SKI BIG 3 TRAVERSE
Words by Kevin Hjertaas | Photos by Bruno Long Contradiction, they say, is the key to humour. Perhaps that’s why Rob Heule,...
Growing up within a family of avid skiers in Oakville, Ontario, skiing was programmed into Evan McEachran’s DNA. Whether it was spending weekends at the hill, or hitting a rail setup in his backyard, the 22-year-old’s passion for skiing started young, and his professional career was soon to follow. Thanks to a handful of highly successful seasons, McEachran has humbly established himself as one of Canada’s brightest slopestyle skiing talents.
After making the Freestyle Ontario Team in his early teens, McEachran was elevated to the Freestyle Canada National Slopestyle Team soon after in 2012, making him one of the youngest-ever members to be apart of the program. And while it was a milestone moment for him, the abrupt transition to competing on the world stage proved to be a valuable learning experience.
“Establishing yourself on the contest scene is definitely no easy feat these days,” he says. “Everyone is so talented, so it’s difficult to stand out. It took me a couple of years before I was fully comfortable. More media, bigger crowds and competing against my idols was tough, but once I was used to the environment of the scene, I could ski my best, and things started to piece together.”
Even while learning the ropes, McEachran was able to score some notable results at breakneck speed. His early accomplishments included taking the top spot at the AFP World Championships in Whistler in 2014, and winning the first-ever, invite-only SLVSH Cup in Australia in 2015 in a head-to-head battle with Russ Henshaw, which many refer to as one of the best SLVSH games ever played.
Steadily moving up the elite ranks, McEachran then became a consistent presence in X Games slopestyle in the years that followed, and notched a silver medal at a World Cup in Stubai, Austria, in the lead-up to his sixth-place finish at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. With those experiences in the rearview mirror, he then picked up the biggest win of his career last December at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado.
“Winning Dew Tour was so wild for me,” he says. “It was the first pro contest I had ever watched live, so it’s definitely a special one. Going into the event I had come out of an amazing off-season, where I spent a ton of time with family and friends outside of the ski community, doing different kinds of activities to clear my head. My mindset was just to go out there and continue that frame of mind, rather than being stressed to perform on demand.”
With a major win to kick off the competitive season, which made many consider McEachran the man to beat, things changed quickly when a crash in big air at X Games in Aspen, Colorado, derailed his strongest surge of momentum yet.
“It was heartbreaking for sure,” he says. “Big air happened the night before slopestyle finals, and it was my first time doing that event. Being out there under the lights with a giant crowd, you feel like you can do anything.”
On his last run, McEachran tweaked his leg, and ended up being bumped from a podium position to fourth place. He immediately went to see medical staff, and stayed up most of the night icing his knee trying to keep the swelling down, in order to feel the best he could for slopestyle finals the next day.
“When I woke up the next morning with a massive knee, I instantly knew I wasn’t going to be able to ski, and was so bummed to miss one of my favourite contests. It was definitely tough to watch everyone ski while standing at the bottom of the course, but I still had such a good time cheering on my friends.”
Once it became clear that McEachran had suffered a serious leg injury, his season could have ended right then and there. But the setback merely provided another opportunity to use his attitude and work ethic to his advantage. He put in an impressively quick recovery, and was back on skis by the spring.
“Taking a break fuels me like crazy,” he says. “All that down time thinking about skiing builds up this wild hunger to get back to it, and I think that definitely contributed to how much fun I had this spring.”
While the contest window had come to a close at that point, the season was far from over, and the film crews came calling.
Over the years, McEachran’s easy-going nature and next-level talent has led to opportunities with various productions, including Matchstick Productions and Blank Collective Films. But for the first time last season, after appearing in numerous park shoot segments, he was able to film in the backcountry around Mt. Baker, Washington.
“Getting into the backcountry this spring with my fellow Head Skis team members was a dream come true,” he says. “It was a ton of work, but I truly mean it when I say that it was one of the most rewarding trips of my whole life. Shoveling the jumps yourself, letting them settle and then hiking up for a session provides an entirely different feeling of reward after you get the shot you wanted.”
As a result, hitting his first backcountry jump will be an experience he won’t soon forget, but for more reasons than one.
“The first jump we built was the classic Mt. Baker step-up, which is iconic in my eyes. I had never hit a proper backcountry jump before, so I really had no idea what to expect—other than that I was probably going to tomahawk as soon as I landed, and I did just that. For my second hit, I went for a double cork 1080, and felt a sharp feeling in my thumb halfway through. When I landed, I looked down at my glove to see a huge hole in it. I took it off—and had a crazy looking gash [from grabbing my skis] in my thumb. Jeff Thomas, one of our filmers and our guide to Mt. Baker, bandaged it up, and we kept the session going.”
With a focused, driven and hard-working demeanour to back up his talent, expect McEachran to continue to establish himself as one of the greatest forces in Canadian slopestyle skiing.
“I always want to have a really strong showing on the contest circuit—and try to be on as many podiums as possible—but I also want to do more filming this season, and hopefully get into the backcountry a little bit between contests. The two-week taste of that with the Head crew has me itching for more to say to least.”