Peter "The Swede" Mattsson, John "Johnny the Fin" Chilton and Eric Pehota.

The impression I get from Joe and J.D. is that they are not so much thrill seekers as two guys who love the mountains, but it is a love that borders on the obsessive. Before finishing the interview, J.D. imparts to me that what matters most to him, and he suspects most of his friends, is the wilderness.