LEADING LIGHT – DAVE ERB
Words by Jeff Schmuck “The concept of being connected to something is what fuels me to be invested in protecting it,” responds...
Overcoming the odds can be daunting for some, or an enthusiastic learning experience for others. Just ask Simon d’Artois. After circling the wagons for more than a few full moons, the 25-year-old Whistler-based booster pleasantly surprised the freeski world with a dark horse-style win in halfpipe at X Games Aspen in 2015. With one of the sport’s most coveted pieces of loot dangling from his neck, the sky was seemingly the limit. But after being sidelined for nearly two straight seasons with injuries, the hunted became the hunter, and he faced his most trying stand-off yet. Never one to feel down on his luck though, d’Artois has ridden back with grit and gusto, and is ready to saddle up for his most meaningful reward yet. —Jeff Schmuck
Dart. Photo by Guy Fattal
I was born in North Vancouver and grew up in Whistler, and started skiing when I was about two or three. Some of the earliest memories I have are from ski school: hitting side booters, lunch time, and peeing my pants once in awhile. Mondays were ski school days in Whistler, so I got to ski three days a week pretty much all through elementary school. When I was seven or so, I grew out of ski school and started freeskiing with my friends. My crew, 604 Crunk, and I would shred the park and pow every weekend. I ended up entering my first competition when I was 13. It was a Sprite Series freestyle event put on by Whistler Blackcomb. After competing for the first time, it lit a fire that made me want to push myself to see where I could take myself in this sport. Skiing became my passion.
It all started with Glacier Shop and TMC Freeriderz, two ski stores in Whistler. Glacier Shop was the hot shop for freeskiers at the time, and most of my current sponsors—Rip Curl, Faction and Skullcandy—came through a team they started. I later joined the local freestyle club and met most of my mentors, who helped shape me into the skier I am today. Chris Turpin was one of the many amazing coaches I had the opportunity to work with. He gave me insight into his creative mentality on snow and trampolines.
Winning X Games in 2015 was an unreal experience. Growing up and watching the X Games, I knew that it was the event you wanted to win. So to win Superpipe in Aspen was a big deal for me. It finally showed me that I could compete on the world stage against the people I looked up to the most.
Pedal to the powder. Photo by Guy Fattal
A few months after X Games, I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus at the Jon Olsson Invitational Big Air, which put me out for the following winter. After taking the season off to recover, I was back training over the summer and feeling great on my skis. Then, on the first day of a halfpipe training camp in New Zealand, I broke my ankle and tore my MCL in the same leg as my previous knee injury. The pipe was complete shit, but I felt like getting after it anyway, and ended up punching through the icy crust on my first hit about half an hour into the session. I went to the hospital, got plastered up, and flew home the next day. Needless to say, it was a quick trip to New Zealand.
I was bummed not to be able to defend my X Games title in 2016, and I was just happy to be invited back to X Games last season. I was still healing from my broken ankle at the time, so I wasn’t physically ready to perform at an X Games-gold-medal-type of level. The win in 2015 was a huge boost for me, and even through the injuries I sustained after it, I just wanted to get back and be the strongest I’ve ever been and to ski the best I’ve ever skied.
Comeback kid. Photo by Trevor Brown / ESPN Images
My injuries made me realize that you need to take your time and heal properly. To stay strong. To not make silly mistakes. And to know when to call it.
This is the year to make it all count, so there is a bit of pressure. But I just tell myself to do everything I can to become the best I can be. Everything else is out of my control. I feel really good physically, and have been working hard to get strong. Mentally, I’m discovering, negotiating and reassessing the obstacles that come with being a human and an athlete, in order to better myself as a person and my performance as a skier.
It is my biggest priority in life. It’s what I think about when I wake up, shower, eat, work out, play and sleep. It would mean the world to me to be able to represent Canada at the Olympics. To me, being a part of a collective like that is like nothing else. Just to attend the Games will be my gold medal.
C’mon, skinny love. Photo by Guy Fattal
I’m a big pow skier. I’m definitely not as experienced as I would like to say I am for being a professional skier and all, but I have my fun out there with my friends and I’m constantly learning, which is awesome. I would love for my career to move towards the backcountry. The transition is hard to see at this point, but it will clear up in the future and new opportunities will arise.
To my parents, who helped fuel the fire with their support, and for raising me in a community so in love with the mountains. To my girlfriend, who has been there since day one of my career as a professional skier. She has dedicated so much of her time and energy to helping me reach my goals, and I love her for it. To all of my sponsors, old or new. Supporting an athlete can be a blind investment at times, and I am extremely thankful for being given the opportunities I’ve had over the years. I’ve worked hard to be where I am, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all the support from everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I can’t say thank you enough or show the appreciation I would like to, so I plan on passing it on and supporting the next generation, just as so many people have done for me.