Mountain Minded - Jeff Schmuck

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“Mountain Minded is a series profiling the AI family and friends, exploring the wide array of characters who make the mosaic of Alpine Initiatives. In continuing to develop as an organization, we talk to the people who make it go round, and dedicate their time to the principles of giving back that AI was founded upon. This series dives into the lives and stories of people, and how JP influenced them to reciprocate the good will extended to them in life & skiing.”

Jeff Schmuck

Words by Nicholas Lampard

“So let’s get this straight; you want a job that there are six openings for in all of North America?” his parents asked warily.

“That’s right,” a freshly graduated Jeff Schmuck confidently replied, as his parents challenged his dream of editing a ski magazine.

“Jeff, we just want you to be realistic here.”

From the onset of his teenage years, freeskiing is all he’s ever known. Since that fateful conversation, he has become the Editor of Forecast Ski Magazine, a member of the selection panel for the X Games Aspen, Norway, and Real Ski events, and the head judge of the International Freeski Film Festival, otherwise known as IF3. To put it a little more bluntly, the man helps to curate what the world sees of freeskiing.

On par for the course, some of Schmuck’s earliest memories in life are of skiing. Born in Rossland, British Columbia, next to Red Mountain Resort, his parents had him on snow per mountain town standard, essentially as soon as he could walk.

Being a youth in a mountain town, skiing continued to captivate him throughout coming of age. He walked the line between devout enthusiast and aspiring athlete for his later teenage years, that is until he ran across a copy of a new magazine in a local store.  

“I was out grocery shopping with my mom, and this magazine had caught my eye; it was Freeze Magazine’s inaugural issue. I just could not put it down, I literally read it cover to cover, word for word, and when I closed it, I had one of those epiphany type moments where I remember thinking ‘I think I just figured out what I want to do with my life, I don’t want to be the guys in the photos. I want to be the one writing the articles,’” Schmuck further explained.

As he chased the ambitious goal through his 20’s, he was tumble-dried through facets of the ski industry, such as retail and athlete management, before finding a comfortable niche in media. He recalls the time spent learning the ski industry as financially frustrating, but it gave him the opportunity to rub shoulders with many of the sport’s revolutionaries.

Schmuck became well acquainted with skiers like the late JP Auclair and Mike Douglas, quickly forming lasting friendships. They traveled the world together, detailing the reality of freeskiing in a digestible manner. When JP aspired to launch Alpine Initiatives, Jeff was quick to hop on board with the organization in its early stages. As I inquired why, he explained that it was only natural to want to support JP when you knew him as a person.

“In JP’s very humble way, he told me, ‘It’s a little awkward for me but I realize I’m in this position of influence, and that I kind of inspire people, and I want to use that to inspire other people to do good in the world, to help their fellow man and woman. I’d rather use my influence for that than to help sell a pair of goggles.’ Since that moment, I’ve supported Alpine Initiatives from the beginning,” he introspectively recalled about AI’s infancy.

As our conversations continued, it only became more apparent as to how much Auclair meant to Schmuck, for whom he still is not only an idol, but was a dear friend too. Jeff has the infamous JP Canary tattooed on this thigh.

“What JP meant to me, I mean… those guys (the New Canadian Air Force) are everything. Mike Douglas still gets annoyed with me when I say it, but if it weren’t for those guys I’d still be trying to cram old ladies’ feet into ski boots at Sport Chek. They changed skiing and we have everything to thank them for. Those guys applying ideas from snowboarding to skiing has completely altered the course of my life and has in turn allowed me to live my dream.”

Still heavily involved with Alpine Initiatives today, Schmuck views aiding with the non-profit as one of his most gratifying ways he works to perpetuate JP’s legacy. Alpine Initiatives is based around the foundation of giving back, even in the absence of our most important visionary.

“To not carry the torch of paying it forward, in terms of what JP started, would be a dishonour to JP’s legacy and efforts. I believe, as members of not just AI but the greater ski community, the onus is on us to pick up that ball and run with it. There are so many other important things in the world other than just skiing,” Schmuck reminisced.

“The best way we can honour JP is to continue his efforts. That’s way more important than replaying his segments, or wearing his goggles, skiing on his skis, having his picture on the wall. I can’t speak for him, but I truly think he would rather be remembered for who he was as a person, than who he was as a skier.”

Thank you to Jeff for taking the time to make this possible, and Bryan Ralph for contributing the cover photograph.