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,...
Taking on initiatives most people would find impossible has always motivated Greg Hill. The 43-year-old Sutton, Quebec, transplant made a name for himself by moving to Revelstoke in 2000, and crushing self-powered backcountry vertical. He went on to break numerous world records, including becoming the first person to ski tour two million feet in one year. But, despite his success, he could never climb away from his conscience. After years of using trucks, helicopters and snowmobiles to access the mountains, Hill decided to give it all up, buy an electric car, and use his influence to help spread the word about sustainable adventure. Carbon-free skiing for two years now, as an ACMG guide, husband and father of two, he still probably skis more than you. —BRUNO LONG
My parents divorced early on, and soon our family of four grew to six, and eventually seven. With so many kids in the family and a variety of age gaps, I began to feel unnoticed and tended to do wild things to get attention from my brothers and sisters, which is what eventually lead me to doing wild things in the mountains. Overall, we were an outdoorsy family, doing a lot of hiking, camping and skiing around Sutton. Now with my own family, I’m trying to share the same gift of experiencing the outdoors and appreciating those special moments, the same way my parents did for us.
I really enjoy guiding and try to keep that aspect of my character developing through the years. I love sharing the mountains with people, taking them to new places and pushing their own limits, but I’m super fortunate to be a professional skier and don’t want to give that up. Guiding is my Plan B fall back, but I think if you keep evolving and continue to stay relevant, despite not being as extreme as in the past or breaking endurance records, you can see the industry trends and stay ahead of the curve. I do have other backup plans, like public speaking or writing a book, because I understand how fragile my professional ski career is.
BY THE NUMBERS
For years I liked aiming towards large numbers, mostly to prove that I wasn’t just a lazy ski bum and was actually doing something positive with my life. My number obsession became endurance goals: the most vertical I could do in a day, then a month, then a year. I’m 43 now, and big endurance goals are becoming less important, so I’m now looking to different types of adventure goals. I still have a goal to summit 100 different peaks with my #electricadventures campaign. It’s more of an idea goal instead of an endurance goal, as I work toward more sustainable adventures and being more earth-friendly, instead of just selfishly trying to ski more than I’ve ever skied.
After almost two years with my electric car, I’ve definitely realized that I’m limiting myself in terms of access, which is something I can’t seem to fix without the use of a snowmobile or helicopter, and that’s definitely been a challenge. Most of my clients are on board, so they jump into my little car and join in my journey. There are definitely times when I have to exclude myself from certain ski plans because I just can’t do it. It does bum me out and the sacrifice is challenging at times. I wish joining my friends was simpler, but I believe in this enough that I can make the sacrifice for a few more years. Hopefully I’ll have an electric snowmobile soon, and be right back at it.
PROTECTING OUR WINTERS
I tried to start Protect Our Winters Canada (POW) on my own a few years ago but quickly realized paperwork is not my forte. Once David Erb got involved about a year ago, he took over and made it happen. For me, POW aligns with what I believe in because we need a voice for the outdoor industry, which is being overshadowed by other industry lobbyists. As much as I believe individuals should change, policies are the biggest change we need to enact. Right now we are only at about 1,000 members, but hopefully in the near future we will have big enough numbers to go to our government and really start to be a voice for our environment. Hot Planet, Cool Athletes is a school-based project to help educate the next generation, the one that I feel will be really affected by climate change, and that can really solve this issue we’ve created.
I got onto this sustainable adventure program a few years ago and now I’m trying to help the companies I work with move in that same direction. More than ever before, consumers are voting with their dollars or buying with their values, and ideally the companies I’m working with are in line with same values as myself and like-minded people. Every company I work with is looking into what they can do better, and tying in my story to help propel their own.
FEARING THE FUTURE
What scares me the most about the future is that, while the circle of friends I’m surrounded by mostly shares the same views as I do about trying to make changes in our daily lives, I still see a lot of consumerism, selfishness and obsession with social media outside of that circle. The majority of the world just doesn’t seem to be moving in the right direction towards sustainability, and that lack of caring for our planet is what truly scares me. Try to be conscious of our impacts and start legitimate discussions on how to make a change in our own lives.
THE CLIMATE OF CHANGE
It’s about all progress, not perfection. Quite simply, a lot of us are scared to start changing because we know perfection is unattainable. We will never be perfect and will always be hypocrites to a certain degree, but the worst thing we can do is not change at all. We all know the climate is changing, so we can all start by doing our own little part. We need to change. Don’t worry about being perfect. Let’s just try to progress, and change will eventually happen.