Friday, December 31, 2010

Skiing with the TREW Crew at Highlands

Yesterday I had one of those days that every skier craves. John Pew, the creative brain behind TREW gear was in town with his brothers Cary and Chris, and one of the TREW athletes, Colter Hinchliffe. Guess who got to go rip around Aspen Highlands with them all day?

I first saw TREW gear last year on Aspen Mountain, and I knew that whatever I could do, I needed to get into these clothes. Outerwear is expensive, and I love a small, dedicated boutique business with a focused mindset. The clothes look technical, but fun, like big mountain gear with a sense of humor. I'm sick of wearing black, I need a new jacket, and yeah, those of you that remember the ketchup soup and sleeping in the back of the windowless Bronco on all the back country adventures from last year know I can't afford a new jacket.

I knocked on the TREW Winnie, which was parked outside Aspen Mountain and asked if they'd be interested in sponsoring me. I know. Its a ridiculous thing to do, seeing as how I am NOT in the X Games, but whats the worst thing that can happen, right? Maybe they'll say yes! The worst thing that can happen is that they know that another person loves their gear, and I might make a friend.

Well, we finally got to ski together, thanks to the magic of Facebook, and here's what I have to say about TREW. Its an apt name. This is not just an awesome jacket and bibs that keep you dry when you crater yourself into the unseen road on the other side of that little five foot cliff drop (Nice work, Cary...) It is what these guys are about.

They are true. They are a couple of skiers that want better clothes. They hang out, make friends, go skiing, and stay focused on their mission. This is a group who have hit it out of the park. Their clothes are taking off, they tour the country skiing big lines and doing business. It would be really easy for them to develop an elitist, exclusive attitude. But what you find when you meet John Pew is a genuine smile, an open, willing person, and a good business man. He knows what he wants for this company. He knows he has to stay focused. He still likes to play. He works hard, and he has time for everyone who wants a minute from him.

His brothers are equally genuine, each has their own story, doing their best to live their dream. Just like all of us, the clothes are a vehicle for the unspoken goal.

I asked John where he saw the company going, and he gave me a thorough and thoughtful answer which makes me feel like they are going to do really well. A few pieces, developed slowly. There is talk of a down layer being added to the mix. They are in their third year of operations and in their third company for manufacturing, but this time, they are in Nepal, with a solid company. This feels like an intuitively good match.

I asked John what his dreams are and he got a look on his face that I recognized, I've seen it on the faces of so many people who love to ski... Alaska. Not just heli skiing, but ripping big spines and curtains, playing on the immense playground that is big mountain skiing in the Chugatch. It feels far off to everyone who dreams about it, but this man has so much positive energy behind him, so much baseline honesty and genuinely lives "happy to ski". I think those big spines may not be that far in his future. They might be right around the corner for him. I hope so.

Since we didn't have a helicopter at our disposal, we spent the day ripping around Highlands at Mach Chicken. This was probably, honestly, the fastest I've ever skied, and I thought to myself, my goal for today is to stay on my feet and never make them wait for me. I want to play hard, I've been skiing greens all week with my excellent clients. But its time to shake the cobwebs and see what my feet have. In the bargain, I found out that I am quite comfortable skiing that fast, and even finding things to drop and pop off of at speed. My skiing is changing. And spending the day in a pack of boys who jump off three story buildings on their skis for fun made it even better. I'm hungry for more.

John keeping Colter warm on the lift (you've gotta protect the talent...)
This journey is always incredible to me, I'm so excited to have gotten to spend time with Ski Mountaineering legend Bill Briggs, with racing legend Pepi Stiegler, with Warren Miller athletes Chris Anthony and Scotty Kennett, and now getting to visit with this new, ever evolving free ride crowd. Its all skiing. I feel like I'm getting to live little pieces of this huge picture, a picture which is becoming less and less fractured. I don't think it matters how you slide, what you slide on, whether you like racing or jumping or floating through the pow on huge sticks, we all end our runs the same way, with a big, shit eating grin on our faces.

Chasing Colter down the North Woods in Highlands Bowl, I was struck with how smooth and easy this 24 year old from Aspen, CO (now living in Salt Lake City, Utah) makes it look. I looked at the video footage later that afternoon, and aside from the very obvious difference that Colter is a freeride freak of nature who has been skiing since he was born and I am a still a newbie as a skier and an instructor (which I love, but which comes with its own brand of crazy), there were some very cool things to see in our skiing. Colter stays low and soft, he never looks like he is working hard, there is soul in his skiing in every turn, almost careless.

But don't be fooled, this kid knows right where the camera is and how to make it look good even when the snow's not that deep. I watched my own skiing, more free than it has been, but still calculated, on purpose, deliberate. I definitely was playing, but I think I have a lot to learn from this end of the spectrum. I'm stoked to visit this end of the ski pool and see what happens, and I wonder how it will change and evolve my understanding and my teaching.

I'm not sure what the future holds for me and TREW, but we've talked about going on a road trip together so I can write about life in skiing from that perspective. What a treat it would be!

Thanks, TREW for an awesome day, here's to many more in the future and best of luck with your venture!

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