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Living Large

The culture of extreme skiers



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I ask him if he doesn’t feel that he is promoting an image of the sport to people who may not appreciate the inherent risks.

"The magazines and videos out there are for people who ski. I’m not creating stuff to be sold to people who are not involved with the sport."

So what about him? How did he find himself immersed in this culture?

"It’s a slow process, it starts off with you and your buddies and then you become part of the network," he says.

The network?

"Everyone has to live in one spot for this to happen. You have to be in the right spot. Whistler is hands down the best area in Canada. Verbier is a big one in Europe. Being part of this network is how you meet people and find sponsors. I went to Europe in February and ran into lots of people, probably a few dozen that I knew from all over. And over the years you end up meeting everybody, or at least you’ve heard of them, there are only so many people involved."

And of the people he knows and photographs how many can make a living doing what they love?

"It’s tough, you have to get any kind of exposure you can. The guys that get lots of published photos have to spend all their skiing time in front of the camera, plus you have to make the big jumps."

I wanted to talk with at least two or three snowboarders, to get something of a balanced view. While I would admit to a slight bias in favour of skiers, I still feel that snowboarding has been used as a marketing tool and those behind it have been some of the worst abusers of the whole extreme marketing slogan. Unfortunately due to the busy travel schedules of those involved in the sport, I was only able to track down one boarder.

Kevin Smith is fresh off the mountain and red faced from the cold, but feeling good and pleased with the recent dump of snow. He has brought his dog along, a white blue-eyed husky named Yuki (Japanese for snow) who sits quietly at our feet as we talk.

Kevin is a sponsored rider who last year competed in the King of the Hill Snowboarder Extremes in Alaska. He is 28 and has been snowboarding for almost 12 years. When I ask him if this is what he considers his career, he tells me: "It’s definitely a lifestyle. I feel the stuff I’m doing is something that pretty much has to be a full time thing."